What’s Better Than NAC?
NAC as a supplement has gotten a lot of hype over the years, and deservedly so. N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) is a popular form of the amino acid cysteine. Cysteine is critical for replenishing your glutathione (GSH) levels as they fall to environmental toxins and age.
Glutathione is the mother of all antioxidants, and as such, it protects you from the many diseases associated with oxidative stress. It also benefits respiration, can improve fertility, and boosts neurological functions. Correcting a GSH deficiency in mice offers a 24% increase in life expectancy. It offers protection against retinal pigment, and even aids in the recovery of hearing after noise-related hearing loss.
As we age, our GSH levels begin a natural decline. This leads to mitochondrial dysfunction, oxidative stress and damage, age-related diseases such as macular degeneration, and even genomic changes. Most recently, new studies suggest that low glutathione levels are the most likely cause of death in COVID-19 patients. Because glutathione is present in literally every cell of our body, falling levels have the potential to cause abnormalities in every bodily function and every cell.
As an effective glutathione booster, NAC is a hugely popular supplement. Unfortunately, NAC is going through some tough times. The FDA is fighting it as a supplement, and its bioavailability has room for improvement. But what could possibly be better than NAC?
NAC is still a massive player in the supplementation industry. In 2021, it reached an incredible 300 million in global sales. With a projected 20% increase each year, it is estimated to reach a staggering 900 million by 2026. It is one of the top searches on Amazon, and has a variety of uses.
Across the globe, NAC is considered an essential drug for the detoxification of the liver after acetaminophen poisoning. It does this by increasing the amount of glutathione in the body, especially the liver, where it neutralizes the toxic byproducts of acetaminophen (paracetamol). It is listed in the Model List of Essential Medicines by the World Health Organization. This is a list of the most safe and effective medicines needed within health systems worldwide. NAC is listed under the heading, “Antidotes and other substances used in poisonings,” with only a handful of other pharmaceuticals. It began its medicinal role in 1968.
NAC is also used medicinally to help treat bronchopulmonary disorders such as bronchitis and pneumonia. Considered a mucolytic, it is effective at breaking down and loosening the thick, obstructive mucus associated with these disorders.
NAC is also very popular as a supplement. While NAC is highly effective within the liver and kidneys, it has a low bioavailability anywhere else. Extremely high doses of NAC are required to raise GSH within the cell, because it has poor membrane penetrability. Furthermore, NAC does not cross the blood-brain barrier. However, NAC still significantly increases plasma levels of glutathione, ranging from a 5-20% increase.
Unfortunately, stores are pulling NAC from their shelves left and right. This is in response to a pending FDA lawsuit against it in supplemental form. NAC was first patented in 1960, presumably as a supplement, 8 years before it was used medically. Sadly, that isn’t stopping the FDA from excluding NAC as a dietary supplement, citing the drug exclusion provision, signed in 1994, as an amendment to the Dietary Supplement Heath and Education Act.
The drug exclusion provision prohibits anything that was first used as a drug, or first researched as a new drug, from being included as a dietary supplement. There are two problems with this reasoning by the FDA. First, all evidence points to the fact that NAC was patented as a supplement long before it was used as a drug. Second, there are plenty of substances that coexist as both a supplement and a drug. Examples of this are caffeine and fish oil.
While industry leaders are fighting back, the future for NAC as a dietary supplement doesn’t look good. The FDA has a history of removing ingredients from the supplemental market even though their use predated pharmaceutical use. An example of this was the removal of vinpocetine in 2016. The next victim to the FDA support of pharmaceutical monopolies could very well be NAC. At the very least, it already has an undeserved dark shadow cast over it. If the FDA wins the pending lawsuit, supplemental NAC will be removed from all stores nationwide.
Another problem with NAC has nothing to do with governmental red tape, and everything to do with the effectiveness of the product itself. While it does raise GSH levels, it also has room for improvement. NAC is mostly metabolized in the liver and kidneys, leaving sparce amounts for the rest of the body. Where cysteine can offer the most benefit is in the plasma, and increases there are negligible.
NACET is another form of NAC that isn’t included in the lawsuit. Because it is structurally different, NACET is here to stay. Even better, NACET is superior to NAC in every way. While NAC has a bioavailability of 4-6%, NACET has a bioavailability of 60-80%. While NAC can increase plasma levels of GSH by a mere 5-20%, NACET increases plasma levels of GSH by a whopping 250%. Furthermore, NACET is esterified, which means that it can cross the blood brain barrier, allowing it to improve cognitive function and fight oxidative stress within the central nervous system*. What’s more, NACET does all of that at a much lower dose than what is required for NAC to be effective.
Unfortunately, the days of NAC as a glutathione booster could be quickly coming to a close. Thankfully, an even better version is coming in on its tail. Everything that NAC could do, NACET does better—plus more.
You have every right to be concerned. Your all-important glutathione levels will fall as you age, and NAC faces an uncertain future. Fortunately, you won’t have to skip a beat. Click here to stock up on NAC while you still can, or better yet, get Nutri NACET from Nature’s Fusions by clicking here.