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N-acetylcysteine (NAC) is a supplement that has been available for several decades. People take it for various reasons, including to help treat medical issues ranging from psychological disorders to chronic lung conditions and to improve athletic performance.
This article discusses how NAC may benefit the body. It also describes the risks and side effects associated with the supplement.
Researchers have investigated the potential for NAC to help treat a wide variety of health issues. Some research indicates that NAC supplementation may help in the following ways:
Treating psychiatric conditions
Increasing the amount of NAC in the body may boost levels of some neurotransmitters, which may improve a person’s mental function.
According to a
While research into NAC as a means of relieving psychiatric symptoms may be promising, most doctors would not recommend it as a sole treatment.
Instead, a person should rely upon evidence-based treatments, such as therapy and medication, when applicable. A doctor can provide advice about using NAC to supplement traditional treatment.
Treating lung conditions and excess mucus
That said, clinical trials of NAC as a treatment for lung disease have arrived at mixed results, according to the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.
Improving insulin sensitivity in people with PCOS
This syndrome can lead to insulin resistance and increases in blood sugar. The researchers reported evidence that NAC may help reduce high blood sugar in people with PCOS. However, high-quality studies have not directly examined this.
NAC is no substitute for medications such as insulin or other methods of blood sugar control. It may only be helpful as a supplement.
Reducing the risk of preterm birth
According to the same 2017 review, NAC supplements may help reduce the risk of preterm birth.
Infections such as bacterial vaginosis may increase the risk of preterm delivery, and the body’s inflammatory response may further raise the risk. Because NAC combats inflammation, the authors report, it may help counter this risk factor for preterm birth.
The authors refer to a
NAC may have a similar effect when a person takes it in combination with folic acid, the authors report.
However, as with any supplement, it is important to consult a doctor about its safety before taking NAC during pregnancy.
Treating acetaminophen overdose
Doctors can use NAC to treat acetaminophen overdoses.
Acetaminophen is an analgesic that can relieve aches, pains, and fever. If a person experiences an overdose of this drug, administering NAC within
Other potential benefits
Several studies indicate that NAC may help with:
nicotine dependence gambling addiction pathologicalnail biting or skin picking alcohol use disorderaddiction
In addition, recent research has shown that NAC
NAC is available over the counter in pharmacies and health stores. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is currently
The body needs 20 amino acids to maintain normal function. Of those, the body can make 11 by itself, which means a person does not need to eat in order to get them. L-cysteine is one of these amino acids.
In the body, NAC converts to l-cysteine, a nonessential amino acid. The body then uses l-cysteine to make glutathione, which is a tripeptide or chain of amino acids
Glutathione is an antioxidant with important functions in the body, such as making DNA, supporting the immune system, supporting the function of specific enzymes, helping certain organ functions, and more.
Scientists believe that the supply of l-cysteine in the cell
A common dose of NAC is 600–1,200 mg per day. However, people should discuss the use of NAC and precise dosage with a physician.
At least one clinical trial has looked into whether NAC can help children with OCD. Still, current guidelines say that children under the age of 12 should not take NAC.
The body can convert NAC to l-cysteine. Alternatively, people can obtain l-cysteine from foods that contain protein.
Protein-rich foods include:
The side effects of NAC supplementation are usually mild and may include:
People taking nitroglycerin in pills, patches, or creams should not take NAC, as the combination could cause extremely low blood pressure and headaches.
NAC is an antioxidant that may reduce inflammation. Taking it as a supplement may help improve symptoms of a number of medical conditions.
However, it is crucial to note that most research into NAC supplementation has taken place on a small scale. Determining the extent of the supplement’s benefits will require further research.
Anyone who wishes to try NAC supplements should consult a doctor first.