The popular use of antioxidative vitamins illustrates the growing awareness of oxidative stress as an important hazard to our health and as an important factor in the ageing process. Superoxide radicals and superoxide-derived reactive oxygen species (ROS) are constantly formed in most cells and tissues. To ensure that ROS can function as biological signaling molecules without excessive tissue damage, ROS are typically scavenged by antioxidants such as glutathione and the vitamins A, C, and E. "Oxidative stress" occurs if the production of ROS is abnormally increased or antioxidant concentrations are decreased. Genetic studies in mice, Drosophila, and C.elegans suggested that ageing may be mechanistically linked to oxidative stress. Several manifestations of oxidative stress were shown to increase with age, whereas tissue levels of vitamin E, plasma concentrations of vitamin C, and intracellular glutathione concentrations decrease with age. In at least two independent studies, cysteine supplementation on top of the normal protein diet has shown significant beneficial effects on each of several different parameters relevant to ageing, including skeletal muscle functions. As the quality of life in old age is severely compromised by the loss of skeletal muscle function, and as muscle function can be measured with satisfactory precision, loss of muscle function is one of the most attractive surrogate parameters of ageing. The mechanisms by which a deficit in glutathione and its precursor cysteine contributes to various ageing-related degenerative processes appears to be related largely but not exclusively to the dysregulation of redox-regulated biological signaling cascades.