Cysteine Supplements

By: Marlene Affeld ~

L-Cysteine, also commonly known as Acetylcysteine or cysteine or abbreviated as C or Cys, is a sulfur-containing semi-essential, proteinogenic amino acid; an integral building block of protein and a necessary part of a well-balanced diet. Cysteine is naturally found in a wide range of foods including broccoli, beans, Brussels sprouts, fish, meat, poultry, garlic, red peppers, nuts, seeds, soy, whey, dairy products and eggs. For most people, adequate amounts (1,400 mg once daily is recommended by many nutritionists) of cysteine are obtained from a healthy, well-balanced diet and cysteine supplements are not required.

Cysteine is considered semi-essential in that it can be biosynthesized in the liver and helps the body make the powerful antioxidant enzyme glutathione (GHS). In the body, cysteine is manufactured from homocysteine. Homocysteine is formed from the essential amino acid methionine.

Cysteine Deficiency

While many people aspire to a healthy lifestyle and attempt to stick to a well-balanced diet; fast foods, fat-laden sugary snacks, empty carb and lack of resolve can throw us “off track” and our diets end up lacking in essential nutrients. Persons with a cysteine deficiency may manifest symptoms such as fat loss, weakness, liver damage, jaundice, pigmentation loss in hair, muscle loss or a lethargic feeling of lack of motivation and a sense of unbalance in the body. Within the body the process of manufacturing cysteine from methionine can be disrupted by a number of things including liver disease or an impaired metabolism.

Cysteine Supplements Help Boost Immunity

Job challenges, family obligations, financial burdens, and romantic entanglements are all contributors to chronic stress. Stress suppresses immunity. An aggressive regimen of physical training, excessive exercise, binge eating or fad dieting can also increase oxidative stress, which in turn can contribute to immune system suppression. Oxidative stress is also a big factor in aging. Cysteine supplements may be helpful in offsetting this effect and provide a boost in immunity levels.

Cysteine is required for T-cell production as well as activation of the immune system and is an integral component of the hormone insulin. Because cysteine is converted into glucose for energy production, persons with low blood glucose levels may find that cysteine supplements enhance athletic stamina and increase libido. If you feel you need a boost of energy and renewal to offset the stress in your life, talk to your doctor to determine if cysteine supplements are right for you.

For many people with low levels of the important amino acid, cysteine supplements, taken under the supervision of a physician, offer a wide range of health benefits and have proved useful in the treatment of many medical conditions including:

  • Diabetes
  • Liver damage
  • Alzheimer’s Disease
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Cystic fibrous
  • Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS)
  • Smokers cough
  • Chronic Bronchitis
  • COPD
  • Mental Illness
  • Exposure to noxious chemicals
  • Acute Tylenol poisoning

Available for purchase from drugstores, natural food stores, stores that specialize in herbs and natural supplements or online, L- cysteine supplements, typically in the form of N-acetyl Cysteine (NAC) can be found as powders, liquids, tablets, tinctures, and capsules.

The latest released research studies indicate that cysteine is useful in neutralizing aldehydes produced in the liver that are by-products of the metabolism of alcohol, pollutants such as cigarette smoke, industrial pollutants, chemical food additives, fats and some drugs, both legal and otherwise. When administered by a physician, cysteine in high levels binds with metals, such as copper, lead, mercury and cadmium and helps the body rid of body toxins through elimination of body waste. The liver has an amazing capacity to heal its self. Cysteine supplements support and further that healing process.


For HIV/AIDS (Human Immunodeficiency Virus or Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome) patients, medically supervised dosages of cysteine supplements may offer a broad range of beneficial effects. However, high dosages of the amino acid have been linked to oxidative stress and DNA damage.

Persons taking cysteine supplements should be very sure to ingest 8 or more glasses of water per day to prevent cysteine renal stones from developing. Renal stones, a common and painful side effect of the supplement, can be prevented by drinking plenty of water and making sure that your take 3 to 5 grams of vitamin C daily.

Cysteine Supplements and Hair Health

Nutritional deficiencies are often reflected in the condition of our skin, nails and hair. Thinning hair can be the result of nutritional deficiencies, genetics or a side effect of medications. Several research studies support the premise that N-acetyl cysteine may help promote regrowth of thinning hair by supporting overall nutritional balance. To promote healthy hair, 500 mg taken three times a day on an empty stomach, is suggested. The studies are preliminary and more research is required to prove the correlation between L-cysteine and hair health.

Cysteine Supplements and Diabetes

Animal-based research studies reflect that L-cysteine may prove beneficial in the treatment of diabetes. In 2009, a study published by Free Radical Biology and Medicine, noted that diabetic rats, when treated with cysteine, experienced a significant lowering of blood sugar levels and an increase in insulin resistance. Also, cysteine was shown to inhibit blood vessel inflammation, a key factor in treating heart disease amongst diabetic patients.

If you are diabetic, cysteine supplements may help manage your symptoms and control your blood sugar levels. However, because L-cysteine has profound effects on blood glucose levels, it should only be taken under the strict supervision of your healthcare provider. At high dosages, cysteine supplements, when used either alone or in combination with supplemental vitamin B and C, disrupt insulin production and may lead to deactivation of insulin in the body.

Talk To Your Doctor

Your healthcare can advise how you can best use cysteine supplements in your pursuit of optimum health. describes the benefits of cysteine supplements, noting, “Cysteine is an important protein in the body that has many roles. It is involved in the way proteins within cells are folded, maintain their shape, and link to each other. Cysteine is a source of sulfide and is part of the metabolism of different metals in the body including iron, zinc and copper. Cysteine also acts as an anti-oxidant.”

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