The N-acetylcysteine , also known as N-acetyl cysteine or (NAC), is a supplement that allows glutathione biosynthesis; In other words, it is a type of cysteine that has been specially modified and contributes to the production of glutathione, which serves to regulate many of the cellular functions of our body, in addition to keeping the immune system under control.
Benefits of N-acetylcysteine
NAC is produced from the amino acid called L-cysteine, which acts as a building block of proteins that we can find in large quantities in foods that have high protein value; This has various applications in the field of traditional and alternative medicine and therefore the benefits that this supplement offers us are numerous; let’s get to know some of them:
- Control chronic bronchitis.
- Helps in the treatment of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome; demonstrated by a study in which patients ingested a combination of clomiphene citrate with NAC, the results yielded a significant ovulation rate.
- It improves the physical performance of patients with moderate to severe Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease.
- It has a slight beneficial effect on people with cystic fibrosis, improving their lung function.
- Prevents kidney damage caused by contrast applied in diagnostic imaging processes.
- In combination with lipoic acid, it protects against Alzheimer’s disease.
- Contributes to the prevention of asthma.
- By normalizing glutamate levels, it stops addictive behaviors such as onychophagia, compulsive eating disorder and the use of drugs such as cocaine.
- Visibly improves the normal functioning of people with obsessive compulsive disorder, bipolarity or depression.
- Contributes to the management of type 2 diabetes; After 3 months of treatment with this supplement, the glutathione level of a group of patients was regulated, thus protecting from the complications of the disease caused by free radicals.
- It considerably reduces the risk of developing insulin resistance.
- It mitigates the symptoms that are associated with schizophrenia.
- Activates the mineralization of bones and stimulates their regeneration.
- Minimizes snoring and improves sleep in patients suffering from obstructive sleep apnea.
- It increases the survival rate in people who have had a heart attack or suffer from heart failure.
- It reduces the risk of suffering from leaky gut disease, thanks to the fact that it improves the function of the intestinal barrier.
- It alleviates the symptoms of ulcerative colitis.
- It positively influences the recovery of patients with brain injury.
- Optimizes the quality of sperm thus improving male fertility; and in the case of women, the risk of spontaneous abortion or premature delivery decreases.
- Relieves symptoms in patients with Parkinson’s disease or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.
- It is effective in treating infections caused by Helicobacter pylori, which causes diseases of the digestive tract.
- Prevents hearing loss caused in patients on kidney dialysis for gentamicin.
- Contributes to the detoxification of the liver.
- Minimize muscle fatigue.
- It protects against the toxicity generated by radiotherapy in the treatment of some types of cancer by blocking DNA damage.
- Neutralizes poisoning caused by acetaminophen or carbon monoxide.
- It reduces acetaldehyde toxicity, which means that the damage caused by alcohol consumption is minimized, preventing liver damage.
- Increases resistance to common flu including H1N1 flu.
How does N-acetylcysteine work?
Being an antioxidant, it works by fighting free radicals, which are formed when oxygen interacts with certain molecules, causing cells to malfunction or even worse, to die; For this reason, antioxidants are vital for the proper functioning of our body and especially this compound; in the form of supplements to increase the desired antioxidant effect.
Although this extraordinary supplement has many benefits for our health, it is important to consider some of the side effects that it could cause when consumption levels are very high, between 1.5 to 2 grams. Some of the most common are diarrhea, vomiting, headache or abdominal pain, drowsiness, or gastrointestinal disorders. On the other hand, NAC could increase homocysteine levels, associated with heart disease.
It has also been shown that it can interact with medications indicated for blood pressure, chest pain, cancer or those that suppress the immune system. No less important is its intake by patients with severe respiratory failure or asthma and of course by pregnant or lactating women. It is important to consult your doctor before ingesting this supplement.
Consumption and recommended dose
One of the most common ways of ingesting it is as an oral food supplement, although it is not adequately absorbed when it is in this way. According to some studies, the bioavailability varies between 4 and 10% with an average life of 2 hours, which is why the recommended dose could reach 1800mg daily.
However, a maximum dose that is safe has not yet been determined, considering that it is generally well tolerated; in the case of detoxification, it could be started with a low dose of 400 to 600mg per day and progressively increase the dose so that it does not cause debilitating detox symptoms.
Another way is intravenous which is only possible in a hospital visit; definitely the easiest and most convenient alternative is to ingest it in the form of a supplement for sports in order to burn fat, develop muscle mass or obtain an antioxidant effect, also in the form of eye drops in the treatment of diabetic retinopathy or by nasal route to treat respiratory conditions.
Natural sources of N-acetylcysteine
Although this supplement is not found directly in food, we can find it in some way in sources in which cysteine is found, that is, those that are rich in proteins, such as:
- Meat (turkey, fish, shellfish)
- Milk and its various derivatives
- Cereals (oats and wheat)
- Vegetables (garlic, broccoli, onion, Brussels sprouts, red bell peppers)
Conclusion on the consumption of N-acetylcysteine
The consumption of NAC is summarized in three words: Antioxidant enhancer. Thanks to the fact that it contributes to the formation of glutathione, it provides greater protection to the body’s cells from excess free radicals, in addition to significantly strengthening the immune system. In addition, it greatly reduces oxidative stress, which is the cause, among other things, of inhibiting the physiological function of our body, causing major conditions.
Dr. Samantha Robson ( CRN: 0510146-5) is a nutritionist and website content reviewer related to her area of expertise. With a postgraduate degree in Nutrition from The University of Arizona, she is a specialist in Sports Nutrition from Oxford University and is also a member of the International Society of Sports Nutrition.