N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) is a special form of the amino acid cysteine that your body doesn't make, and is not found in foods, but that plays a critical role in your longevity. Like cysteine, NAC bonds with glutamine and glycine to form glutathione, a powerful antioxidant. Glutathione performs many functions throughout your body, such as helping to maintain your immune system.
One of NAC’s most important jobs is to help your body replenish its glutathione stores. Glutathione is potential the most important amino acid your body makes and is purported to reverse the aging process, prevent cancer, and preserve memory. It is also said to protect against a wide range of health problems, including:
- Hardened arteries (atherosclerosis)
- Lyme disease
- Alzheimer's disease
- Chronic fatigue syndrome
- High cholesterol
- Heart disease
- Liver disease
- Parkinson's disease
NAC plays a role in the detoxification of your kidneys and liver by binding to heavy metals and other harmful toxins so your body can detox them. It can help to prevent potential side effects of drugs and environmental factors, such as exposure to heavy metals, that may cause damage to these organs. In instances of acetaminophen overdose, doctors often give NAC intravenously to reduce damage to the liver and kidneys.