Glutathione vs NAC: What's the Difference?
What's the difference between glutathione and NAC? We will cover the essentials and explain about each of these nutrients below.
There is no specific dietary recommendation for cysteine because your body can produce small amounts.
For your body to make the amino acid cysteine, you need adequate amounts of folate, vitamin B6 and vitamin B12. These nutrients can be found in beans, lentils, spinach, bananas, salmon and tuna.
While most protein-rich foods, such as chicken, turkey, yogurt, cheese, eggs, sunflower seeds and legumes, contain cysteine, some people choose to supplement with NAC to increase their cysteine intake.
N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) is a supplement form of cysteine. NAC has low bioavailability as an oral supplement, meaning that it’s not well absorbed. The accepted daily supplement recommendation is 600–1,800 mg of NAC (Source, Source).
NAC can be administered as an IV or taken orally, as an aerosol spray or in liquid or powder form.
Consuming adequate cysteine and NAC is important for a variety of health reasons — including replenishing the most powerful antioxidant in your body, glutathione.
NAC is valued primarily for its role in antioxidant production. Along with two other amino acids — glutamine and glycine — NAC is needed to make and replenish glutathione.
Glutathione is one of the body’s most important antioxidants, which helps neutralize free radicals that can damage cells and tissues in your body.
People with bleeding disorders or taking blood thinning medications should not take NAC, as it may slow blood clotting (Source).
NAC has an unpleasant smell that makes it hard to consume. If you choose to take it, consult with your doctor first.
Glutathione or GSH (tripeptide of glutamic acid, cysteine, and glycine) is referred to as the body’s “master antioxidant” or the “mother of all antioxidants” because it is your body’s primary and most prevalent protector, found in all mammalian tissue.
Acetyl-Glutathione is an acetylated form of glutathione. Adding an acetyl function group to an existing molecule is something that has been done in medicine for many years. In fact “acetyl” is the difference between heroine and morphine. You have probably used an acetylated product in the form of acetyl-salicylic acid… or aspirin. The concept is the acetyl function group makes the molecule more stable and enhances delivery through the blood stream including to the brain. Unfortunately there are very few studies regarding acetyl-glutathione but the science behind it is strong, and anecdotal evidence would suggest this is the best glutathione form currently in supplements. It also tends to come at a higher price due to a more complicated production.
Whey Protein is technically a glutathione precursor. Whey protein get it’s own category because it’s so significant as one of the first and best ways to promote glutathione production in your body. Only a few years ago, the only reliable and simple way to boost GSH was to consume a good quality non-denatured whey protein powder. Cysteine tends to be the limiting factor in GSH production, and is found in good quality whey, making it strong healthy source of a good amino acid profile that boosts glutathione.
N-acetylcysteine (NAC) is a precursor to glutathione. In a paper on NAC for COVID-19, published in the October 2020 issue of Clinical Immunology titled “Therapeutic Blockade of Inflammation in Severe COVID-19 Infection With Intravenous N-acetylcysteine”, which is a case series report of 10 patients (including one with G6PD deficiency) given intravenous NAC. NAC elicited clinical improvement and markedly reduced inflammatory marker, CRP in all patients. NAC mechanism of action may involve the blockade of viral infection and the ensuing cytokine storm.
When the ROS-to-glutathione ratio was high, the patient developed air hunger on the fourth day, experienced significant fever, hoarseness, myalgia and fatigue persisting for 13 days. A patient with even higher ROS and lower reduced glutathione had critical disease requiring hospitalization for COVID-19-related pneumonia.
Two patients living in New York City (NYC) with a history of Lyme and tick-borne co-infections experienced a cough and dyspnea and demonstrated radiological findings consistent with novel coronavirus pneumonia (NCP). A trial of 2 g of PO or IV glutathione was used in both patients and improved their dyspnea within 1 h of use. Repeated use of both 2000 mg of PO and IV glutathione was effective in further relieving respiratory symptoms.
Different types of exercise can influence your levels as well. In one study, researchers enrolled 80 healthy but sedentary volunteers to measure the type of exercise that may have the greatest effect. They found that aerobic training in combination with circuit weight training showed the greatest benefit.
Cytokines are an important part of your immune response. However, when your body releases excessive or uncontrolled levels of cytokines it results in hyper-inflammation called a cytokine storm. A cytokine storm may lead to serious complications and even death in serious COVID-19 cases and in other infections.
Optimizing your immune system with diet and lifestyle changes are critical to improving your health and to decrease your risk of a cytokine storm. However, therapeutics, vaccines and other physical strategies such as social distancing and mask wearing are also needed in order to protect yourself and your loved ones. It doesn't have to be an 'either or' situation. Combination strategies are normally more effective.
Before adding a new supplement to your routine, discuss its use with your healthcare provider, especially if you have an underlying health condition or are taking medication.