N-acetylcysteine, or NAC is an amino acid that is crucial in the formation of the body’s internal master antioxidant, glutathione. Glutathione neutralizes free radicals in the body. Disease occurs when the number of free radicals becomes too great in relation to the number of antioxidants that can keep them at bay.
Because NAC contributes to glutathione production and activity, it’s very important for the body’s detoxification process. In fact, doctors administer NAC intravenously to patients given large doses of acetaminophen in order to prevent kidney or liver damage.
A new study published in Environmental Science and Pollution Research suggests that NAC may also help prevent liver toxicity caused by the herbicide, glyphosate, which is the main active ingredient in the world’s best-selling brand of weed killer, Roundup, created by the Monsanto Corporation.
“Glyphosate is the most commonly used herbicide that presents many hazards to the environment and living organisms,” reads the introduction of the study abstract. The researchers examined the toxic effects of glyphosate on rats and the ability of NAC to lessen glyphosate’s toxicity load.
The rats who were fed with glyphosate experienced higher than normal cellular death markers as well as those associated with oxidative stress. In addition, the glyphosate-administered rats’ antioxidant capacity was significantly lowered.
In comparison, the rats who were given NAC one hour before consuming glyphosate over the course of the six week study were found to have less oxidative stress and higher antioxidant markers.
“We concluded that NAC can ameliorate most of the adverse effects of [glyphosate] exposure through its antioxidant property and free radicals scavenging capacity,” the study co-authors concluded.
Best Sources of NAC
NAC is a semi-essential amino acid. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. The human body consists of only 20 amino acids, 9 of which are essential, which must be obtained by the diet. The other 11 non-essential amino acids can be manufactured by the body without obtaining them from the diet. NAC is considered semi-essential because the body can make it from other amino acids yet some people may not eat enough foods that contain the precursors to it.
The best natural sources of NAC are protein-rich foods such as chicken, turkey, eggs, etc. But arguably, the most potent form of NAC, and the surefire way to make sure you’re consuming enough of it to fight free radicals is via supplement.
NAC for COVID Prevention or Treatment?
Several research studies show that NAC is beneficial for reducing mucus in the lungs and lessening the severity of COPD and acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), the latter of which is characteristic of severe COVID-19.
Could NAC prove to be a viable COVID treatment? A study published last year in Therapeutics and Clinical Risk Management theorized that because NAC has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and immune-modulating characteristics, it may prove beneficial in the treatment and prevention of SARS-Cov-2.
“N-acetylcysteine (NAC) is inexpensive, has very low toxicity, has been FDA approved for many years, and has the potential to improve therapeutic strategies for COVID-19,” the researchers concluded, adding, “NAC administered intravenously, orally, or inhaled, may suppress SARS-CoV-2 replication and may improve outcomes if used timely.”
And NAC, when used in combination with other antiviral agents, may dramatically reduce hospital admission rate, mechanical ventilation and mortality, the researchers wrote.