N-Acetyl Cysteine

N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC) is a semi-essential amino acid. It is called semi-essential because our bodies can produce it from two other amino acids, methionine and serine. It becomes essential only when our dietary intake of methionine and serine is low.

Cysteine is found in the high-protein foods:

  • chicken, turkey,

  • yogurt, cheese, eggs,

  • sunflower seeds

  • beans and pulses

  • N-acetyl cysteine is the supplement form of cysteine.


For your body to make the amino acid cysteine, you need adequate amounts of folate, vitamin B6 and vitamin B12. These nutrients can be found in beans, lentils, spinach, bananas, salmon and tuna. Combine this with NAC rich foods as above.

You can choose to supplement with NAC to increase their cysteine intake. It has low bioavailability as an oral supplement, meaning that it’s not well absorbed. The accepted daily supplement recommendation is 600–1,800 mg of NAC


While NAC is considered safe as a prescription medication, it can cause nausea, vomiting, gastrointestinal disturbances, as well as mouth issues if inhaled.

The health benefits of NAC:

1. Antioxidant:

  • Involved in antioxidant production NAC is needed to make and replenish glutathione. Glutathione is one of the body’s most powerful antioxidants and helps mop up free radicals that can damage cells and tissues in your body.

  • It is essential for immune health and fighting cellular damage. It may even contribute to longevity

  • Its antioxidant properties can help reduce oxidative stress which is a major contributor to heart disease, infertility and some psychiatric conditions

2. Detoxification:

  • It can help prevent side effects of drugs and environmental toxins

  • It also has a role in reducing some liver diseases due to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits

3. Improve Psychiatric Disorders:

  • NAC helps regulate levels of glutamate which is the most important neurotransmitter in your brain. Excess glutamate paired with glutathione depletion can cause damage which may contribute to mental health conditions, such as bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and addictive behaviour

  • For people with bipolar disease and depression, NAC may help decrease symptoms and improve overall functional ability.

  • It may play a role in treating moderate to severe OCD.

  • Preliminary studies show that NAC may decrease marijuana and nicotine cravings.

4. Helps Relieve Symptoms of Respiratory Conditions:

  • NAC loosens mucous in the air passageways

  • As an antioxidant, NAC helps raise glutathione levels in your lungs and reduces inflammation

  • People with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) experience long-term oxidative damage and inflammation of lung tissue, which causes airways to constrict — leading to shortness of breath and coughing. NAC supplements have been used to improve COPD symptoms, exacerbations and lung decline. In a one-year study, 600 mg of NAC twice a day significantly improved lung function and symptoms in those with stable COPD

  • By thinning mucus in your bronchial tubes and boosting glutathione levels, NAC may help decrease the severity and frequency of wheezing and coughing in asthma exacerbations

  • It can help with the symptoms of nasal and sinus congestion due to allergies or infections

5. Boosts Brain Health:

  • NAC can replenish glutathione and regulate brain glutamate levels which in turn can boost brain health. It may benefit those with brain and memory ailments, especially cognitive dysfunction

6. May Improve Fertility:

  • NAC may help improve fertility in men by reducing oxidative stress that damages or kills reproductive cells. It may also aid fertility in women with PCOS.

7. May Stabilize Blood Sugar:

  • By decreasing inflammation in fat tissue, NAC may reduce insulin resistance and improve blood sugar regulation.

8. May Reduce Heart Disease Risk by Preventing Oxidative Damage:

  • Oxidative damage to heart tissue often leads to heart disease, causing strokes and heart attacks. NAC may reduce heart disease risk by reducing oxidative damage to the heart tissues. It has also been shown to increase nitric oxide production, which helps veins dilate and improves blood flow to the heart.

9. Ability to Boost Glutathione Levels May Improve Immune Function:

  • Research on certain diseases associated with glutathione deficiency suggests that immune function might be improved by supplementing with NAC This factor has been studied most in people with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

  • In two studies, supplementing with NAC resulted in a significant increase in immune function — with an almost complete restoration of natural killer cells High levels of NAC in your body may also suppress HIV-1 reproduction

  • A test-tube study indicated that in other immune-compromised situations, such as the flu, NAC may hamper the virus’s ability to replicate. This could potentially reduce the symptoms and lifespan of the illness

Covid- 19 and N-Acetyl Cysteine:

With regard to NAC and covid-19 you may want to consider taking it during the acute initial infection to increase immune function, and help prevent inflammation. It may also help prevent respiratory and heart complications.

In those with Long Covid it may help with ongoing inflammation, persistent shortness of breath and chest pains. It may also help improve memory and cognitive dysfunction.

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