Women who have polycystic ovary syndrome and use the nutritional supplement NAC (n-acetyl-cysteine) may benefit in several ways, according to medical studies. Research indicates that NAC has a number of possible benefits:
NAC (n-acetyl-cysteine) is a stable derivative of the amino acid cysteine. It has antioxidant properties and is required for the body's production of glutathione. Glutathione, along with NAC, are powerful antioxidants. Adequate antioxidants are essential for protecting your cells from damage, especially if you have PCOS. Women with PCOS tend to need more antioxidants because they are under increased oxidant stress.
NAC is commonly used for these health problems: liver toxicity, acetaminophen poisoning, chemotherapy, detoxification, respiratory problems, heart disease, gallstones, and excess mucus production. However, NAC also has some value for polycystic ovarian syndrome.
NAC is not found in the diet but is available as a nutritional supplement. It is also available as a FDA-approved prescription drug.
In several medical studies, NAC has been used with Clomid with good results.(1) Clomid (clomiphene) is used to stimulate ovulation and is often the first thing your doctor will give you if you are trying to conceive. However, some women are "resistant" to Clomid and it does not work. So anything that reduces insulin problems and makes Clomid more effective is worth considering.
A medical study has shown that supplemental NAC is helpful for women with PCOS who are trying to conceive and want to reduce risk of miscarriage.
In this study from Assiut University in Egypt, 60 Clomid-resistant women with PCOS were treated. "Clomid resistant" means that the women took the drug Clomid to induce ovulation, but the Clomid treatment did not work.
They then received ovarian drilling. Ovarian drilling is a surgical procedure in which a laser fiber or electrosurgical needle punctures the ovary 4 to 10 times. This treatment may lower the level of male hormones such as testosterone.
After the ovarian drilling, the women were divided into two groups. One group took supplemental NAC while the other group took a placebo for 5 days starting at day 3 of the cycle, for 12 consecutive cycles.
By the end of the study, the NAC group had a significant increase in both ovulation and pregnancy rates vs. the placebo group.
Moreover, miscarriage rates were significantly lower and live birth rates were significantly higher in the NAC group.
This study confirms earlier studies indicating NAC is a supplement that has value for women who have polycystic ovary syndrome.
In another study, researchers at Mansoura University in Egypt said that "N-acetyl cysteine is proved effective in inducing or augmenting ovulation in polycystic ovary patients", according to their new study.
In this study, 470 PCOS women were given Clomid (clomiphene citrate) for one menstrual cycle and then given Clomid plus NAC for another cycle. The women took 1,200 mg of NAC for 5 days starting on day 3 of the menstrual cycle.
With Clomid alone, the ovulation rate was 17.9% but when the NAC was added, the ovulation rate was 52.1%. Progesterone levels and thickness of the uterine wall were reported to be also improved.
This study confirms an earlier study that the effectiveness of Clomid is increased when NAC is also taken. NAC is regarded as safe and has no side effects. It also appears useful for reducing insulin resistance, which is a big problem in polycystic ovarian syndrome.
Rizk, AY et al, N-acetyl-cysteine is a novel adjuvant to clomiphene citrate in clomiphene citrate-resistant patients with polycystic ovary syndrome. Fertil Steril. 2005 Feb;83(2):367-70
Nasr A, Effect of N-acetyl-cysteine after ovarian drilling in clomiphene citrate-resistant PCOS women: a pilot study, Reprod Biomed Online. 2009 Dec 14. [Epub ahead of print]
Badaway A et al, N-Acetyl cysteine and clomiphene citrate for induction of ovulation in polycystic ovary syndrome: a cross-over trial, Acta Obstet Gynecol Scand. 2007;86(2):218-22.
A frustrating aspect of PCOS is the absence of a regular cycle, which prevents pregnancy. Inositol and NAC may help.
Women with PCOS have a higher rate of poor pregnancy outcomes. NAC may reduce this risk and provide additional antioxidant protection.
Insulin resistance and liver disease are huge problems for PCOS women. NAC appears to relieve these health problem.