What Is N-Acetyl-Cysteine and Why Is It Beneficial?

by Melissa Chichester

Are you getting enough antioxidants? 

Antioxidants help neutralize free radicals to keep the body functioning as it should. In this way, they help counter the destructive nature of free radicals and assist in maintaining good health. 

Oxidation reactions naturally occur in our bodies – however, when this happens too often, we undergo oxidative stress. This can damage cell membranes and lead to the premature aging of cells. When this happens, the body creates free radicals – unstable compounds that can interfere with healthy cell function. So we need antioxidants to help. 

Most of us get antioxidants by eating a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. When we “eat the rainbow” of colors, we naturally increase our antioxidant intake. However, some antioxidants need help to be produced in the body, and that’s where supplements like  N-acetyl-cysteine – or NAC – can help. 

What is NAC?

N-acetyl-cysteine is a compound derived from the amino acid l-cysteine. L-cysteine is found in several of the proteins in the body, including some digestive enzymes. All living things need amino acids to make protein. It is considered “nonessential” – meaning it is made by the human body.

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What does NAC do? 

NAC is the supplement form of l-cysteine, which helps the body synthesize glutathione. Glutathione is one of the body’s most important antioxidants, as it naturally occurs in cells and helps fight free radicals.* Glutathione is a peptide comprised of three amino acids: glutamic acid, cysteine, and glycine.

In addition, NAC is one of the body’s chief sources of sulfur, a compound that plays a role in multiple wellness pathways.*

Because NAC helps to make and replenish glutathione, taking it can help reinforce the body’s natural antioxidant defenses.*

NAC supplements can help support your overall health and wellness.*

Is NAC present in foods?

NAC is made with foods that contain l-cysteine. Foods that contain this amino acid are high-protein sources, such as chicken, turkey, seafood, eggs, and beef. Plant-based sources include onions, bread, cereal, chickpeas, oats, and sunflower seeds. 

What supplements contain NAC?

NAC is a supplement used for antioxidant support.* However, it is important to discuss with a professional if this is a good fit for your routine.

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.