N-Acetylcysteine (NAC) is a derivative of the amino acid cysteine. It is used by the body to make glutathione, which is a powerful antioxidant. There are various health benefits of NAC including liver protection, reducing inflammation, and boosting cognitive function.

NAC and cysteine are both antioxidants on their own, but they also stimulate the release of glutathione, a powerful antioxidant that fights inflammation and free radicals. This article discusses the health benefits of NAC, including food sources and any associated risk factors.

If you enjoy reading about NAC, then you will also enjoy, Are You Zinc Deficient?  and Vitamins For Heart Health.

Health benefits

Here are the top benefits of consuming NAC, according to research.

1. It’s essential in the formation of glutathione

N-acetylcysteine (NAC) is a powerful antioxidant, that offers many health benefits, including the formation of glutathione. Glutathione is a major detoxifying agent in the body and helps to protect cells from damage.

As the most important and hardest working antioxidant in your body, glutathione is responsible for protecting you from free radicals. It also regulates nitric oxide levels, a potent vasodilator that widens blood vessels so that more oxygen and nutrients can get to your tissues. Glutathione is also needed to form adenosine triphosphate, a crucial source of fuel for our cells. But it doesn’t just happen on its own! Glutathione needs the support of certain compounds to form, one of which is N-acetyl cysteine (NAC).

2. It may treat psychiatry conditions and improve addictive disorders

One of the well-known uses of NAC is as a treatment for acetaminophen overdose. However, NAC may also help treat psychiatric conditions and improve addictive disorders.

NAC has shown promise as a treatment for psychiatric conditions such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. It may also help improve symptoms of anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). NAC works by reducing inflammation in the brain while increasing levels of glutamate, a neurotransmitter that helps brain cells send and receive information.

In one Research, shows NAC was shown to resolve symptoms associated with different psychiatric conditions such as schizophrenia, bipolar, and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

NAC may also help treat addictive disorders such as gambling addiction, cocaine addiction, and nicotine addiction. Additionally, it can help reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms by reducing inflammation and oxidative stress in the brain.

So if you are struggling with a psychiatric condition or addiction, NAC may be worth considering as a treatment option. true   

3. Promotes respiratory health

Numerous studies on NAC show a positive impact on the respiratory system.

To begin with, NAC has been recommended as a mucolytic for both chronic and acute conditions affecting the airway. This is because it can break mucus and loosen phlegm that could be blocking the airway, thus allowing for unrestricted breathing.

NAC helps increase your glutathione levels, which reduces inflammation in the lungs and bronchial tubes. This can be a great relief, especially for those individuals with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

COPD is associated with chronic inflammation of lung tissue causing constriction of the airway with symptoms like coughing and shortness of breath.

Research shows that 600 mg of NAC taken once daily can reduce exacerbations and improve symptoms in stable COPD.

NAC has further been shown to prevent lung decline. Furthermore, the anti-inflammatory properties of NAC may also help reduce coughing, wheezing, and respiratory attacks in chronic bronchitis. 

4. Supports the immune system

The human body is constantly under attack from viruses, bacteria, and other foreign invaders. The immune system is the body’s first line of defense against these threats. A strong immune system is essential to safeguard you against internal and external attacks.

N-acetylcysteine (NAC) is a powerful antioxidant that helps to support the immune system by neutralizing free radicals, which can damage cells and cause inflammation. NAC also helps increase levels of glutathione, another important antioxidant and immune booster.

NAC has been shown to help protect against a wide range of diseases, including colds and flu. In one study, people who took NAC were 60% less likely to catch a cold than those who did not take NAC. Additionally, it was shown to reduce the severity of cold symptoms, such as coughing and sneezing.

NAC is also effective in treating other respiratory conditions, such as bronchitis and asthma. In one study, people with bronchitis who took NAC had a 50% reduction in symptoms after just two weeks. NAC is also being studied as a potential treatment for COVID-19, as it may help to reduce the severity of symptoms.

5. It may lower the risk of heart disease

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of death globally, with an estimated 17.9 million deaths each year.

And although NAC on its own cannot lower these numbers, incorporating it into a healthy lifestyle can tremendously reduce the risk.

NAC promotes heart health by protecting your heart muscles against oxidative stress.

Oxidative stress refers to the excessive production of reactive oxygen species or free radicals against the antioxidant defense. This may cause cellular dysfunction leading to heart disease.

NAC has also been shown to promote nitric oxide production, which relaxes and dilates your vessel causing blood to flow more freely and your blood pressure to fall. This may lower your risk of stroke and heart disease.

6. It may improve blood sugar levels

NAC is an amino acid that helps the body make glutathione, a key antioxidant. It has been shown to help protect against diabetes and improve blood sugar control in people with the condition.

High blood sugar levels destroy insulin receptors leading to insulin resistance, obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease.

NAC can help improve insulin resistance, thus facilitating proper glucose uptake by the cells, keeping them within normal.

A recent study found that NAC was able to help improve insulin sensitivity and reduce fasting blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes.

Other studies have also found that NAC can help reduce A1C levels, which is a measure of long-term blood sugar control. NAC may also help increase the production of insulin in the pancreas, which can help improve blood sugar control. In addition, NAC has been shown to improve symptoms of diabetic neuropathy, a condition that can cause nerve pain and other problems.

If you are considering taking NAC to improve your blood sugar levels, be sure to talk to your doctor first. NAC may interact with certain medications, and it is important to make sure it is safe for you to take.

7. It may promote brain health

NAC refills glutathione and regulates glutamate, both of which support healthy brain functions

Glutathione is an antioxidant that lowers age-related oxidative stress in brain cells, while glutamate is a powerful excitatory neurotransmitter essential for learning and memory.

Alzheimer’s disease, for instance, lowers a person’s ability to recall and learn. But research shows NAC may counteract neurodegenerative conditions and offer neuroprotective benefits against dementia.

Another study, including NAC in the standard treatment of Parkinson’s disease, was shown to improve mental and motor abilities. Parkinson’s is a brain condition associated with the deterioration of dopamine-producing nerve cells. NAC functions by restoring these nerves.

8. It may promote fertility

N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC) is a powerful antioxidant that has a wide range of health benefits. One of the lesser-known benefits of NAC is its ability to promote fertility. NAC may help improve fertility in both men and women

There are several ways in which NAC can promote fertility. First, NAC can help to improve egg quality. This is because NAC provides the body with glutathione, which is an important antioxidant for protecting eggs from damage.

Second, NAC can help to regulate hormones. This is important because hormonal imbalance is one of the main causes of infertility. By regulating hormones, NAC can help to increase the chances of conception.

Third, NAC can improve blood flow to the reproductive organs. This is important because good blood flow is necessary for optimal fertility. Improving blood flow can also help to reduce the risk of miscarriage.

Fourth, NAC can reduce stress levels. This is important because stress can have a negative impact on fertility. By reducing stress, NAC can help to create a more conducive environment for conception.

One study found that supplementing NAC with selenium increased semen quality.

Another one found that NAC may improve fertility in women with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS).

Overall, N-Acetyl Cysteine offers a wide range of health benefits, including the promotion of fertility. If you are trying to conceive, consider adding NAC to your nutritional program. 

9. Protects the liver

Another important benefit of consuming NAC is that it protects the liver. The liver is a vital organ that filters toxins from the blood. Nac protects it from the damage caused by toxins. It also helps repair damaged liver cells.

And since Nac has powerful antioxidant properties, it can help protect liver cells from damage caused by free radicals. Free radicals are unstable molecules that can cause damage to cells. They are a major contributing factor to aging and disease. Antioxidants like NAC can help to neutralize free radicals and protect cells from their damaging effects.

10. Promotes eye health

NAC helps to protect the eyes from damage caused by free radicals. Free radicals are unstable molecules that can damage cells and lead to disease. NAC helps to neutralize free radicals and prevent them from causing damage.

NAC also helps to increase levels of glutathione in the body. Glutathione is a substance that helps protect cells from damage, and given that it’s high in the eyes, NAC can help keep the eyes healthy.

In addition, NAC has been shown to improve symptoms of dry eye syndrome and other eye problems. It can also help prevent cataracts and macular degeneration, two common age-related eye conditions.

NAC also helps to improve vision by increasing blood flow to the retina.

11. Improves gut health

N-acetylcysteine (NAC) is an amino acid that has a wide range of health benefits.
One of the most important benefits of NAC is its ability to improve gut health. The human gut is home to trillions of bacteria, many of which are beneficial. However, sometimes harmful bacteria can take over and cause problems.

NAC can help to restore the balance of good and bad bacteria in the gut. It does this by increasing glutathione levels, a powerful antioxidant that helps fight off harmful bacteria. One study showed that NAC helps restore healthy populations of bacteria in people with inflammatory bowel disease (IBS). IBS is a condition characterized by abdominal pain, bloating, and diarrhea. Studies have shown that NAC can help to reduce these symptoms.

Other research has found it can help prevent unwanted bacterial infections, such as food poisoning. In addition, research shows that NAC can improve symptoms of Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Furthermore, some evidence suggests that NAC may reduce inflammation throughout your body, which can help counteract the inflammatory effects of various factors, especially a poor diet rich in inflammatory foods.
Overall, NAC is a safe and effective way to improve gut health and relieve symptoms of IBS.

12. It can help with stress and anxiety

Anxiety and stress are not only one of the most prevalent mental health issues in the United States but also worldwide. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that over 15 million adults aged 18 or older in the United States are affected by Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Stress is a natural part of life, and it can be helpful when moderate levels are reached; however, too much stress can lead to debilitating anxiety and depression.

N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) is an amino acid that has many health benefits, including reducing stress and anxiety. NAC helps to increase levels of the neurotransmitter glutamate, which has calming effects on the brain.
NAC has been shown to be effective in reducing anxiety symptoms in both animal and human studies. One study showed that NAC was able to reduce anxiety and improve mood in people with a social anxiety disorder (SAD).

Another study found that NAC was able to reduce stress and anxiety in medical students during their exams, while another found that NAC effectively reduced symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Nac has also been shown to increase levels of the neurotransmitter GABA. GABA is responsible for calming the nervous system. By increasing levels of GABA, NAC can help to reduce stress and anxiety.

Overall, NAC is a safe and effective way to reduce stress and anxiety. If you are feeling stressed or anxious, consider taking NAC supplements.

13. Offers support for alcoholism

One of the least known benefits of NAC is its ability to help people who are struggling with alcoholism.
NAC helps reduce cravings for alcohol and can also help reduce the symptoms of withdrawal. It does this by increasing the levels of the neurotransmitter glutamate, which helps balance out the brain chemistry. NAC is also known to help protect the liver from damage caused by alcohol consumption.

Additionally, because NAC is a precursor to glutathione—the body’s primary antioxidant—it could potentially provide relief from alcohol-related oxidative stress. Oxidative stress occurs when there is more free radical activity than antioxidants in our body can handle. This is believed to be one of the causes of many common diseases.

A study published in 2013 in Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research included 24 participants who were experiencing mild to moderate alcohol withdrawal. Participants were given either NAC or placebo for five days and then assessed daily using a standard clinical tool that measures symptoms associated with alcohol withdrawal.

The results showed that those taking NAC had significantly fewer symptoms than those taking a placebo.
In addition, participants taking NAC reported less anxiety during periods of acute withdrawal and had better sleep quality compared with those taking placebo.

For people trying to quit drinking, NAC can be a powerful tool in helping combat cravings and withdrawal symptoms. It can also help to reduce the risk of relapsing back into alcoholism. If you are struggling with alcoholism, talk to your doctor about whether NAC could be right for you.

While more research is needed before NAC can be recommended as a treatment for alcoholism, these findings suggest that people dealing with alcohol withdrawal might benefit from adding NAC supplements to their diet.

14. Prevents certain cancers

Research has shown that NAC may help prevent certain cancers. Specifically, scientists are studying whether it may help prevent breast cancer and esophageal cancer when used alone or together with other treatments. In animal studies, NAC appeared to protect against chemically induced cancers. Human research shows that NAC may reduce levels of estrogen and its metabolites in women who have had breast cancer. It also seems to reduce inflammation, which can be associated with several types of cancer.

The best plant sources of cysteine include:

  • Lentils
  • Oatmeal
  • Split beans
  • Edamame
  • Chickpeas
  • Kamut
  • Whole wheat pasta
  • Chia seeds
  • Cashews
  • Hemp seeds
  • Lima beans
  • Carrots

How Much Cysteine or NAC Do You Need?

The recommended daily intake of cysteine is 1.9 mg per pound or 4.1mg per kg body weight.

One can comfortably meet their cysteine requirements by incorporating cysteine-containing foods into their diet. However, you need adequate amounts of folate and vitamins B6 and B12 for the body to make the amino acid cysteine.

There is no specific dietary recommendation for anyone considering a supplement; however, a high daily dose of between 600-1800 mg is recommended since NAC supplements are poorly absorbed.

NAC is available as an oral supplement, powder, liquid, intravenous administration, and aerosol spray.

How to Take NAC

When it comes to supplements, there are a lot of different opinions on how to take them. Some people swear by certain methods, while others say that anyway is fine. When it comes to NAC, there is a specific way that is most effective. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to take NAC:

1. Start with a lower dose. NAC is a very powerful supplement, and you don’t want to overdo it. A good starting dose is 600 mg per day.

2. Increase the dose slowly. If you find that you tolerate the lower dose well, you can slowly increase the amount you take. A common maintenance dose is 1-1.8 grams per day.

3. Take NAC with food. This will help to reduce any potential side effects like nausea or upset stomach.

4. Drink plenty of water. This is important for overall health but especially when taking NAC since it can cause dehydration.

5. Cycle off of NAC every few months. This means taking a break from the supplement for a week or two every few months. This will help prevent your body from becoming too reliant on NAC and will also help

Risks and Side Effects of NAC

NAC is generally well-tolerated, but it can cause some side effects, including nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. It can also cause headaches and dizziness. If you experience any of these side effects, stop taking NAC and speak to your doctor.

In rare cases, NAC can cause more serious side effects, including liver damage and kidney failure. If you experience any of these side effects, seek medical help immediately.

Overall, NAC is a safe supplement with many potential health benefits. However, like all supplements, it can have side effects. If you experience any side effects, stop taking NAC and speak to your doctor.

Final Thoughts

NAC is a supplement form of the amino acid cysteine. Cysteine is a powerful antioxidant that also facilitates the production of other essential antioxidants like glutathione.

The body may or may not produce cysteine, depending on whether your diet supports its production or not.

NAC protects the body against inflammation and oxidative stress. It also improves brain health and mental conditions, boosts the immune system, supports respiratory health, improves heart health, regulates blood sugar, and supports fertility.

Cysteine can be found in foods you’re likely to consume daily such as grains and legumes, and in most cases, these are enough to supply your needs. But in case you need a supplement, keep in mind it’s low absorption.

NAC supplements are generally safe, with mild side effects on some individuals. However, you may want to consult your doctor in case of any underlying medical condition.

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