Impaired adipose tissue function and insulin resistance remain instrumental in promoting hepatic lipid accumulation in conditions of metabolic syndrome. In fact, enhanced lipid accumulation together with oxidative stress and an abnormal inflammatory response underpin the development and severity of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). There are currently no specific protective drugs against NAFLD, and effective interventions involving regular exercise and healthy diets have proved difficult to achieve and maintain. Alternatively, due to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, there has been growing interest in understanding the therapeutic effects of N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) against metabolic complications, including NAFLD. Here, reviewed evidence suggests that NAC blocks hepatic lipid accumulation in preclinical models of NAFLD. This is in part through the effective regulation of a fatty acid scavenger molecule (CD36) and transcriptional factors such as sterol regulatory element-binding protein (SREBP)-1c/-2 and peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma (PPARγ). Importantly, NAC appears effective in improving liver function by reducing pro-inflammatory markers such as interleukin (IL)-6 IL-1β, tumour necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α) and nuclear factor kappa-light-chain-enhancer of activated B cells (NF-κB). This was primarily through the attenuation of lipid peroxidation and enhancements in intracellular response antioxidants, particularly glutathione. Very few clinical studies support the beneficial effects of NAC against NAFLD-related complications, thus well-organized randomized clinical trials are still necessary to confirm its therapeutic potential.
Marcheggiani F.;Cirilli I.;Louw J.;Damiani E.
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