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N-acetyl-L-cysteine (NAC) – an N-acetyl derivative of cysteine. It is a transporter of free thiol groups (-SH), which are able to bind oxygen-based free radicals. Thanks to low molecular weight, it easily penetrates cell membranes and reaches cells. There, it releases cysteine – a substrate which is essential for glutathione synthesis.
Thanks to its oxidizing properties, NAC is used for increasing glutathione levels and for protecting cells from harmful substances. Moreover, it neutralizes harmful metabolites of particular medicines (mainly paracetamol), reduces the risk of nephropathy and shows effectiveness in AIDS treatment, as it inhibits the activation of NF-kB1 protein. NAC is also used in Amanita phalloides poisonings.
Cysteine – what is it?
Cysteine is a sulphuric amino acid. It contains thiol group (-SH) and thanks to that it is able to create disulfide and influence the structure of numerous proteins. It is the most important constituent substance of glutathione (next to glycine and glutamic acid) because its thiol group (-SH) is an active group in oxidation-reduction reactions (in which glutathione plays its most important role).
Biological functions of glutathione
Glutathione is a high-reactive peptide. It occurs in ruminant and human tissues, where it is essential for the maintenance of cells life. It attracts reactive electrophiles, which protects cells from being damaged by toxins. Moreover, it removes heavy metals, protects the liver, fights free radicals and supports the immune system. Its low level indicates a medical condition.
Glutathione is able to detoxicate the body system by removing harmful toxins, heavy metals and pesticides. It neutralizes and removes, among others, nitrogenous compounds, chlorinated toxins, toxic metabolites of medicines, free radicals, pesticides and hydrogen peroxide. Moreover, it detoxicates the liver, prevents it from damage and necrosis as well as it provides biologically active forms (reduced forms) of vitamins C and E.
NAC – liver protection
Paracetamol is a popular and commonly used painkiller and anti-inflammatory medicine. However, only few people are aware of its toxicity. Used repeatedly or in big doses, paracetamol leads to accumulation of a toxic metabolite – N-acetyl-p-benzoquinone imine (NAPQI).
The metabolite is commonly neutralized by glutathione, however, by its excess, the natural glutathione reserves are too small to neutralize the whole amount of this metabolite. In such case, it comes to toxic reactions of metabolites with key hepatic enzymes, which leads to damage of liver cells and as a consequence – to acute liver failure.
By applying NAC, you can counteract and prevent such a situation. That is why the preparations which contain acetylcysteine are registered as medicines used in paracetamol overdose. They immediately restore the proper level of glutathione, which neutralizes the harmful metabolites2.
The above mentioned situation may also take place with toxic metabolites of particular medicines and with other toxins. This all make NAC a unique supplement which protects the liver from actions of numerous dosed oral medicines.
NAC in the treatment of psychiatric disorders
So far, only several studies have been conducted to indicate NAC efficiency in alternative treatment of particular psychiatric disorders. The studies demonstrated therapeuthical potential in supporting treatments of addiction, obsessive-compulsive disorders, schizophrenia and bipolar affective disorder.
The mechanism of actions is not fully understood yet, but NAC has a positive influence on the central nervous system as it increases the level of glutathione, modulates the glutamatergic pathway and activates neurotrophic and anti-inflammatory processes.
To sum it all up, Life Extension N-Acetyl-L-Cysteine is a dietary supplement which is especially recommended for people who put their livers at risk by using medicines which negatively influence liver functions. It is also recommended for people with low immunity and susceptible to constant infections.
1 Dodd S, Dean O, Copolov DL, Malhi GS, Berk M. N-acetylcysteine for antioxidant therapy: pharmacology and clinical utility. Expert Opin Biol Ther. 2008 Dec;8(12):1955-62.
2 Scalley RD, Conner CS. Acetaminophen poisoning: a case report of the use of acetylcysteine. 1978 Aug;35(8):964-7.
3 O. Dean, F. Giorlando, M. Berk, N-acetylcysteine in psychiatry: current therapeutic evidence and potential mechanisms of action, J Psychiatry Neurosci. 2011 Mar; 36(2): 78–86.
1 capsule, 1-3 times per day, with a meal.
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