NAC (n-acetyl-cysteine) is a stable derivative of the amino acid cysteine, which has antioxidant properties and is required for the body’s production of glutathione. Glutathione is a powerful antioxidant, but cannot be absorbed through supplementation, at least orally. Antioxidants are essential for protecting your cells from damage. NAC is also very good at helping you get rid of toxins in your body, and is also very protective for the liver.
NAC is not found in the diet but is available as a nutritional supplement.
NAC is commonly used for these health problems: liver toxicity, acetaminophen poisoning, chemotherapy, detoxification, respiratory problems, heart disease, gallstones, and excess mucus production.
NAC Improves Insulin Sensitivity in Women with PCOS
Insulin resistance, the inability to efficiently utilize the hormone insulin, is thought to be a primary cause of polycystic ovary syndrome. Although not every woman with PCOS has an insulin problem, the majority probably do. Therefore, anything that helps to normalize insulin is worth considering.
A recent study(1) evaluated the effect of NAC on insulin secretion and insulin resistance in 6 lean and 31 obese women women with polycystic ovary syndrome. They took 1.8 grams of NAC daily for 5-6 weeks. A dose of 3 grams per day was arbitrarily chosen for the massively obese. Six of the 31 obese patients were treated with placebo.
Those treated with NAC had a reduction of their insulin resistance and a significant fall in testosterone levels.
Although this is a small study, it suggests that NAC can play a role in improving your insulin sensitivity. Many of you are taking metformin for the same purpose. Improved insulin sensitivity is crucial to reversing PCOS.
Homocysteine and NAC
Women with polycystic ovarian syndrome are often prescribed the drug metformin (Glucophage) to deal with their insulin problems. One of the problems with metformin is that it has a tendency to increase homocysteine levels. And, in general, PCOS women have higher homocysteine levels than normal women.
Homocysteine is an amino acid in the blood. A normal amount is OK. But an elevated level means that your metabolic processes are not working properly. Elevated homocysteine is associated with coronary artery disease, heart attack, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, cognitive impairment, and cervical cancer.
Another medical study (2) showed that people taking NAC for two months had a significant decrease in homocysteine levels. Higher doses were more effective than lower doses.
NAC May Improve Fertility
If you are having fertility problems, your doctor may have prescribed a the drug clomiphene or “Clomid” in order to induce ovulation. However, some women are “resistant” to Clomid and it does not work.
A very interesting study(3) of 150 Clomid-resistant women with PCOS has shown that NAC appears to make Clomid more effective. The women were dividied into two groups. One group took Clomid and NAC. The other group took Clomid and a placebo.
In the NAC group, 49.3% ovulated and 1.3% became pregnant. In contrast, in the placebo group, only 21.% ovulated and there were no pregnancies.
In another study of 573 women with polycystic ovary syndrome, Clomid plus NAC was used in one group, and Clomid alone was used in another group.(4)
The ovulation rate improved significantly after the addition of NAC. In the group taking Clomid plus NAC, 52% ovulated whereas in the Clomid alone group 18% ovulated.
The study’s authors concluded: “N-Acetyl cysteine is proved effective in inducing or augmenting ovulation in polycystic ovary patients.”
NAC Provides Antioxidant Protection
NAC is a well-known antioxidant, meaning it protects cells from being damaged by free radical molecules.
An increasing body of evidence indicates that women with polycystic ovarian syndrome have greater oxidant stress and lower antioxidant levels, thus reducing their ability to control inflammation and prevent cell damage.
Is it Safe?
NAC is considered safe.
Although NAC has not been shown to have any adverse effect on the fetus, you should check with your doctor before taking NAC if you are pregnant. Do not take NAC while also taking nitroglycerin.
Before taking NAC in combination with metformin, check with your doctor. If you are taking a substantial dose of NAC, you may need to reduce the dosage of metformin.
Very high doses of NAC may cause some nausea or gastrointestinal problems in a few people.
Life Extension recommend up to 1800 mg a day, at least 600 mg daily is necessary to boost your glutathione level
As a personal trainer and nutrition Consultant, I highly recommend you to ask a qualified physician to see if a higher dose is appropriate for you.I never read anything concerning weight loss and NAC