Cysteine is a non-essential amino acid that can be found in eggs, pork, oats, red peppers and several other food sources. Because it is an antioxidant, the benefits of cysteine can sometimes help prevent cancer growths in the body’s tissues. Taking cysteine can also help people who are suffering from the effects of various types of poisoning and excessive buildup of mucus in their respiratory system. Most people receive sufficient levels of cysteine in their regular diet, except for some vegetarians.
One of the benefits of cysteine only comes from taking it as a supplement instead of from food consumption, which allows the body to make glutathione. Glutathione is an antioxidant that helps fight free radicals in the body, helping protect against the development of cancer. In supplement form, cysteine usually comes in the form N-acetyl-L-cysteine (NAC).
Another benefit of cysteine is its role in breaking apart mucus buildup in a person’s throat or lungs. Some cough medicines contain cysteine as a way to assist in removing mucus from a person’s respiratory system, helping the person to stop coughing. Some medicines used to treat bronchitis and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) also contain cysteine, using its ability to break apart excessive mucus manufactured by the body as a symptom of both conditions.
Taking cysteine can also help people who are suffering from acetaminophen poisoning, or taking too high of a dosage of Tylenol®. The cysteine bonds with the poisonous products of the acetaminophen that are present in the body’s liver. Similarly, cysteine bonds with the poisonous agents from carbon monoxide introduced to a person’s bloodstream, reversing the negative effects of carbon monoxide poisoning.
Some people have claimed that the benefits of cysteine use include counteracting the negative effects of alcohol consumption. These people argue that cysteine helps the body transform acetaldehyde, which is a product of the consumption of alcohol, into a less-harmful substance called acetic acid. Although no conclusive lab testing has proven the benefits of cysteine when it comes to the consumption of alcohol, some claim it can cure a person’s hangover or protect the liver from damage normally caused by consuming large quantities of alcohol.
The other potential benefits of cysteine consumption, whether naturally through diet or through supplements, is a long list. Some of the health problems some people believe cysteine can alleviate include Parkinson’s disease, viral infections, hair loss and asthma. Further testing must be done on the benefits of cysteine when it comes to these various conditions before researchers can declare with certainty that cysteine offers benefits to people suffering from any of these conditions.