Cysteine is a sulphur-bearing amino acid and a precursor to Glutathione, one of the body’s most effective antioxidants and free radical destroyers. Free radicals are toxic waste products of faulty metabolism, radiation and environmental pollutants which oxidize and damage body cells. Glutathione also protects the liver and brain from the damaging effects of cigarettes and alcohol, protects red blood cells from oxidative damage and aids in amino acid transport. Glutathione specifically helps neutralize the aldehydes produced by the liver as a by-product in the metabolism of fats, alcohol, air pollutants and some drugs. It works most effectively when taken in conjunction with vitamin E and selenium.
Through this antioxidant enzyme process, cysteine may contribute to a longer life span, as deterioative aging is thought to be mainly due to oxidation and free radical damage. Cysteine has been shown to be effective in preventing and the treatment of atherosclerosis, heart attacks, cancer, osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. It has immune enhancing properties, promotes fat burning and muscle growth and also tissue healing after surgery or burns.
Hair is 8% cysteine by weight, and cysteine supplements have been shown to be helpful in reducing hair loss and stimulating hair growth. It is important to take vitamin C at the same time and in three times the amount of cysteine, in order to prevent cysteine from being converted to cystine which may form damaging stones in the kidney or bladder.
Cysteine can be found in sulphur containing foods such as egg yolks, red peppers, garlic, onions, broccoli and brussels sprouts. It can be helpful in hypoglycemia as it can block the harmful effects of excess insulin. Use of Cysteine is contraindicated for diabetics.