N-acetylcysteine (NAC) is an altered version of the amino acid cysteine. NAC is a potent antioxidant and a precursor to glutathione.
NAC has been shown to heal the liver and can prevent liver damage from drug use.
It’s even used in hospital emergency rooms to treat acetaminophen overdose. Many common painkiller medications such as Tylenol and Vicodin contain acetaminophen. If taken in large amounts, acetaminophen can seriously harm the liver and even cause liver failure. N-Acetyl Cysteine is commonly used to treat liver failure following an acetaminophen overdose and has been found to significantly improve a patient’s chances of survival (1).
In the same way, NAC can also reverse liver failure caused by other factors such as excessive alcohol intake or environmental pollutants.
NAC is essential for replenishing and maintaining glutathione levels in the body (2). Glutathione is one of the most powerful antioxidants for fighting free radicals which can damage cells and tissues.
NAC also helps with detoxification by producing optimal amounts of GSH for conjugation reactions, which helps to make harmful compounds less toxic.
NAC harbors important anti-inflammatory properties. It works by modulating the expression of genes that trigger the body’s inflammatory processes. This results in an inhibition of pro-inflammatory cytokines and a suppression of NF-kappa B, a protein that controls the production of cytokines.
NAC also helps to regulate the gene for COX-2, thus preventing inflammation and pain.
All of these chemicals play major roles in hundreds of inflammatory conditions and diseases. Supplementation with NAC can help to reduce or reverse many chronic inflammatory conditions caused by these chemicals.
NAC has been shown to help prevent LDL cholesterol (“bad” cholesterol) from oxidative processes that can lead to inflammatory damage in the blood vessels.
When tested in mice, intake of NAC was found to effectively decrease the accumulation of high saturated fat-induced triacylglycerol (TAG) and cholesterol in the mice livers (3).
In addition, NAC has been shown to protect the liver against high fat-induced oxidative damage.
Another of NAC’s cardiovascular benefits is its ability to lower levels of homocysteine, which in turn helps to prevent a buildup of plaque in the arteries. The less homocysteine in the body, the lower the risk of arterial blockage.
It’s also believed that NAC is one of the most effective natural treatments for lowering blood levels of lipoprotein a, which many scientists have suggested is a more accurate predictor of cardiovascular disease than blood levels of cholesterol. NAC has been shown to reduce Lp(a) levels by 70% (4).
LP(a) is made up of an LDL particle attached to the large glycoprotein apo(a) by one or more disulfide bonds. NAC converts each disulfide group into two, which breaks up the bonds.