Let's turn the spotlight on N-acetyl-cysteine, an antioxidant produced by the body and commonly referred to as NAC for short. NAC is a form of the amino acid cysteine. It plays a role in detoxification and can neutralize free radicals that damage DNA and healthy cells. It is one of the most powerful antioxidants known to man.
N-acetyl-cysteine for Respiratory Issues and More
NAC is great for dissolving and loosening mucus, so it is commonly used for chronic bronchitis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), hay fever, and respiratory disorders such as cystic fibrosis and COPD. It is also used for treating some forms of epilepsy; ear infections; complications of kidney dialysis; chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS); and an autoimmune disorder called Sjogren’s syndrome.
It is also used to treat or prevent more familiar conditions such as preventing sports injury complications; radiation treatment; increasing immunity to flu and H1N1 (swine) flu; as a hangover remedy; and for detoxifying heavy metals such as mercury, lead, and cadmium.
N-acetyl-cysteine and Cancer Prevention
One study done on rats showed that rats with a NAC diet had less cellular damage from cancer-causing substances and fewer carcinogen-induced lung, colon, and bladder tumors compared to rats fed on a normal diet. Other studies showed that NAC supplementation slows tumors and metastasis.
N-acetyl-cysteine Protects Against Urban Toxins
One of its biggest benefits to city dwellers is its ability to protect against toxic aldehydes that enter the body through cigarette smoke and pollution. This fact alone should make it a mandatory addition to your supplement routine for urban dwellers and smokers.
N-acetyl-cysteine and Your Immune System
Lastly, one of the keys to a healthy immune system and for cancer prevention is to maintain high levels of glutathione in the body. Your body produces its own glutathione, but bad diet, pollution, toxins, medications, stress, aging, infection, and much more all deplete your levels of glutathione. Unfortunately, study results are mixed, at best, as to how well you absorb supplemental glutathione. Fortunately, there is an alternative. Supplementation with N acetyl cysteine (NAC) has been proven to substantially raise the body's glutathione levels.
How to Take N-acetyl-cysteine
N-acetyl-cysteine is available in supplement form and can also be found in Jon Barron’s Ultimate Antioxidant formula. Foods that naturally help the body raise its cysteine levels include beans, lentils, spinach, bananas, salmon and tuna. The amino acid is also found in certain protein sources such as poultry, sunflower seeds and legumes.
(1) De Flora S, Cesarone CF, Balansky RM, et al. "Chemopreventive properties and mechanisms of N-Acetylcysteine. The experimental background." J Cell Biochem Suppl. 1995;22:33-41. Reference Link
-- Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center: Reference Link
-- WebMD: Reference Link