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What is NAC?

L-cysteine. L-Cysteine is a semi-essential amino acid and it is the precursor to glutathione.

2020-09-11 15:39:15

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N-Acetyl-L-Cysteine, or N-A-C, is anacetylated form of L-cysteine. L-Cysteine is a semi-essential amino acid and itis the precursor to glutathione.

As the most critical antioxidant in thebody, glutathione is capable of preventing damages to the body cells from freeradicals, peroxides, lipid peroxides, and heavy metals. When NAC is administered,it increases the level of glutathione in the body as the precursor.


NAC has been widely available as the health supplement for severaldecades. It is also used in the hospital with the intravenous and oral form toprotect and restore the body from certain chemicals, including radioactive dyesfor medical procedures, to help patients overcome the adverse effects of cancertreatment, and to detox the body in the case of acetaminophen overdose.

Acetaminophen is the most used pain killer and the acetaminophenoverdose happens very often then we expect. It can cause serious damages to theliver and sometimes, death. If a person experiences an acetaminophen overdose, thedoctors use NAC to help reduce the risk of associated liver damage.

With the cysteine, NAC has been proposed asa preventive or antidote for some of the negative effects of alcohol, includingliver damage and hangover. Most of the ethanol in the body is broken down inthe liver and transforms into a toxic compound called acetaldehyde, a knowncarcinogen and a main cause of hangover. Cysteine counteracts the poisonouseffects of acetaldehyde.


Some doctors recommend NAC as mucolytic fortreating lung conditions and excess mucus with respiratory disease includingcough and flu. It works to loosen thick mucus in the respiratory system. NACmay be used as an anti-inflammatory drug as well as an antioxidant to decreasethe frequency of aggravations and improve symptoms in patients with chronicbronchitis.


Foods high in glutathione precursors arebroccoli, cauliflower, and asparagus. Vegetables with a high sulfur contentyield naturally high glutathione levels. Due to the sulfur contents, liquidformulations of NAC have the unpalatable sulfur taste with rotten egg smell.There are no significant differences in bioavailability between various NACformats and it is recommended to take NAC as capsule forms.


There is no recommended daily allowance forNAC, because unlike vitamins, it’s not an essential nutrient.

Oral doses above 1200 mg per day can resultin headache, nausea, abdominal pain, vomiting, constipation, and diarrhea.

 People who take nitroglycerine should not takeNAC unless supervised by a physician since it can cause the nitroglycerine towork more intensely and cause an unsafe drop in blood pressure.

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