MoonDragon's Health & Wellness
L-Cysteine & N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC)
For Informational Use Only
For more detailed information contact your health care provider
about options that may be available for your specific situation.
A SULFUR-CONTAINING, SEMI-ESSENTIAL AMINO ACID
Cysteine is one of three sulfur-containing amino acids. It is a semi-essential amino acid, which means that it can be biosynthesized in humans. This amino acid acts as an antioxidant, and detoxifies many harmful chemicals including those from cigarette smoke, pollution and alcohol, as well as copper and heavy toxic metals. It has been shown to help protect the cells against the effects of x-ray and nuclear radiation. Cysteine has also been found to increase hair growth by increasing the diameter of hair shafts.
Cysteine is only incorporated into proteins at the rate of 2.8 percent relative to the other amino acids, but the unique thiol side chain of this amino acid is often heavily involved in the three-dimensional stability of proteins and enzymes. The side chain is also often involved in the chemistry occurring at the active sites of many enzymes. Cysteine is also critical to the metabolism of a number of essential biochemicals including coenzyme A, heparin, biotin, lipoic acid, and glutathione. When used as a food additive, it has the E number E920.
N-Acetyl-L-cysteine (NAC) is a derivative of cysteine wherein an acetyl group is attached to the nitrogen atom. This compound is sold as a dietary supplement and used as an antidote in cases of acetaminophen overdose, and obsessive compulsive disorders such as trichotillomania. The body makes NAC into Cysteine and then into Glutathione, a powerful antioxidant. Antioxidants fight free radicals, harmful compounds in the body that damage cell membranes and DNA. Researchers think free radicals play a role in aging as well as the development of a number of health problems, including heart disease and cancer. NAC can help prevent side effects caused by drug reactions and toxic chemicals, and helps break down mucus in the body. It seems to have benefits in treating some respiratory conditions, such as bronchitis and COPD.
Cysteine / L-Cysteine / N-Acetyl-Cysteine (NAC) Supplement Products Amino Acid Complex Supplement Products
CYSTEINE USES, HEALTH BENEFITS & SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE
Cysteine can prevent hangovers, promote healing and boost the immune system. This amino acid has been used to treat liver disease, detoxify harmful toxins and protect the body from radiation damage. Cysteine reduces the accumulation of age spots and promotes healing after surgery, heals severe burns, and promotes fat burning and muscle building. Cysteine is often beneficial in the treatment of bronchitis, emphysema, and tuberculosis. People who take Cysteine have experienced amazing hair and nail growth.
NAC (N-Acetyl-L-Cysteine) is an antioxidant that helps increase glutathione synthesis, and potentially has benefit during oxidative stress. NAC is the acetyl derivative of L-Cysteine. While L-Cysteine plays important metabolic roles as a key antioxidant, a glutathione precursor, and a natural source of sulfur for metabolism, it is unstable and can become degraded during absorption. NAC on the other hand, is more stable than L-Cysteine. Taken orally, NAC converts into L-Cysteine after being absorbed, and raises blood and tissue cysteine levels. As a dietary supplement, NAC is a highly attractive alternative to L-Cysteine.
NAC USES IN HEALTH CARE
N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC) may be used in preventing or treating the following conditions:
Acetaminophen Poisoning: Health care practitioners often give intravenous (IV) NAC to people who have taken an overdose of acetaminophen (Tylenol), to help prevent or reduce liver and kidney damage. Acetaminophen poisoning can also happen at lower doses if someone drinks alcohol or takes medications that may damage the liver on a regular basis. Acetaminophen poisoning is a medical emergency and can happen because of an accidental overdose. If you think someone has taken an overdose of acetaminophen, take them to the hospital.
Angina: In clinical studies of people with ongoing chest pain, taking NAC along with nitroglycerin, a drug that opens up blood vessels and improves blood flow, has been more effective than taking either one alone in reducing chest pain, heart attack, and the risk of death. However, the combination can also cause a severe headache. You should not try to treat chest pain on your own. Always see a health care practitioner.
Chronic Bronchitis, COPD: A review of clinical studies found that NAC may help relieve symptoms of chronic bronchitis, leading to fewer flare ups. But not all studies agree. One large and well-designed study did not find any reduction in flare ups. In another study of people with moderate-to-severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), taking NAC lowered the number of flare ups about 40-percent when used with other therapies.
Influenza: In one 6-month study, people who took 600 mg of NAC two times a day had fewer flu symptoms than those who took placebo.
Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS): Acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) happens after an injury to the lungs and is life-threatening. Although not all studies agree, some research - laboratory and in people - suggests that intravenous NAC may boost levels of glutathione and help prevent and/or treat lung damage caused by ARDS. However, results of other studies have been conflicting. In one study, giving NAC or procysteine, a synthetic amino acid, to people with ARDS helped reduce the severity of their condition. But it did not reduce the number of overall deaths compared to placebo. ARDS is a medical emergency - you should not try to treat it at home.
HIV / AIDS: Some researchers have looked at whether cysteine can help boost levels of glutathione in people with HIV or AIDS. In one well-designed clinical study, people with HIV who took daily supplements including the amino acid Glutamine (40 grams per day), Vitamin C (800 mg), Vitamin E (500 IU), Beta-Carotene (27,000 IU), Selenium (280 mcg), and N-Acetyl-Cysteine (2400 mg) gained more weight after 12 weeks than those who took placebo. In a smaller-scale clinical study where HIV-positive patients took NAC, the supplement did boost Glutathione levels compared to placebo. But other studies have had negative results. More research is needed to see whether NAC has any benefit for people with HIV.
Other Uses: NAC has also been proposed for the following conditions, although there is not much evidence:
Reducing symptoms associated with Sjogren syndrome, an autoimmune disorder that causes dry mouth and dry eyes. Reducing symptoms of asthma, cystic fibrosis, and emphysema. Preventing colon cancer. Helping increase fertility when taken along with fertility drugs in people with polycystic ovary disease. Helping treat schizophrenia. Reducing lung cancer risk among smokers.
More studies are needed.
Adair JC, Knoefel JE, Morgan N. Controlled trial of N-acetylcysteine for patients with probable Alzheimer's disease. Neurology. 2001;57(8):1515-1517. Ames BN. Micronutrient deficiencies: A major cause of DNA damage. Ann NY Acad Sci. 2000;889:87-106. Badawy A, State O, Abdelgawad S. N-Acetyl cysteine and clomiphene citrate for induction of ovulation in polycystic ovary syndrome: a cross-over trial. Acta Obstet Gynecol Scand. 2007;86(2):218-22. Cai J, Nelson KC, Wu M, Sternberg P Jr, Jones DP. Oxidative damage and protection of the RPE. Prog Retin Eye Res. 2000;19(2):205-221. Chevez-Barrios P, Wiseman AL, Rojas E, Ou CN, Lieberman MW. Cataract develoment in gamma-glutamyl transpeptidase deficient mice. Exp Eye Res. 2000;71(6):575-582. De Rosa SC, Zaretsky MD, Dubs JG, Roederer M, Anderson M, Green A, et al. N-acetylcysteine replenishes glutathione in HIV infection. Eur J Clin Invest. 2000;30:915-929. El-Hamamsy I, Stevens LM, Carrier M, et al. Effect of intravenous N-acetylcysteine on outcomes after coronary artery bypass surgery: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial.J Thorac Cardiovasc Surg. 2007 Jan;133(1):7-12. Ghabril M, Chalasani N, Björnsson E. Drug-induced liver injury: a clinical update. Curr Opin Gastroenterol. 2010 May;26(3):222-6. Review. Goodman MT, McDuffie K, Hernandez B, Wilkens LR, Selhub J. Case-control study of plasma folate, homocysteine, vitamin B12, and cysteine as markers of cervical dysplasia. Cancer. 2000;89:376-382. Kozer E, Koren G. Management of paracetamol overdose: current controversies. [Review]. Drug Saf. 2001;24(7):503-512. Mardikian PN, LaRowe SD, Hedden S, Kalivas PW, Malcolm RJ. An open-label trial of N-acetylcysteine for the treatment of cocaine dependence: a pilot study. Prog Neuropsychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry. 2007;31(2):389-94. Mazer M, Perrone J. Acetaminophen-induced nephrotoxicity: pathophysiology, clinical manifestations, and management. J Med Toxicol. 2008 Mar;4(1):2-6. Review. Micke P, Beeh KM, Schlaak JF, Buhl R. Oral supplementation with whey proteins increases plasma glutathione levels of HIV-infected patients. Eur J Clin Invest. 2001;31(2):171-178. Muller F, Svardal AM, Nordoy I, Berge RK, Aukrust P, Froland SS. Virological and immunological effects of antioxidant treatment in patients with HIV infection. Eur J Clin Invest. 2000;30(10):905-914. Novelli EL, Santos PP, Assalin HB, Souza G, Rocha K, Ebaid GX, et al. N-acetylcysteine in high-sucrose diet-induced obesity: energy expenditure and metabolic shifting for cardiac health. Pharmacol Res. 2009 Jan;59(1):74-9. Ozkilic AC, Cengiz M, Ozaydin A, Cobanoglu A, Kanigur G. The role of N-acetylcysteine treatment on anti-oxidative status in patients with type II diabetes mellitus. J Basic Clin Physiol Pharmacol. 2006;17(4):245-54. Silva LA, Silveira PC, Pinho CA, Tuon T, Dal Pizzol F, Pinho RA. N-acetylcysteine supplementation and oxidative damage and inflammatory response after eccentric exercise. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2008 Aug;18(4):379-88. Stey C, Steurer J, Bachmann S, Medici TC, Tramer MR. The effect of oral N-acetylcysteine in chronic bronchitis: a quantitative systematic review. Eur Respir J. 2000 Aug;16(2):253-262. Sutherland ER, Crapo JD, Bowler RP. N-acetylcysteine and exacerbations of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. COPD. 2006;3(4):195-202. Tolar J, Orchard PJ, Bjoraker KJ, Ziegler RS, Shapiro EG, Charnas L. N-acetyl-L-cysteine improves outcome of advanced cerebral adrenoleukodystrophy. Bone Marrow Transplant. 2007;39(4):211-5.
NAC aerosol spray (prescription) NAC liquid solution (prescription) NAC topical solution L-Cysteine powder Cysteine / NAC tablets or capsules
The recommended dose is 500 mg to 1,000 grams of Cysteine daily. Amino acid supplements prefaced by the letter L, such as L-cystenine, are more similar to the amino acids in the body than those that start with the letter D, with the exception of D-L phenylalanine, which treats chronic pain. Read product label directions before use.
Your body makes Cysteine from the essential amino acid Methionine. Cysteine is also found in most high-protein foods, including ricotta, cottage cheese, yogurt, pork, sausage meat, chicken, turkey, duck, lunch meat, wheat germ, granola, and oat flakes. NAC is not found in food.
Although classified as a non-essential amino acid, in rare cases, Cysteine may be essential for infants, the elderly, and individuals with certain metabolic disease or who suffer from malabsorption syndromes. Cysteine can usually be synthesized by the human body under normal physiological conditions if a sufficient quantity of Methionine is available. Cysteine is catabolized in the gastrointestinal tract and blood plasma. In contrast, Cystine travels safely through the GI tract and blood plasma and is promptly reduced to the two Cysteine molecules upon cell entry.
Cysteine is found in most high-protein foods, including:
- Animal Sources: Pork, sausage meat, chicken, turkey, duck, luncheon meat, eggs, milk, whey protein, ricotta, cottage cheese, yogurt.
- Plant Sources: Red peppers, garlic, onions, broccoli, brussels sprout, oats, granola, wheat germ, sprouted lentils.
Like other amino acids, Cysteine has an amphoteric character, meaning in chemistry that a molecule (or ion) can react as an acid as well as a base.
PEDIATRIC: Do not give NAC to a child except under a health care practitioner' s supervision.
ADULT: Recommended adult doses of NAC vary depending on the health condition being treated. Below are some examples for illustration purposes only. Talk to your health care provider to find the safest, most effective dose for your condition.
NAC is given either by IV or mouth in the hospital to treat acetaminophen (Tylenol) poisoning in both children and adults. Acetaminophen poisoning is a medical emergency, and should receive immediate medical care. For adults 18 years and older with respiratory illness: 200 mg, 2 times daily, for chronic bronchitis. For COPD, 600 mg, 2 times daily, has been used. For antioxidant protection/general health: Take 500 mg daily to start. The dosage may be increased, with your health care provider's supervision. Adding a multivitamin will ensure that you are getting the B vitamins you need when taking NAC.
Cysteine & N-Acetyl-Cysteine (NAC) Supplement Products Amino Acid Complex Supplement Products
CYSTEINE SAFETY, CAUTIONS & INTERACTION INFORMATION
Cysteine can affect insulin effectiveness so diabetics should use caution if taking this amino acid. Safety in young children, pregnant or nursing women, or those with severe kidney disease is not known.
Because of the potential for side effects and interactions with medications, take dietary supplements should only under the supervision of a knowledgeable health care provider.
Avoid some forms of cysteine, as they are toxic: D-cysteine, D-cystine, and 5-methyl cysteine.
NAC may raise levels of homocysteine, an amino acid that is associated with heart disease. Be sure to have your health care provider check your homocysteine level if you are taking NAC.
Very high doses (more than 7 grams) of cysteine may be toxic to human cells and may even lead to death.
Taking NAC by mouth may cause nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
Intravenous administration of NAC to treat acetaminophen poisoning may cause severe allergic reactions, including angioedema, swelling of the soft tissue just beneath the skin including the face, lips, and around the eyes; or anaphylaxis, a life-threatening allergy.
People with cystinuria, a kidney condition in which too much cysteine is lost in the urine, should not take cysteine supplements.
When inhaled into the lungs, NAC may cause tightness in the chest, numbness of the mouth, runny nose, and drowsiness. It may make asthma symptoms worse. People with asthma who are taking NAC should be watched closely by their health care practitioner.
ADVERSE REACTIONS & POSSIBLE INTERACTIONS
If you are currently being treated with any of the following medications, you should not use cysteine supplements without first talking to your health care provider.
- Medications that suppress the immune system -- Treatment with NAC may strengthen the effects of some medications that suppress the immune system, such as azathioprine (Imuran), cyclophosphamide (Cytoxan), or prednisone (Deltasone). Do not take NAC with these medications without talking to your health care practitioner first.
- Nitroglycerin and isosorbide -- NAC may strengthen the effect of nitroglycerin and isosorbide (Isordil), two medications commonly used to treat chest pain. But this combination may also raise the risk of side effects, such as severe headaches, and may lead to abnormally low blood pressure. Do not take NAC with these medications unless your health care provider tells you to do so.
- Oxiconazole -- Using NAC on the skin strengthens the effect of oxiconazole (Oxistat), an antifungal medication used for athlete's foot.
- Activated charcoal -- may make NAC less effective.
CYSTEINE AMINO ACID SUPPLEMENT & RELATED PRODUCTS
QUALITY SUPPLIES & PRODUCTS
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CYSTEINE (L-CYSTEINE) & N-ACETYL CYSTEINE (NAC) AMINO ACID SUPPLEMENT PRODUCTS
L-Cysteine is a non-essential amino acid that is an important component of hair, nails and the keratin of the skin. L-Cysteine stabilizes protein structure and aids in the formation of collagen, thereby promoting healthy skin, hair and nail texture and elasticity. Cysteine is a sulfur-containing amino acid that is converted in the body to N-acetyl cysteine, a potent antioxidant. Cysteine is also a part of the reduced glutathione molecule, which plays an important role in the livers detoxification pathways. Glutathione binds and conjugates toxins, promoting their excretion. N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC) is a stable form of the non-essential amino acid L-Cysteine. It is a sulfur-containing amino acid that acts as a stabilizer for the formation of protein structures, and is also necessary for the formation of glutathione. Molybdenum and Selenium are essential trace minerals that facilitate the production of several important enzymes. Studies have shown that NAC helps protect against respiratory ailments such as bronchitis, bronchial asthma, emphysema, chronic sinusitis, and even help defend against lung damage caused by cancer-causing chemicals in cigarette smoke. NAC has also been used effectively in treating inner ear infections. As a dietary supplement, take one or more capsules per day or as directed by your health care practitioner.
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HerbsPro: L-Cysteine, Solgar, 500 mg, 30 VCaps (36542)
HerbsPro: L-Cysteine, Thompson Nutritional Products, 500 mg, 30 Caps (89632)
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HerbsPro: L-Cysteine, TwinLab, 500 mg, 60 Caps (19665)
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HerbsPro: Glutathione Cysteine & Vitamin C, Life Extension, 750 mg, 100 Caps (91748)
HerbsPro: NAC (N-Acetyl-Cysteine), Natural Factors, 500 mg, 90 Caps (83917)
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