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NAC (N-Acetyl Cysteine)

A sulfur-containing amino acid derivative (an amino sugar) found naturally in foods. A powerful antioxidant. "More effective at increasing glutathione levels than supplementing with cystine or glutathione itself." (Regal Vitamins' Amino Acid page.)

  • N Acetyl L-Cysteine (NAC) is sulfur-containing (sulfhydryl) amino acid which is present in many proteins, and is in the same class as the amino acid methionine. NAC is a naturally occurring amino sugar and is a form of cysteine which has been demonstrated to facilitate the SHORT TERM cellular detoxification of alcohol, tobacco smoke, acetaminophen poisoning and environmental pollutants in several in vitro studies. When Cystine is heated, molecular bonds are cleaved and it becomes Cysteine. Cysteine is beneficial if it is produced INSIDE the cell, but is mildly toxic if it is produced outside the cell. NAC does not travel well in the blood stream, and doesn't reach the cells (to be used to synthesize glutathione and Glutamic acid). NAC supplementation over long periods has been associated with modest increases in serum glutathione, but has not proven particularly useful in the treatment of chronic, long-term intracellular glutathione deficiencies. Furthermore, therapeutic levels of NAC are relatively toxic and have been associated with significant side effects. At therapeutic doses, oral NAC supplementation has been associated with cerebral symptoms, nausea, and vomiting. Immunocal provides the precursors for the manufacture of intracellular cystine, and effectively delivers these to the cell. For this reason, Immunocal supplementation has been associated with sustained and significant increases of cellular glutathione, and is virtually devoid of troublesome side-effects.
  • "High oral doses of N-Acetylcysteine have been associated with nausea, vomiting and other gastrointestinal disturbances. A small number of individuals may be allergic to NAC. Symptoms include rash, itching, swelling, difficulty breathing and changes in blood pressure." Cysteine (no references), on Yahoo! Australia, accessed 25 May 2005
  • NAC, N-acetylcysteine. Lots of good info in this article, including references. NAC is a more stable and effective antioxidant than L-cysteine, being the acetylated form of cysteine which provides for better absorption. Side benefit: NAC can help thicken the hair.
    • However The Immunocal page claims "The drug N-Acetyl cysteine (NAC) has been used [to supplement GSH] but has many known side effects and a half-life of only two hours."
  • Acetylcysteine and Glutathione: New Understandings, by Richard A. Passwater PhD. "...Thus, NAC is a natural sulfur-containing amino acid derivative found naturally in foods and is a powerful antioxidant. These dual properties help repair oxidative damage in the body." References.
    • She also mentions NAC promotes healing after surgery.

Mechanisms / Effects

Intracellular glutathione production

How the body makes it

  • Produced from the amino acid cysteine
  • Requires

Deficiency

Supplementation

  • Benefits
    • NAC and CoQ10, by Sally Smith, about her experience treating ataxia. Would it be useful for other neurological impairment from free radicals / oxidation?
      • On the site of the Northern Colorado Support Group for ataxia (poor coordination of movement: often with a wide-based, uncoordinated, unsteady gait, plus often poor coordination of the limbs and speech — may result from brain dysfunction, lesions in the spinal cord, and / or peripheral sensory loss)
      • Originally published in "The Navigator," newsletter by Trinity Falk, Seattle, Washington NAF Support Group.
    • In the words of the manufacturers of Immunocal (a different form of glutathione supplementation) NAC facilitates "SHORT TERM cellular detoxification of alcohol, tobacco smoke, acetaminophen poisoning and environmental pollutants in several in vitro studies." NAC is widely advised to prevernt and heal acetaminophen poisoning.
    • NAC speeds clearance of several drugs. Some are listed on the Healthwell Drug Interactions Saftey Check NAC page.
  • Drawbacks
    • according to Immunocal,
      • "NAC supplementation over long periods has been associated with modest increases in serum glutathione, but has not proven particularly useful in the treatment of chronic, long-term intracellular glutathione deficiencies.
      • Furthermore, therapeutic levels of NAC are relatively toxic and have been associated with significant side effects. At therapeutic doses, oral NAC supplementation has been associated with cerebral symptoms, nausea, and vomiting.
  • Sources
My Experience
For More information
See also my pages

copyright © 2000 by Catherine Holmes Clark. Last updated 19 August 2002