Herbal Supplements

What are the benefits of N-acetylcysteine (NAC)?

A Answers (1)

  • ALeopold Galland, MD, Internal Medicine, answered
    An amino acid and an antioxidant, N-acetylcysteine (NAC) is sold as a nutritional supplement. NAC has also been used medically for the past 50 years to loosen mucus in patients with chronic bronchitis and to protect the liver in cases of poisoning with acetaminophen (Tylenol and other brands). NAC is needed for production of glutathione, the most important antioxidant produced by the cells of your body.

    NAC was shown in an Italian study to help prevent symptoms of H1N1 flu in almost 2/3 of the people taking it, when compared to a placebo.

    In the Italian study, people received either a placebo or NAC 600 milligrams twice a day for 6 months. During this time, a little over a quarter of all these people developed antibodies to the H1N1 flu strain in circulation, indicating that they had become infected with the virus.

    Among the people receiving the placebo, 79% developed symptoms of flu. Among the people taking NAC, only 25% developed symptoms.

    In addition, the symptoms that developed were significantly milder in the group taking NAC. And there was a significant improvement in measures of immune function in the NAC group compared to the placebo group over the 6 months of the study.

    NAC is one of my favorite supplements, not only for flu prevention and improving respiratory health, but also for supporting the actions of medications.

    When I started working on a web application that highlights drug-supplement interactions, I found that NAC has been shown to enhance effectiveness of several types of medication, including drugs used in treating high blood pressure, depression and inflammatory bowel disease.
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