N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) is a building block to one of the most important antioxidants in the body called glutathione. Many clinical trials are ongoing to show the health rewards of NAC throughout the body. 

NAC is a compound made from the amino acid, cysteine, important to the body. It is an antioxidant found in plants of the Allium Species, especially in onions. Cysteine is made in the body by the essential amino acid methionine and is found in high protein foods such as turkey, chicken, cheese, yogurt, and eggs. 

NAC is listed in the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Model List of important compounds (Salamon S et al, 2019) and is actually provided to patients in hospitals to help protect and restore the body after exposure to specific types of chemicals and radioactive dyes.

NAC provides support to the body by:

  • Helping detoxify the liver 
  • Aids the immune system
  • Promotes respiratory health and supports it against mucus
  • Support to the brain 
  • Support to blood sugar 
  • Important to the cardiovascular system
  • Beneficial to longevity and extending lifespan

NAC as a precursor to glutathione

Glutathione is critically important as an antioxidant, necessary in immune function and is essential in the detoxification pathway. Glutathione becomes depleted when individuals have health conditions and it decreases in the body with age. 

NAC has been shown to increase glutathione levels (Šalamon S et al, 2019; Saito C et al, 2010)

NAC – supports the respiratory tract

Free radical damage and inflammation occurs to airways of individuals with respiratory problems. Oral doses of NAC has demonstrated to reduces the oxidative burden to the lungs and bronchioles and improve conditions  (De Benedetto F et al, 2005). Research is being performed to determine if it can help individuals to stop smoking. 

NAC – support to the brain

With many mental conditions, there is a great deal of oxidative stress to the brain. Therefore, NAC has demonstrated to be helpful to support certain brain related problems (Salamon S et al, 2019). NAC may help to boost brain neurotransmitters. (Dean O et al, 2011). Research shows that it may help conditions where there are is a dysfunction with thoughts, emotions and behavior.

NAC helps maintain blood sugar levels

It has been observed that maintaining blood sugar levels has been associated with healthy eating and exercise, with increased probability that genetic factors are involved.  Although most individuals are not aware that elevated blood sugar levels causes increased oxidative stress to pancreas tissue and has an impact on blood sugar. 

NAC has been used in animal research showing that it helps with glucose tolerance and increased insulin sensitivity. The investigators shared that NAC may be useful for individuals who have blood sugar problems, but dosage would need to be determined (Falach-Malik A et al, 2016). Some research suggests that NAC may help cardiovascular problems also (Phiwayinkosi V et al, 2018).

In summary, NAC is an important compound since it is the building block to the important antioxidant glutathione. It has demonstrated to be beneficial to the lungs, the liver, immune, cardiovascular system, brain, blood sugar levels and can be used to support and help keep individuals healthy during aging and improve longevity.