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N-acetyl-cysteine is the acetylated form of L-cysteine which is more efficiently absorbed and used. It is also an antioxidant that is helpful against viruses. N-acetyl-cysteine has been used as a liver protectant and to break up pulmonary and bronchial mucus. N-acetyl-cysteine can boost glutathione levels in cells. 

L-cysteine is a conditionally essential amino acid, one of only three sulfur-containing amino acids, the others being taurine (which can be produced from L-cysteine) and L-methionine from which L-cysteine can be produced in the body by a multi-step process. L-cysteine can act as an antioxidant, may prevent liver diseases, and can help to thicken the individual diameters of existing hair if taken regularly.

Glutathione (gamma-L-glutamyl-L-cysteinyl-glycine) is a peptide (short protein)-like molecule synthesized in the body from the three amino acids L-glutamic acid, L-cysteine, and glycine. Glutathione is one of the body’s most important and powerful antioxidants. A major function of vitamin C is to keep glutathione, L-cysteine, and N-acetyl-cysteine in reduced form so that they can continue to have their powerful free radical quenching effects.

Even though many published studies show that garlic, selenium, alpha-lipoic acid, L-cysteine and N-acetyl-cysteine can boost cellular glutathione levels, people with health problems may benefit from taking high doses of glutamine. Those with cataracts or liver disease may want to take 500 mg a day of this very potent antioxidant.

N-acetyl-cysteine is the more efficiently absorbed and used form of L-cysteine. N-acetyl-cysteine can act as an antioxidant and is helpful against viruses. N-acetyl-cysteine has been used as a liver protectant and to break up pulmonary and bronchial mucus. N-acetyl-cysteine can boost glutathione levels in cells and is an FDA-approved prescription drug sold under the tradename “Mucomist” to treat acetaminophen induced liver injury.

When taking L-cysteine, N-acetyl-cysteine, or glutathione, it is recommended that three times as much vitamin C should be taken at the same time to prevent these amino acids from being oxidized in the body.

NAC (N- acetylcysteine) is a derivative of the naturally occurring amino acid cysteine. In the United States, NAC is available as a supplement and by prescription as an aerosol drug to treat bronchitis. NAC is also used in liquid form in very high doses to treat Tylenol overdoses. In Europe, oral NAC is very commonly used for bronchitis.

One reason way NAC has been popular among HIV-positive folks is it is believed to pump up levels of glutathione (GSH). GSH is a vital protein that cells need to function. Many studies have documented low GSH in people with HIV. Dr. Luc Montagnier -- one of the world's leading HIV researchers -- has done a lot of work with CD4+ cells and has found that even cells without HIV can grow weak and die, but with added GSH can regain their vigor. This is where NAC comes in. NAC is broken down by the body into cysteine. Researchers have noted low levels of cysteine in HIV-positive folks. The body uses cysteine to replace glutathione. Taking NAC may be a way to add cysteine, so that your body can replenish depleted GSH levels. This was demonstrated in the 1996 Standford study.

Whether or not NAC is converted to GSH, it might help protect the body from the effects of excess TNF-alpha (tumor necrosis factor). TNF is a naturally occurring protein in your body. It's often elevated in people with HIV and may be a part of HIV disease. It can turn on latent HIV, and increase HIV reproduction. It can cause a generalized inflammatory response that may be critical to AIDS-related weight loss. Both GSH and NAC interfere with TNF in the test tube.

NAC and GSH are also anti-oxidants -- substances that mop up free radicals, volatile particles produced naturally in the body, especially when you have an infection. Too many free radicals can cause inflammation and damage organs; and like TNF, may turn on and speed the spread of HIV. How much these free radicals contribute to HIV disease is unclear.

In terms of clinical trial data -- studies involving actual people with HIV -- the results have been decidedly mixed. Some studies reported some benefits, while others did not.

Produced by the body, N-acetylcysteine (commonly called NAC) is a form of the amino acid cysteine. Because it enhances the production of the enzyme glutathione, one of the body's powerhouse antioxidants, NAC can both stave off disease and play an important role in boosting the immune system. Studies have shown that glutathione levels are often reduced in people with certain conditions related to the immune system. 

For more than three decades, NAC has been used as a mucolytic ("mucus dissolving") agent to help break up the thick mucus often present in people suffering from chronic respiratory ailments. When administered intravenously, NAC has also proved invaluable in the treatment of acetaminophen overdose; it appears to protect the liver from this potentially toxic substance. Now widely available in supplement form, NAC is currently being recommended for preventing and treating a wide variety of ailments that may respond to its antioxidant properties. 

Health Benefits

Supplemental antioxidants--NAC is one of many-- are believed to protect the body's cells from altered oxygen molecules called free radicals. Damage from free radicals is thought to be a significant factor in such degenerative conditions as cancer and heart disease. Of course, factors other than oxidative damage, such as life style factors and genetic susceptibility, play strong roles in disease development as well. The hope is that by reducing susceptibility to free radical damage, a person may further lower susceptibility to a variety of chronic medical conditions. Incidentally, it is by means of its antioxidant actions that NAC helps the liver eliminate potentially dangerous environmental and biological toxins from the body. 

Specifically, NAC may help to: 

·Reduce congestion related to sinusitis, bronchitis, asthma, and other respiratory diseases. Conventional physicians routinely use NAC to dilute thick mucus, making it much easier to cough up or drain from the nasal passages and other congested areas. It's often used to ease congestion in people with pneumonia and other chronic respiratory diseases. It has even been shown to reduce mucus secretions in people who smoke or who are regularly exposed to secondhand smoke. 

·Treat HIV-infected individuals. Some studies have shown that NAC interferes with the replication of certain viruses, including the HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) responsible for causing AIDS. Just what this means for HIV-infected individuals remains unclear, however. One study did show that HIV-positive patients taking NAC supplements were twice as likely to survive for two years than those not taking NAC. Because NAC can boost glutathione production, it supports the proper functioning of immune-system components such as T cells, B cells, and phagocytes, all of which are important for maintaining the body's defenses and potentially protecting against AIDs-related illnesses such as pneumonia. 

·Lessen flu symptoms. By thinning mucus and weakening the flu virus, supplemental NAC could potentially lessen the severity and duration of the flu. 

·Prevent heart disease. In some studies, NAC appears to significantly lower levels of homocysteineand possibly lipoprotein(a), substances associated with an increased risk of heart disease. As an antioxidant, it also helps prevent the damaging oxidation--and thereby the precipitation--of LDL ("bad") cholesterol from the material that lines blood vessels. More research in this area is needed, however. 

·Delay age-related cataracts and macular degeneration. Both of these conditions have been associated with damage from oxygen free radicals. By boosting antioxidant activity in the eye's lens and macula, NAC may have a role to play in preventing cataracts (which cause the lens to become cloudy) and macular degeneration (which can result in blindness as this area of the retina deteriorates). 

·Counter environmental toxins. NAC-supported glutathione interacts with the dangerous byproducts of many toxic substances, promoting their excretion through the liver. These substances include carbon tetrachloride, chloroform, and carbon monoxide; alcohol; such heavy metals as mercury, chromium, and boron; and the microorganisms aflatoxin and Eschicheria coli. 

·Lessen the risk of cancer. By helping to rid the body of environmental toxins and by fighting free radicals, NAC, at least theoretically, may have a role to play in preventing cancer. NAC might also slow the growth of cancerous tissues in these ways. Clinical trials are underway to explore this possibility. Interestingly, one study did find that NAC reduced nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy.

·Slow the progression of multiple sclerosis. One theory regarding the cause of this degenerative condition attributes it to free-radical damage caused by low levels of glutathione. If this is true, NAC's antioxidant actions may be of help in protecting nerve cells from such damage. More research on NAC's effect on this disease is clearly needed. 

·Affect the course of Parkinson's disease. Parkinson's disease is often marked by reduced quantities of glutathione in the brain. In theory, boosting glutathione with NAC supplements could slow loss of function in Parkinson's sufferers. NAC's antioxidant actions might also help by minimizing age-related deterioration of the nervous system. 

--Regular supplementation with NAC will increase the urinary excretion of copper, a mineral. So if you're using NAC for an extended period of time, it's probably wise to add both copper (2 mg a day) and zinc (30 mg a day) to your treatment regimen. 

--If you use NAC for more than a month, add a mixed amino acid complex to your treatment regimen to ensure that you are getting adequate, balanced amounts of all the amino acids. 

·For the majority of ailments mentioned: Take 500 mg three times a day. 

·For bronchitis: For acute bronchitis, take 500 mg three times a day between meals. For chronic bronchitis, take 250 mg three times a day between meals. 

·For sinusitis: Take 500 mg twice a day between meals. 

·For multiple sclerosis: Take 500 mg three times a day every other day between meals; alternate with 30 mg zinc and 2 mg copper. 

·NAC is most effective when taken on an empty stomach. 

·If you've added a mixed amino acid complex to your NAC regimen, be sure to take it on an empty stomach as well, but at a different time of day than you take the NAC. 

·There are no known drug or nutrient interactions associated with NAC. 

Possible Side Effects

·NAC has no side effects as long as it is taken in the recommended dosage. 

·High doses of oral NAC may cause gastrointestinal problems, such as vomiting, or in rare cases a rash possibly accompanied by fever. 


·Scientists must still determine how much NAC and glutathione can be safely absorbed and processed by the body. 

·Evidence indicates that in some healthy individuals, high doses of NAC (2,800 mg a day) can act as a pro-oxidant rather than an antioxidant, actually lowering levels of glutathione rather than increasing them. For this reason, otherwise healthy individuals may want to avoid taking high doses of NAC until more information is available. 

·Because there are no adequate studies of NAC in pregnant women, it's not recommended for women who are or may be pregnant. 

·Taking NAC may elevate certain liver function test results. Before taking liver tests stop taking NAC for two weeks prior to your test.It may show an increase in your AST & ALT liver enzymes and not give your doctor a clear test result.