Effects of N-acetylcysteine on alcohol abstinence and alcohol-induced adverse effects in rats

Alcohol. 2009 Mar;43(2):127-35. doi: 10.1016/j.alcohol.2008.12.003.


Alcoholism is rampant in modern society and some antioxidant compound could perhaps be useful to reduce the damage done by alcohol consumption and abstinence. The present study was undertaken to investigate the association of N-acetylcysteine (NAC) intake, alcoholism, and alcohol abstinence on lipid profile, in vivo low-density lipoprotein (LDL) oxidation, oxidative stress, and antioxidant status in serum and liver of rats. Initially, male Wistar 30 rats were divided into two groups: (C, N=6) given standard chow and water; (E, N=24) receiving standard chow and aqueous ethanol solution in semi-voluntary research. After 30 days of ethanol exposure, (E) group was divided into four subgroups (N=6/group): (E-E) continued drinking 30% ethanol solution; (E-NAC) drinking ethanol solution containing 2 g/L NAC; (AB) changed ethanol solution to water; (AB-NAC) changed ethanol to aqueous solution 2 g/L NAC. After 15 days of the E-group division, E-E rats had higher serum alanine transaminase, lower body weight, and surface area, despite higher energy intake than C. E-E rats had also lower feed efficiency, dyslipidemia with enhanced triacylglycerol, very low-density lipoprotein (VLDL), lipid hydroperoxide (LH) and in vivo oxidized-LDL (ox-LDL). AB, E-NAC, and AB-NAC rats ameliorated serum oxidative stress markers and normalized serum lipids. E-E rats had higher hepatic LH and lower reduced glutathione (GSH)/oxidized glutathione (GSSG) ratio than C, indicating hepatic oxidative stress. AB and E-NAC rats normalized hepatic LH, GSSG, and the GSH/GSSG ratio, compared to E-E. AB-NAC rats had the lowest serum ox-LDL, hepatic LH levels, and the highest GSH reductase activity in hepatic tissue. In conclusion, the present study brought new insights into alcohol consumption, because ethanol exposure enhanced serum in vivo ox-LDL, as well as serum and hepatic oxidative stress. N-acetylcysteine offers promising therapeutic value to inhibit ethanol-induced adverse effects. Ethanol withdrawal had beneficial effects on serum lipids, but was more effective when coupled with NAC supplementation. Ethanol abstinence and NAC intake interact synergistically, improving serum lipids and hepatic antioxidant defenses.

MeSH terms

  • Acetylcysteine / pharmacology
  • Acetylcysteine / therapeutic use*
  • Alcohol Drinking
  • Alcoholism / drug therapy
  • Animals
  • Glutathione / metabolism
  • Lipids / blood
  • Lipoproteins, LDL / blood
  • Male
  • Oxidative Stress / drug effects
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Temperance*


  • Lipids
  • Lipoproteins, LDL
  • oxidized low density lipoprotein
  • Glutathione
  • Acetylcysteine