Summary: N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC) is a prodrug for L-cysteine, a precursor to the antioxidant glutathione, an essential antioxidant in the body. NAC supports glutathione replenishment which has been found to bind to the glutamate recognition sites of the NMDA and AMPA receptors. It also promotes healthy inflammatory responses.
Table of Contents
- 1 Introduction
- 2 Benefits & Effects
- 2.1 N-Acetyl Cysteine Improves Cognitive Function
- 2.2 N-Acetyl Cysteine Reduces Symptoms of Depression
- 2.3 NAC Helps Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder and Mania
- 2.4 NAC Reduces Symptoms of OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder)
- 2.5 Improves Male Fertility
- 2.6 NAC Boosts Skin Health
- 2.7 NAC May Improve Autism
- 2.8 NAC Reduces Muscle Fatigue
- 2.9 NAC Reduces Antibiotic Side Effects
- 2.10 Reliefs ADHD Symptoms
- 2.11 Other Benefits
- 3 Side Effects
- 4 Dosage
What is N-Acetyl Cysteine?
N-Acetyl Cysteine (also known as Acetylcysteine or NAC) is a prodrug for L-cysteine, a precursor to the antioxidant glutathione, an essential antioxidant in the body. NAC supports glutathione replenishment which has been found to bind to the glutamate recognition sites of the NMDA and AMPA receptors. It also promotes healthy inflammatory responses. Acetylcysteine was initially patented in 1960 and licensed for use in 1968. It is on the World Health Organization’s List of Essential Medicines and is easily accessible for a very affordable price.
Acetylcysteine, also known as N-acetylcysteine, is a medication that is used to treat paracetamol overdose, and to loosen thick mucus in individuals with cystic fibrosis or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. It can be taken intravenously, by mouth, or inhaled as a mist. Some people use it as a dietary supplement.Wikipedia
Benefits & Effects
N-Acetyl Cysteine Improves Cognitive Function
NAC has many studies on enhancing cognitive function in Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and schizophrenia. Currently, it’s under research for boosting cognitive performance after general anesthesia. (R)
N-Acetyl Cysteine Reduces Symptoms of Depression
NAC helps people with depression by balancing glutamate levels within the brain. Doing so, it reduces inflammation and increases the growth of new brain cells. R
In a study of more than 500 participants, NAC shows an improvement in symptoms of depression and overall functionality. At 2000mg per day, it improves mood in people diagnosed with depression. (R), (R)
NAC Helps Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder and Mania
NAC improves chronic health issues such as heart disease and hormonal imbalance in people with Bipolar Disorder. In a 6-month study, NAC indirectly shows to affect overall health, antioxidant and inflammation levels, as well as mood. (R)
Another study on 17 subjects with bipolar disorder, NAC shows improvements in low moods and reduction in overall associating symptoms after six months of supplementation. (R)
In a study of 15 individuals suffering from mania, NAC also shows improvement after a six-month regime. The group receiving NAC had a reduction in symptoms versus the one receiving placebo. However, mood swings seem to worsen as a result. (R)
NAC Reduces Symptoms of OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder)
NAC balances glutamate levels as well as increases antioxidants within the brain. In a study of 44 subjects with OCD, a NAC dose of 2000mg added to standard medication shows to improve symptoms, even in severe cases. R
Another study of 48 subjects who didn’t respond to typical treatment, NAC shows to improve symptoms after a 3-month period safely. (R)
NAC is useful for obsessive-compulsive disorders according to extensive research. It shows promising benefits and has very few side-effects. (R)
Improves Male Fertility
In addition to helping women with PCOS (Polycystic ovary syndrome), NAC may help increase fertility in men. Oxidative stress damages the sperm’s DNA, which results in reducing fertility. (R)
A study done on 120 infertile men receiving NAC, improvements were notable in semen quality and antioxidant status after a period of three months. (R)
Other studies look at the fertility benefits of NAC in combination with other antioxidants such as B vitamins, vitamin C and D. The combination improves the sperm count in those with low sperm count. (R)
In an extensive study of almost 500 infertile men, NAC with selenium show improvement in fertility after a six month period. (R)
Some men are sub-fertile — they are less fertile without an apparent reason. In 84 of subfertile men trying to conceive, NAC combination supplement called Condensyl (with vitamins, zinc, fig extract, and vitamin E) increased pregnancy rates. It raises the “fertility potential” of subfertile men increasing the rate of successful pregnancy. (R)
The typical NAC dose for improving fertility in those studies was 600 mg/day.
NAC Boosts Skin Health
Interestingly, NAC can be used as a cream or gel to improve skin health. It boosts glutathione in the skin protecting it from damage. Furthermore, NAC reduces skin inflammation and normalizes skin cell division. It’s used for eczema, skin irritation, radiation-induced skin damage, wound healing, and acne. In a study of 100 participants, a 5% NAC gel shows to reduce mild to moderate acne. (R)
Overall, NAC skin formulations are promising and very safe. Case reports and animal studies support this wide range of skin benefits of NAC.
NAC May Improve Autism
NAC seems to benefit children with autism. In a study of 33 autistic children, NAC (900-2,700 mg/day) shows to reduce irritability after three months period. (R)
NAC Reduces Muscle Fatigue
Overall, NAC tends to help muscles improve blood flow during intense training as well as recover faster after a workout.
It also seems to help older individuals in improving fitness and enhancing endurance in athletes on the short-term. However, long-term NAC with exercise may prevent muscle recovery.
NAC Reduces Antibiotic Side Effects
Antibiotic side effects arise from free radicals damage. As a potent antioxidant, NAC (1,200 mg/day) reduces side effects, prevents kidney and ear damage from several strong antibiotics in 2 studies of 100 people. (R, R)
NAC also protects the liver from the harmful effects of anti-tuberculosis drugs as shown in a study of 60 participants. Those receiving NAC show intact liver after treatment, while 40% of those who didn’t take NAC suffer liver damage. (R)
Reliefs ADHD Symptoms
In a study of nearly 100 ADHD participants, NAC shows to reduce ADHD symptoms in patients with as well as improving cognition, impulsivity, and overall symptoms.
Participants were receiving up to 5g per day during this study. (R)
According to Health Line, the following are the 9 top benefits of NAC:
- Essential for Making the Powerful Antioxidant Glutathione
- Helps With Detoxification to Prevent or Diminish Kidney and Liver Damage
- May Improve Psychiatric Disorders and Addictive Behavior
- Helps Relieve Symptoms of Respiratory Conditions
- Boosts Brain Health by Regulating Glutamate and Replenishing Glutathione
- May Improve Fertility in Both Men and Women
- May Stabilize Blood Sugar By Decreasing Inflammation in Fat Cell
- May Reduce Heart Disease Risk by Preventing Oxidative Damage
- Ability to Boost Glutathione Levels May Improve Immune Function
N-Acetyl Cysteine is a safe substance with very few known side effects. Although occasionally, it can cause nausea, diarrhea, or constipation.
Large doses in a mouse model showed that acetylcysteine could potentially cause damage to the heart and lungs. They found that acetylcysteine was metabolized to S-nitroso-N acetylcysteine (SNOAC), which increased blood pressure in the lungs and right ventricle of the heart (pulmonary artery hypertension) in mice treated with acetylcysteine.
The effect was similar to that observed following a 3-week exposure to an oxygen-deprived environment (chronic hypoxia).
The authors also found that SNOAC induced a hypoxia-like response in the expression of several important genes both in vitro and in vivo.Wikipedia
How To Take N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC)?
The typical dose for general wellness and gut health is 500mg per day taken in the morning on an empty stomach.
800 to 2,400mg are the most common across clinical studies. However, for a chronic health condition, consider a higher dose. Studies concerning addiction and mental health issues use doses closer to 3000 mg/day.
Daily doses should be taken at 2-3 times a day.
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