N-acetylcysteine treatment lowers plasma homocysteine but not serum lipoprotein(a) levels

Atherosclerosis. 1996 Jan 5;119(1):99-106. doi: 10.1016/0021-9150(95)05635-1.


High levels of lipoprotein(a) (Lp(a)) or homocysteine in plasma have both been associated with an increased risk for premature cardiovascular disease. For both components, the plasma levels are primarily genetically determined, and they have been very restintant to therapeutic approaches. It has been suggested that N-acetylcysteine (NAC) breaks disulphide bonds in Lp(a) as well as between homocysteine and plasma proteins. In the present study we analyze if this mechanism, in vivo, could be used to lower plasma concentrations of Lp(a) and homocysteine. Treatment with NAC and placebo was performed in a double blind cross over design with 2 weeks wash-out between treatments. Eleven subjects with high plasma Lp(a) (> 0.3 milligram) were recruited from the Lipid Clinic at Sahlgren's Hospital, Göteborg, Sweden. Main outcome measures were treatment effects on plasma Lp(a) and plasma amino thiols (homocysteine, cysteine and cysteinyl glycine). There was no significant effect on plasma Lp(a) levels. Plasma thiols were significantly reduced during treatment with NAC: homocysteine by 45% (P < 0.0001), cysteinyl glycine by 24% (P < 0.0001) and cysteine by 11% (P = 0.0002). The high dose of NAC was well tolerated. In conclusion NAC has no effect on plasma Lp(a) levels while the reduction in homocysteine is considerable and might be of clinical significance in cases with high plasma homocysteine levels.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acetylcysteine / administration & dosage*
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Free Radical Scavengers / administration & dosage*
  • Homocysteine / blood*
  • Humans
  • Hyperlipoproteinemias / blood
  • Hyperlipoproteinemias / drug therapy*
  • Lipoprotein(a) / blood*
  • Male


  • Free Radical Scavengers
  • Lipoprotein(a)
  • Homocysteine
  • Acetylcysteine