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The antioxidant supplement, n-acetylcysteine is a sulphur-based amino acid needed to make glutathione, a natural antioxidant enzyme produced in the body to fight free-radical activity. Without glutathione, your body's immune system would be greatly compromised, and left with little defence against toxins and disease.
Cysteine is found in beta-keratin, the main protein in nails, skin and hair. It helps maintain a healthy, youthful appearance by encouraging collagen production and skin elasticity.
N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) is a form of the amino acid cysteine that is most easily absorbed from supplements. NAC may be effective in the prevention and/or treatment of cancer, heavy metal poisoning, smoker's cough, bronchitis, heart disease, cystic fibrosis, acetaminophen poisoning and septic shock. Its detoxifying effects may also help enhance the benefits of regular exercise by protecting the body from oxidative stress.
Because cysteine has been shown to stimulate the production of T4 white blood cells, NAC supplementation is being studied as a possible treatment for people with AIDS. It is thought that participants taking 1800 milligrams of NAC supplements each day could significantly decrease their chances of developing full-blown AIDS. The immune boosting effects of acetylcysteine may also provide protection against Influenza, and supplementation should be considered by those segments of the population most vulnerable to the effects of the flu virus, especially the elderly and those with chronic illness.
Some studies have shown that acetylcysteine can help protect the lungs from carcinogens found in tobacco smoke, protect the liver against the toxic effects of alcohol, and reduce toxic side effects of some drugs used to treat cancer. NAC has been used successfully to treat arsenic and mercury poisoning.
There is no Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for cysteine. It can be manufactured within the body, and can also be obtained through high protein foods, such as meat and eggs. Wheat, broccoli, garlic, onions and red peppers are also good natural sources of cysteine.
If you want to try supplements, remember that n- acetylcysteine is the form of cysteine most easily absorbed by the body. Typical dosages range of 250-1500 milligrams a day, and there have been no toxic side effects reported to date. Selenium and vitamin B6 and vitamin E help to enhance the antioxidant effects of cysteine, so you might want to add these supplements to your daily regimen as well.