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NAC: The L-Glutathione Precursor

Taking steps to reduce oxidative stress is an integral part of healthy aging. Reactive particles bombard your body cells every day, causing free radical damage that can cause premature aging and other symptoms. Fortunately, your body has a natural defense system, which you can support with the right supplements.

What Is L-Glutathione?

L-glutathione is one of the most important antioxidants for health. Antioxidants are substances that fight the free radicals responsible for oxidative stress. Sometimes called the master antioxidant, l-glutathione or glutathione is manufactured by the body and acts as the first line of defense in the fight against oxidation.

Low Glutathione Symptoms

Although your body can produce l-glutathione, certain medical conditions may interfere with the process. For example, individuals with hypertension or diabetes may have low glutathione levels and develop symptoms like:

  • Frequent infections, particularly those that affect respiratory health, like colds and flu
  • Trouble losing weight despite exercise and following a healthy diet
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Environmental or food allergies

What Is Cysteine?

Cysteine is a non-essential amino acid that the body can produce from methionine. Your body also gets the nutrient from foods that contain cysteine, such as fish, turkey, chicken, eggs, soybeans, and lentils. Having adequate cysteine levels in your body is essential for supporting glutathione production, as the substance is an amino acid precursor for the antioxidant. Often, problems with low glutathione levels stem from an inadequate supply of cysteine.

What Is NAC?

N-acetyl cysteine, or NAC, is derived from cysteine and is often taken as a dietary supplement. When you ingest NAC, your body absorbs the nutrient and converts it to cysteine in the liver. Then, the cysteine becomes a raw material for making glutathione.

Benefits of NAC Supplementation

Studies into the relationship between NAC and glutathione have found that supplements may increase levels of antioxidants in the body. Because of this, some potential NAC benefits include:

  • Defense from oxidative stress: By increasing glutathione levels, NAC may reduce the likelihood of oxidative stress to aid in healthy aging.
  • Immune support: The cells of your immune system rely on high levels of glutathione to function correctly. One study found that postmenopausal women who took NAC for four months had an immune response more similar to their younger peers.
  • Male fertility support: One study revealed that men who took NAC for three months had higher levels of male sex hormones and saw improvements in both sperm counts and sperm health.
  • Less risk of magnesium deficiency: Low glutathione levels may increase the risk of magnesium deficiency. Your body needs magnesium to control muscle function, regulate blood pressure, support healthy bones and teeth, and perform many other vital functions.
  • Liver health: Several liver problems worsen when glutathione levels are low. One study found that after four months of taking an NAC supplement, people with liver dysfunction experienced improvements in symptoms.
  • Cardiovascular health: Research has linked high homocysteine levels with an increased risk for heart problems like cardiovascular disease and stroke. Evidence suggests that NAC may help regulate homocysteine levels to keep them within a healthy range. In a 2015 study, men who took NAC for four weeks experienced a more significant decrease in both homocysteine and blood pressure levels compared to a placebo group who did not.

How to Choose a NAC Supplement

When choosing an NAC supplement, follow these tips:

  • Check the dosage: Not all supplements provide the same amount of NAC. Look for ones that offer a clinically effective dose ranging between 1200 – 1800 mg,meaning that it delivers an effective amount in clinical studies.
  • Examine supportive ingredients: Supplements that contain additional ingredients may provide added benefits. For example, Body Kitchen Mega NAC + Quercetin combines clinically effective doses of both NAC and quercetin for additional antioxidant support.
  • Consider bioavailability and absorption: A high dose of NAC won't provide much benefit if your body can't absorb and utilize it. Look for supplements that contain ingredients that enhance nutrient absorption. One example is black pepper extract, which has been shown to improve nutrient absorption by at least 30% and is found in Body Kitchen Mega NAC + Quercetin.
  • Ensure Dietary compatibility: If you're vegan or on a gluten-free diet, closely examine the ingredients and look for a supplement that fits your lifestyle and eating plan.
  • Talk to your doctor: Although NAC is generally safe for most people, it may not suit everyone. Your healthcare provider can help determine if an NAC supplement will benefit you.