N-Acetyl-Cysteine (NAC) is an amino acid used by the liver and the lymphocytes to detoxify chemicals and other poisons. It is a powerful detoxifier of alcohol, tobacco smoke, and environmental pollutants all of which are immune suppressors. NAC can boost the levels of protective enzymes in the body, thus slowing some of the cellular damage due to aging.
NAC is a more stable form of l-cysteine which is necessary to produce glutathione in the body. Glutathione is a major antioxidant, protecting tissues of the arteries, brain, heart, immune cells, kidneys, lenses of the eyes, liver, lungs and skin against damage.
Glutathione is not easily used in supplement form. One of the best ways to increase glutathione levels in the body is to supplement NAC. Enhanced beta-cell function may, in turn, increase the availability of cysteine.1
NAC supplementation is also useful in the management of type 2 diabetes. Oxidative stress, which can increase as a result of deficient glutathione, is known to reduce both cellular insulin sensitivity and beta-cell function. Insulin sensitivity in cells depleted of glutathione has been found to drop by nearly 40% from baseline values.2
Helping Control Blood Glucose Levels
Our interest is in how NAC can help diabetes by improving oxidative stress and inflammation. These are both closely linked to insulin resistance and rising blood glucose levels. This can happen in both diabetics and non-diabetic people – and those with metabolic syndrome! 3
There are several steps between going from oxidation to damaged insulin receptors and insulin resistance. Seeking a supplement like NAC, can target as many of those steps as possible.4
Over time, chronic high blood sugar initiates a downward spiral by helping generate advanced glycation end-products (AGEs). These impair normal responses to insulin, perpetuating elevated sugar levels. NAC has reversed those effects in laboratory models. That is great news! 5
Increasing blood sugar levels in laboratory animals triggers a pro-inflammatory response in fat tissue – which is also effectively reduced by NAC.6 In an experiment that recreates a common human dietary trend, rats were given a diet high in the sweetener fructose. This, as usual, produced increased blood pressure, plasma insulin levels, and triglyceride levels. Yet all of these dangerous physiological alterations were inhibited by NAC.7
Human studies of NAC improving insulin sensitivity have recently appeared in a group of people typically very difficult to treat. Profound insulin resistance is seen in women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), along with a variety of other metabolic disturbances. One study showed that NAC at 1,200 mg per day along with 1,600 mg of the amino acid arginine promoted a trend toward normal ovulatory cycles and substantially improved insulin sensitivity.8
You’ve Got It!
Most Americans, despite effort not to, consume too many calories and are at risk for at least some degree of insulin resistance. It is just our society and world.
Our Dia-Amazing doesn’t have just one ingredient. There are more than 15! This means a person does not have to risk taking mega-doses of any one nutrient. They work together with a much better result. We definitely want NAC to be part of that formula!
- Numazawa S, Sakaguchi H, Aoki R, et al. Regulation of the susceptibility to oxidative stress by cysteine availability in pancreatic beta-cells. Am J Physiol Cell Physiol. 2008;295(2):C468-C474. Available at ajpcell.physiology.org/content/295/2/C468.
- Guarino MP, Afonso RA, Raimundo N, et al. Hepatic glutathione and nitric oxide are critical for hepatic insulin-sensitizing substance action. Am J Physiol Gastrointest Liver Physiol. 2003;284(4):G588-G594.
- Evans JL, Maddux BA, Goldfine ID. The molecular basis for oxidative stress-induced insulin resistance. Antioxid Redox Signal. 2005 Jul-Aug;7(7-8):1040-52.
- Guo Q, Mori T, Jiang Y, et al. Methylglyoxal contributes to the development of insulin resistance and salt sensitivity in Sprague-Dawley rats. J Hypertens. 2009 Aug;27(8):1664-71.
- Unoki H, Bujo H, Yamagishi S, Takeuchi M, Imaizumi T, Saito Y. Advanced glycation end products attenuate cellular insulin sensitivity by increasing the generation of intracellular reactive oxygen species in adipocytes. Diabetes Res Clin Pract. 2007 May;76(2):236-44.
- 21.Lin Y, Berg AH, Iyengar P, et al. The hyperglycemia-induced inflammatory response in adipocytes: the role of reactive oxygen species. J Biol Chem. 2005 Feb 11;280(6):4617-26.
- Song D, Hutchings S, Pang CC. Chronic N-acetyl cysteine prevents fructose-induced insulin resistance and hypertension in rats. Eur J Pharmacol. 2005 Jan 31;508(1-3):205-10.
- Masha A, Manieri C, Dinatale S, Bruno GA, Ghigo E, Martina V. Prolonged treatment with N-acetyl cysteine and L-arginine restores gonadal function in patients with PCO syndrome. J Endocrinol Invest. 2009 Apr 15.