NAC Supplementation Bolsters Antioxidant Defense, Improves Blood Sugar Regulation and Fertility, Decreases Liver Damage from Acetaminophen and More
Source: J Cell (2017)
Lifestyle Medicine Update (February 6, 2023)
Many people have never heard of the nutritional supplement known as N-acetyl cysteine, which is commonly referred to as NAC, but this little-known supplement ingredient provides important health benefits in our modern world. Reviewing the research on NAC in 2017, the journal Cell highlighted the studies showing that supplementation with NAC significantly increases the body’s synthesis of a critical antioxidant called glutathione.
Glutathione is an antioxidant that protects all our cells against damage from free radicals that can lead to cancerous gene mutations, rapid aging, changes to our brain that are linked to Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease and many other negative health outcomes. In short, all your cells need to defend themselves against excessive free radical damage from many sources and glutathione is a critical antioxidant to help make this happen. NAC has also been shown to improve the function of insulin receptors, which helps to lower blood sugar, especially in type 2 diabetics and those with pre-diabetes. In women with polycystic ovarian disease, NAC supplementation has been shown to enhance the efficacy of the drug clomiphene citrate, used to treat this condition. Together they help establish a normalized ovarian cycle, enabling these women to become pregnant. In fact, NAC helps to breakdown the mucus barrier allowing the sperm to penetrate the cervix to gain access to the uterus and fallopian tubes, where fertilization takes place. Without NAC the cervical mucus layer is too thick and dense for the sperm to penetrate when women take clomiphene citrate alone to treat their PCOD condition. Thus, pregnancy rates are much higher when NAC and clomiphene citrate are combined.
As well, for individuals who routinely take acetaminophen for pain control, NAC helps bolster liver glutathione levels. This is very important as glutathione required to metabolize acetaminophen in liver cells, preventing its conversion into a toxic compound (N-acetyl-pbenzoquinonimine), which can damage the liver leading to liver failure. In fact, acetaminophen is the leading cause of drug-induced liver failure in North America, and in fifty percent of cases this occurs in people using the drug at dosages that are routinely prescribed and recommended. NAC supplementation simply reduces the risk of liver failure in these cases so substantially that the US government is considering making drug manufacturers put NAC into all medications that include acetaminophen. Experimental studies also show that NAC supplementation can prevent important steps in brain cells that lead to Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease. By the way, NAC also has its own antioxidant properties, which further helps to bolster antioxidant defenses in our cells.
I personally take a supplement each day that contains NAC, along with three other natural ingredients that also bolster glutathione synthesis (Alpha lipoic acid, L-glutamine and Silymarin from Milk thistle). After the age of 40, when the body’s synthesis of glutathione and alpha lipoic acid decline quite sharply, I believe that it makes good sense to take a supplement of this nature to bolster our chances for healthy life expectancy – maintaining a highly functioning body and mind for as long as possible. In fact, Dr. Denham Harman himself, the founder the free radical theory of aging, took alpha-lipoic acid every day of his adult life (once he realized the importance of antioxidants in quenching free radicals and extending functional life), and he lived well into his mid-90’s, remaining in vibrant health until just shortly before his death. The only supplement he took was alpha-lipoic acid. Today, we understand that combining alpha lipoic acid with NAC, L-glutamine and Silymarin from Milk thistle is a much superior method to bolster antioxidant defenses against free radicals and derive other health benefits (glucose regulation, liver detoxification, fertility enhancement, possibly reducing risk of some neurodegenerative diseases of the brain etc.) than simply taking alpha lipoic acid on its own.
I have included the review article on N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) in the text below.
Mokhtari V et al. A review of uses of N-Acetyl Cysteine. Cell J. 2017; 19(1): 11-17. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5241507/
Eat Smart, Live Well, Look Great,
Dr. James Meschino
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr. James Meschino, DC, MS, ROHP, is an educator, author, and researcher having lectured to thousands of healthcare professionals across North America. He holds a Master’s Degree in Science with specialties in human nutrition and biology and is recognized as an expert in the field of nutrition, anti-aging, fitness, and wellness as well as the author of numerous books.