L-cysteine for Migraines
We are watching some clinical trials with interest to see if taking a dietary supplement of 100mg l-cysteine, twice a day for three months, will help to prevent migraines.
L-cysteine is an alpha-amino acid. It is currently considered a non-essential amino acid and it can be biosynthesised by our bodies from dietary sources. Cysteine is found in most high-protein foods, including:
- Animal sources: pork, poultry, eggs, dairy
- Plant sources: red peppers, garlic, onions, broccoli, brussels sprout, oats, granola, wheat germ, sprouted lentils
It is also found in poultry feathers and human hair and can be made by the body from methionine, which is an essential amino acid. Sheep also need it in order to make wool!
Being 'non-essential' not a lot is known about the effects of a lack of cysteine. In rare cases, cysteine may be essential for people with metabolic disease or who suffer from malabsorption syndromes. Cysteine may also negate some of the effects of alcohol, such as hangovers and liver damage. It helps to turn acetaldehyde, a by poisonous by product of alcohol metabolism, into the relatively harmless acetic acid (vinegar).
In the case of migraines it seems that taking forms of cysteine such as l-cysteine and N-acetyl cysteine can help to reduce the incidence of migraines. One study1 concludes that this is because cysteine contains thiol which is depleted in people experiencing migraines. Thiol is also found in alpha lipoic acid a supplement also known as ALA.
It will be interesting to see the results of a clinical trial2 that is currently tracking patients taking
- 100mg l-cysteine twice a day for three months
The trial conclude in April this year, so may not be published for another year yet. If this helps to reduce the frequency of migraine attacks there will be a lot of very happy people!
1. Eren Y, Dirik E, Neşelioğlu S, Erel Ö. Oxidative stress and decreased thiol level in patients with migraine: cross-sectional study. Acta Neurol Belg. 2015 Jan 17. PubMed PMID: 25595415.