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N-Acetyl Cysteine


NAC replenishes glutathione reserves

Glutathione is your body’s powerful antioxidant defence mechanism but has to be replenished constantly because trillions of cellular reactions that produce free radicals need to be quenched. Glutathione helps to regenerate Vitamin-C and E, boosting the antioxidant capacities of these vitamins.

N-Acetylcysteine and Glutathione Generation

This is an interesting molecule found in every accident and emergency department. It is used in a lifesaving way when someone presents with paracetamol (acetaminophen) overdose. Without NAC, the liver just ‘implodes’ and without a liver transplant, the patient dies. So NAC is not a ‘plaything’ it is an important compound used to save lives in emergency departments of hospitals and an important nutraceutical to protect your body against the ravages of a toxic world through assisting the biotransformation pathways in the liver to change harmful intermediate compounds to relatively benign compounds that can be excreted by the body in bile, urine or faeces. Paracetamol poisoning severely depletes the body’s glutathione supply and glutathione is an extremely important innate antioxidant the body creates in vast amounts to offset metabolic oxidative stress caused by your cells simply producing energy from food or creating cellular components for survival.

N-Acetylcysteine's detoxification (biotransformation) effects

Even just 500 mg twice daily can help maximize immune system function and detoxification (biotransformation) systems helping to remove toxic compounds and heavy metals from the body. Glutathione is a tripeptide with cysteine being a component. NAC inhibits the master controller of inflammation NF-kB and can increase blood vessel vasodilation by supporting nitric oxide (NO) production.

How can anyone in modern life avoid the toxicities they face on a daily basis from the air we breathe to toxic compounds found in food, through alcohol consumption or smoking or through cooking, the cosmetics and bathroom items applied to the skin, the pesticides, herbicides, persistent organic pollutants (POPs), heavy metals and a range of other compounds we encounter daily. Your best bet is to ensure your body can eliminate these compounds through the liver by providing it with all the necessary nutrients it needs for these biotransformation processes that transform a toxic compound into a harmless one a job carried out mainly by your liver.

N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC) is a modification of the sulphur containing amino acid, cysteine.

In my book ‘Slow Kill’, I painted a picture of how complex the antioxidant system is, and the countless trillions of reactions every second let alone the unfathomable number of cellular reactions in any given day producing free radicals and reactive oxygen species (ROS). Trying to offset these with oral antioxidants is futile and akin to the effect of throwing a bucketful of water into an ocean to increase its volume. However, a better strategy is to ensure you support the body’s innate antioxidant system through a rigorous diet rich in phytochemicals and food diversity and then to provide the sulphur containing amino acid, cysteine in the form of NAC which is easy to take and only needs to be taken in small amounts to have a significant effect.  It is very safe when taken in the recommended amounts but like any food or pharmaceutical, there is no guarantee that no reaction will occur. Side-effects are more common with intravenous delivery of NAC in medical settings.

Some medical uses for NAC - Switching off the master inflammation controller NFkB

NAC acts like a mucolytic breaking down mucus in the sinuses and lungs and helps switch off the master controller of inflammation, NFkB. In terms of bowel cancer prevention, just 600 mg/day, resulted in a 40% reduction in polyp recurrence (De Leon and Roncucci 1997).Homocysteine a marker for heart disease was lowered by 45% with the use of NAC in a Swedish study (Wiklund, Fager et al. 1996). NAC has been shown to effectively protect against influenza with one study showing a 54% decrease in the number of people experiencing flu symptoms (De Flora, Grassi et al. 1997). Anyone with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and those with insulin resistance (prediabetes, PCOS or diabetes) should consider using NAC to offset the inflammation that can drive these diseases. Oxidative stress and inflammation are strongly associated with bowel cancer and NAC has been shown in preliminary studies to decrease the recurrence of bowel polyps by a staggering 40% (De Leon and Roncucci 1997).

Recovering after exercise

NAC can help you recover from exercise and to help support Nitric Oxide (NO) formation in exercise. Just a small dose of 500 mg to 1 gram which is a tip of a teaspoon full is all you need once or twice daily to help with antioxidant and nitric oxide support and to help you recover after exercise.


The second part provides a visual tutorial on the nature of N-Acetyl Cysteine and how it can be used in various medical conditions.