N-Acetyl Cysteine–Lung Health

N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC)

This is a supplement most haven’t heard of. In the traditional sense, in the clinic, N-Acetyl Cysteine, which is a modified amino acid, is used as a anti-mucolytic. That means it is used to reduce the thickness or viscosity of lung mucous and in other applications, this agent has been used to treat poisoning by acetaminophen (Tylenol). But numerous studies have indicated this molecule has significant impacts on lung health and lung injury. There are lots of us living with less than normal lung capacity or other conditions such as chronic obstructive lung disorder (COPD). Why not consider NAC for good lung health?

Here’s the abstract!

Expert Rev Respir Med. 2018 Aug;12(8):693-708. doi: 10.1080/17476348.2018.1495562. Epub 2018 Jul 17.
Multifaceted activity of N-acetyl-l-cysteine in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Calzetta L1, Matera MG2, Rogliani P1, Cazzola M1.
Author information

N-acetyl-l-cysteine (NAC), a derivative of the naturally occurring amino acid l-cysteine, is a mucolytic agent that may also act as an antioxidant by providing cysteine intracellularly for increased production of glutathione. It is also used for the treatment of acetaminophen overdose. Areas covered: The recent international recommendations for the treatment of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) report that NAC, because of its mucolytic activity, reduces acute exacerbation of COPD (AECOPD) with a modest improvement in health status. However, NAC is a pleiotropic drug with heterogeneous pharmacologic characteristics that certainly include mucolytic activity, but also has anti-infective properties and specific antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects in the airways. Thus, the mechanisms leading to the protective role of this agent against AECOPD need to be adequately addressed. Expert commentary: The protective effect of NAC against AECOPD seems to be related not only to its well-documented mucolytic activity but also to activation of antioxidant pathways, inhibition of pro-oxidant and inflammatory pathways, and modulation of human bronchial tone. Thus, the dogma that NAC acts prevalently as a mucolytic agent is outdated, and the hypothesis that its anti-inflammatory effect is secondary to the antioxidant activity has been rejected.

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