Research published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry has shown that n-acetyl cysteine (NAC) can help relieve the symptoms of depression, improve day to day function in depressed people, and it is well tolerated, without side effects. The conventional medical treatment of depression is not effective enough for a large percentage of patients. Taking supplemental n-acetyl cysteine can be one component of an effective treatment plan.

The research finding is from a systematic review and meta analysis. Data on 574 patients was analysed. 291 were randomized to receive N-acetyl cysteine and 283 took a placebo. The follow-up time frame varied between 12 and 24 weeks.

Individuals who received N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) had better depressive symptoms scores on the Clinical Global Impressions-Severity of Illness scale at follow-up than those who received a placebo. Also, overall functionality was better in N-acetyl cysteine patients than in placebo patients. There were no changes in quality of life. Only minor adverse events were associated with N-acetyl cysteine. It can give some patients indigestion, which can be prevented by taking it with a whole glass of water.

NAC is a truly remarkable substance with so many health benefits. It is a special form of the amino acid cysteine. NAC is the precursor (starting material) for the body to make glutathione (GSH). Glutathione is the most powerful antioxidant in the body. GSH is essential to protect, detoxify and repair body cells. NAC supplements can increase the production of glutathione in the body.

Boosting glutathione levels with NAC supplements makes the body’s cells more able to protect themselves from damage caused by fatty accumulation, viral infections, toxic chemicals, drug induced damage, and autoimmune inflammation.

Glutathione restores your cells' ability to detoxify and fight damage from free radicals known as reactive oxygen species. Glutathione helps the liver to protect you against toxicity, and it is most needed by those with liver disease, or those people exposed to heavy metals or toxic chemicals. Today researchers are realizing just how vital glutathione's actions in the body are, and how many chronic disease conditions are associated with glutathione deficiency.

Inflammation can cause depression

Chronic, low-grade inflammation greatly contributes to fatigue, pain, low mood and an inability to lose weight. The symptoms of a great variety of health conditions are aggravated by excessive inflammation.  It is also thought that long term high levels of inflammation in your body speed up the aging process and increase your risk of heart attacks, strokes and cancer. Inflammation basically causes wear and tear inside your body; it wears your body out more quickly.

Studies have shown that depressed people have higher levels of inflammatory chemicals such as C-reactive protein and cytokines in their bodies compared to people who are not depressed. When people are given proinflammatory cytokines, they typically experience more symptoms of depression and anxiety. Even brain imaging scans of people with depression show that their brain has increased neuroinflammation. Think about when you have a cold or flu. Your body is in an inflammatory state then. You probably experience symptoms typical of depression, such as disturbed sleep, a depressed mood, fatigue, poor concentration and a foggy head.

N-acetyl cysteine is best taken on an empty stomach, with a full glass of water. For additional information about depression, see my book Help for Depression and Anxiety.


The above statements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any disease.