NAC is a supplement you may not hear about all too often but it has potent activity, as shown by many studies which demonstrate its protective effect. NAC is an acronym for N-acetylcysteine – a form of one of our amino acids (which are the building blocks of proteins). Linked together with two other amino acids, glutamine and glycine, it forms something called glutathione. It is actually the glutathione which is thought to be responsible for improving several different parameters of immune function.
Although it is the glutathione which does the work, supplementing with glutathione directly is not as beneficial since it is not absorbed very well from the intestinal tract. Since glutamine and glycine are usually plentiful in the diet, boosting cysteine levels with NAC will increase glutathione and create the beneficial effects. Supplementing with a dosage of 600 mg once daily can be a safe and effective addition to efforts to optimize immune system strength.
NAC also has mucolytic activity and thins mucus by breaking bonds. It has been used in conditions such as emphysema, bronchitis, tuberculosis, and COPD.
As an antioxidant, NAC, helps to support respiratory and detoxification systems to help us fight off infections. This becomes a harder job for our bodies in the winter, as we are more impacted by exposure to inside pollutants during the winter months, when many of us don’t have as much access to fresh air throughout the day.
Respiration. 2000;67(5):552-8. Inhibitory effect of N-acetylcysteine on adherence of Streptococcus pneumoniae and Haemophilus influenzae to human oropharyngeal epithelial cells in vitro. Riise GC, Qvarfordt I, Larsson S, Eliasson V, Andersson BA.
Free Radic Biol Med. 2008 Nov 1;45(9):1252-62. Epub 2008 Jul 27. The glutathione precursor N-acetylcysteine improves immune function in postmenopausal women. Arranz L, Fernández C, Rodríguez A, Ribera JM, De la Fuente M.