Also indexed as: Acetylcysteine, NAC
NAC (N-acetyl cysteine) is an altered form of the amino acid cysteine, which is commonly found in food and synthesized by the body.
Cysteine, the amino acid from which NAC is derived, is found in most high-protein foods. NAC is not found in the diet.
NAC has been used in connection with the following conditions (refer to the individual health concern for complete information):
|Science Ratings||Health Concerns|
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
Heart attack (IV immediately following a myocardial infarction)
Prevention of kidney damage during coronary angiography
and relatively consistent scientific data showing a substantial health benefit.
Contradictory, insufficient, or preliminary studies suggesting a health benefit or minimal health benefit.
For an herb, supported by traditional use but minimal or no scientific evidence. For a supplement, little scientific support and/or minimal health benefit.
Deficiencies of NAC have not been defined and may not exist. Deficiencies of the related amino acidcysteine have been reported in HIV-infected patients.1
Healthy people do not need to supplement NAC. Optimal levels of supplementation remain unknown, though much of the research uses 250–1,500 mg per day.
One study reported that 19% of people taking NAC orally experienced nausea, vomiting, headache, dry mouth, dizziness, or abdominal pain.2 These symptoms have not been consistently reported by other researchers, however.
Although a great deal of research has shown that NAC has antioxidant activity, one small study found that daily amounts of 1.2 grams or more could lead to increased oxidative stress.3 Extremely large amounts of cysteine, the amino acid from which NAC is derived, may be toxic to nerve cells in rats.
NAC may increase urinary zinc excretion.4 Therefore, supplemental zinc and copper should be added when supplementing with NAC for extended periods.
Are there any drug
Certain medicines may interact with N-Acetyl Cysteine. Refer to drug interactions for a list of those medicines.
1. De Quay B, Malinverni R, Lauterburg BH. Glutathione depletion in HIV-infected patients: role of cysteine deficiency and effect of oral N-acetylcysteine. AIDS 1992;6:815–9.
2. Tattersall AB, Bridgman KM, Huitson A. Acetylcysteine (Fabrol) in chronic bronchitis—a study in general practice. J Int Med Res 1983;11:279–84.
3. Kleinveld HA, Demacker PNM, Stalenhoef AFH. Failure of N-acetylcysteine to reduce low-density lipoprotein oxidizability in healthy subjects. Eur J Clin Pharmacol 1992;43:639–42.
4. Brumas V, Hacht B, Filella M, Berthon G. Can N-acetyl-L-cysteine affect zinc metabolism when used as a paracetamol antidote? Agents Actions 1992;36:278–88.
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The information presented in Healthnotes is for informational purposes only. It is based on scientific studies (human, animal, or in vitro), clinical experience, or traditional usage as cited in each article. The results reported may not necessarily occur in all individuals. For many of the conditions discussed, treatment with prescription or over the counter medication is also available. Consult your doctor, practitioner, and/or pharmacist for any health problem and before using any supplements or before making any changes in prescribed medications. Information expires September 2008.