Amino acids are interesting substances. On the one hand they have been called the building blocks of life; on the other hand, they are eyed with suspicion when they are included in nutritional supplements, holistic medicines, or foreign made drugs. In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is in charge of ascertaining, judging, and controlling the ingredients which may be used in medicines and prescription drugs, but when it comes to nutritional supplements and associated substances, there is little oversight by the FDA.
As a matter of fact, even though there is a cornucopia of claims made by various manufacturers of medicines and over the counter drugs containing amino acids, none of them have been evaluated by the FDA for truth or even safety but most claims is simply figments of the sellers and makers’ imagination!
Cysteine in particular is the kind of amino acids that lends itself to supplementation – not because it is has such stellar bodily properties, but because it is naturally occurring. Physicians do acknowledge that newborns, infants not yet eating solid foods consistently, and the elderly who are sickly might benefit from supplementation.
When you read labels for formula, for example, you might find mention of a substance called NAC cysteine or N acetyl cysteine, which is the supplemented cysteine. It is also available for sale by itself online and in specialty health food stores.
On the Internet cysteine is sold via multi level marketing (MLM) networks as a cure for hangovers, an agent in colon cleanses, a substance used during a liver cleanse, and of course for those engaging in the grapefruit diet as a way of ensuring that the kidneys are purged from any toxins that might have accumulated in them – although this is not a medically accurate statement.
At the root of these claims by manufacturers and marketers is the little grain of truth that indeed cysteine is associated with the body’s methodology for reducing, neutralizing, shedding, and eliminating toxins, but there is nothing in medical literature that suggests supplementation of this amino acid with increase the body’s ability to rid itself of toxins.
From detoxification it was only a small step to association cysteine with the thyroid and from there contriving the potential weight loss. N-acetyl cysteine is also sold in over the counter medicines, supplements and holistic mixes as a premier vehicle for binding and safely elimination free radicals thus making it – you guessed it – a cancer prevention and even curative agent!
It was at this point that some enterprising online entrepreneurs sought to sell the amino acid supplement as a bona fide cure for cancer which forced the FDA to take a closer look at the claims made. Although there are no official studies sanctioned, it is vital to understanding the implication of the cysteine containing medicine controversy to realize that although great claims may be made with respect to medicines and even prescription drugs, the veracity cannot be guaranteed unless the FDA does offer a seal of approval.