N -acetyl cysteine

N-Acetyl Cysteine, also known as NAC, is an altered version of Cysteine. Cysteine is an amino acid containing sulfur.

NAC is essential in replenishing and maintaining Glutathione levels in the body [R].

Glutathione is an antioxidant that removes oxygen radicals from cells [R].

The removal of these reactive species is important because they will cause cellular and tissue damage if they are allowed to remain in cells [R].

NAC has also been found to reduce inflammation in tissues [R].

NAC not only can be ingested into the body orally, but also through inhalation.

As seen below, the supplement can be used for many different purposes.


Health Benefits of N Acetyl Cysteine

1) NAC Helps Protect Against Liver Damage


Many commonly used pain killer medications such as Tylenol and Vicodin contain a substance called Acetaminophen [R].

If taken in high quantities, Acetominophen can be toxic to the liver and can cause liver failure [R].

N Acetyl Cysteine is commonly used to treat liver failure due to Acetaminophen and greatly increases the patient’s chances of survival [R].

NAC has also been shown to effectively treat liver failure caused by other factors such as excessive alcohol consumption or environmental pollutants [R].

2) NAC Fights Against Cellular Oxidative Damage

Oxygen radicals will cause oxidative damage that is detrimental to cells and their DNA [R].

By replenishing Glutathione where it is needed in the body, NAC helps fight against oxygen radicals and in turn prevents cellular damage. This can be especially helpful if cells have been exposed to lead [R].

3) NAC Helps Prevent and Treat Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

COPD is a lung disease caused by long-term oxidative damage to important lung tissue [R].

The damage results in inflammation of the lung tissue [R].

The inflammation causes airways to become smaller leading to shortness of breath and coughing [R].

By replenishing Glutathione in the lungs, NAC works to decrease oxidative damage and tissue damage [R]. This in turn decreases the likelihood of developing COPD [R][R].

A main form of treatment of COPD involves Oxygen Therapy. This involves giving the patient extra Oxygen so that normal Oxygen levels can be obtained within the blood [R].

However, this extra Oxygen also counter productively increases the production of toxic Oxygen radicals [R].

The introduction of NAC will decrease the concentration of these radicals and will help improve treatment efficiency [R].

4) NAC Helps Treat Chronic Bronchitis

Chronic Bronchitis is caused by the inflammation of the bronchial tubes [R].

This inflammation is often caused by oxidation damage. Chronic bronchitis causes coughing and mucous buildup in the lungs [R].

NAC will reduce symptoms in patients with Chronic Bronchitis by acting to reduce radicals in the bronchial tubes [R].

5) NAC May Help Treat HIV

HIV is a disease that causes the failure of the bodies’ immune response [R].

It has been shown that high levels of NAC in the body can help prevent the reproduction of one strain of HIV, HIV-1 [R].

This suggests that cells with high NAC levels may be able to resist HIV infection [R].

NAC may be a good supplement to take for subjects who are HIV+ and are taking other medications.

6) NAC Can Reduce Inflammation in Tissue


Along with reducing oxidative damage in tissues, NAC can work to decrease inflammation in tissues. NAC decreases the amount of many different inflammatory molecules present in the body [R].

Reduction of inflammation can relieve symptoms of different diseases or reduce risk of developing different diseases.

NAC also reduces inflammation after vigorous exercise, which allows for people to perform these exercises without too much soreness [R].

This can potentially lead to a better quality of life.

7) NAC May Help Prevent Cancer

NAC has been shown to help prevent multiple forms of cancer through a few different mechanisms.

Importantly, NAC has been shown to cause cell death in cancer cells as well as stopping these cells from replicating in stomach cells [R][R].

It has also been discovered that NAC decreases the amount of cancer signaling molecules in the body, which in turn decreases the cancers ability to grow and spread [R].

Finally, it has been found that NAC can help in cancer treatment.

Ionizing radiation is often used to kill cancer cells. However, this radiation can often lead to more cancers developing in healthy cells through DNA damage [R].

NAC protects healthy cells from damage while allowing for cell death in cancer cells [R]. This reduces the risk of developing other cancers while ionizing radiation is used.

However, some studies show that NAC doesn’t go well with some cancer therapies.  Speak to your doctor before taking NAC if you’re taking chemotherapy.

8) NAC Can Reduce Insulin Resistance

NAC has been shown to decrease insulin resistance in obese subjects.

High blood sugar and obesity can cause inflammation in fat tissue. This inflammation begins a signaling pathway that ultimately leads to the destruction of insulin receptors [R].

The destruction leads to diabetes 2 in obese subjects. NAC has been shown to reduce inflammation in fat cells [R].

This means that less insulin receptors are destroyed and cells become more sensitive to insulin [R].

This reduces the risk of developing diabetes 2.

9) NAC Can Protect From the Flu


NAC has been shown to reduce symptoms of the flu as well as protect from the flu.

NAC decreases the body’s inflammatory response when the flu develops in a subject [R]. This reduces symptoms experienced in that subject.

NAC also reduces the ability of the flu virus to replicate in cells [R]. Without the ability to replicate quickly, the virus is often fought off before it develops.

One study showed that older adults taking NAC only developed the flu 25% of the time while a population of the same age not taking NAC developed the flu 79% of the time [R].

10) NAC Can Help Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s


Alzheimer’s is a neurological disorder that slows down subjects’ learning and memory abilities.

Studies have shown that NAC may work to slow or negate loss of cognitive ability in mouse models of Alzheimer’s [R].

Patients with Parkinson’s disease who supplement with NAC experience notable improvements in dopamine function and symptoms (R).

11) NAC Can Help Negate the Effects 0f Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is characterized by failure to understand reality and abnormal social behaviors.

NAC can work to possibly minimize negative effects of schizophrenia [R].

A primate-specific gene locus G72 is linked to the development of these diseases by enlarging synapses in the brain.

When mice were treated with NAC, their synapses were normalized, indicating that NAC can play a part in helping with mental illnesses [R].

12) NAC Can Prevent Addictive Behaviors

Addictive behaviors include binge eating, drug addictions, and other compulsive behaviors [R].

NAC can reduce or eliminate these behaviors in rodent models [R].

A systematic review found that NAC helps people with addictions, especially cocaine and cannabis [R]. Behaviors such as hair pulling or nail biting can also be prevented using NAC [R].

The effects were mediated by normalizing the excitatory neurotransmitter glutamate [R].

13) NAC Can Prevent Depression and Bipolar Disorder


Depression and bipolar disorder are severe conditions that are becoming more prevalent in our world today.

Symptoms caused by these disorders can be significantly improved by taking NAC [R].

NAC can also help in improving people’s ability to function while experiencing these symptoms [R].

14) NAC Can Prevent Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).

OCD causes social anxiety and compulsive behaviors [R].

NAC can help with treatment in severe cases of OCD [R].

15) NAC Improves Intestinal Barrier Function


Treatment with NAC can help protect the intestines in cases where bacterial growth takes hold in rats [R].

NAC will also defend against oxidative injury, thereby improving barrier function [R].

16) NAC Enhances Bone Regeneration

NAC helps with enhancing bone growth and regeneration. It activates osteoblastic differentiation by interacting with other bone markers such as collagen and osteopontin [R].

NAC quickens mineralization and thus increases the rate of bone growth [R].

17) NAC Can be a Treatment of Sleep Disorders


NAC could help treat patients suffering from obstructive sleep apnea, a disorder where a person’s breathing repeatedly stops and starts during sleep.

Patients who took daily doses of NAC had improved sleep efficiency and snored less than those who took a placebo [R].

Oral NAC administration appears to be a potential treatment for sleep apnea [R].

18) NAC can be Used as Treatment for Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)

PCOS is a hormonal disease that causes problems with periods and difficulties getting pregnant.

Clomiphene citrate (CC), a drug that is used to treat the disease, only seems to work in 60-85% of women [R].

NAC can possibly be used as an alternative treatment for the disease [R].

19) NAC May Possibly Help ALS

ALS is a a nervous system disease that causes loss of voluntary muscle use [R]. The disease is not curable.

NAC may possibly help ALS patients.  In cell cultures, NAC prevents the degeneration of neuron cells [R].

20) NAC May Increase Survival Rate in Patients With Chronic Heart Failure (CHF).


CHF causes fatigue and exercise intolerance in muscles [R].

NAC has been shown to improve these symptoms by decreasing inflammation and oxidative damage in the muscles [R]. This in turn increases the survival rate of patients with CHF.

21) NAC Could Increase Survival Rates in Patients Suffering From Heart Attacks

Patients suffering from heart attacks have less adverse cardiac events following the attack if given NAC [R].

Patients given NAC have also on average been able to leave the hospital earlier due to a quick and speedy recovery [R].

22) NAC Reduces Risk of Cardiovascular Disease

Cardiovascular disease is often caused by oxidative damage to heart tissue [R].

This can lead to strokes, heart attacks, and other severe consequences.

NAC can reduce this oxidative damage and help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease in subjects [R].

23) NAC May Help in Recovering From Brain Injury


Brain injuries can be caused by drug overdoses, cerebral ischemia (not enough blood flow to the brain) , brain trauma, or other reasons.

Brain injuries can cause loss of cognitive function and memory [R].

NAC can act to help recover from these incidences and can help subjects regain their memory and cognition [R].

24) NAC May Decrease Risk of Kidney Disease


Oxidative stress in the kidneys can cause kidney disease and kidney failure [R].

NAC can act as a protector against oxidative stress in the kidney and in this way prevent kidney failure (rats) [R].

25) NAC Improves Fertility

Almost 15% of all couples trying to conceive are affected by infertility, and in almost half of these cases male infertility is the sole or a contributing factor (R).

NAC in some, but not all, studies improves sperm quality (R, R2).

NAC can also help fertility in women with PCOS (R) and unexplained pregnancy loss (R).

Safety, Dosing and Timing:

I think if someone has a comprehensive regimen with many other supplements, one 600mg cap a day is good enough.

A maximum dose of NAC has yet to be determined.

However, taking between 800mg-1,800mg of NAC is usually recommended [R].

NAC seems to be a safe substance with very few known long-term side affects [R].

However, the supplement may cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or constipation when ingested orally [R].

The supplement can also cause drowsiness, mouth swelling, or clamminess if inhaled [R].

NAC does have a disagreeable smell that makes it hard to take in [R].

NAC should be taken with food, at any time, but preferably in the morning.