What is lysine?
Lysine, also known as L-lysine, is an amino acid necessary for many body functions. Amino acids are described as the building blocks of protein because they combine with other compounds to form this macronutrient.
The medical community defines lysine as an essential amino acid because, unlike some other amino acids, the body cannot synthesize lysine. Therefore, people need to include it in their diet.
Lysine health benefits
The body requires lysine to maintain healthy function. It is an important component of protein and plays a role in helping body tissues grow and recover from injury. Other benefits of lysine include:
- Helps the body absorb calcium, iron and zinc
- Promote collagen growth
- Helps produce enzymes, antibodies and hormones
- Support immune system
When people don't get enough lysine, they may experience the following symptoms:
- lack of concentration
- red eyes
- hair loss
- inhibit growth
- reproductive system problems
Below, we discuss the possible health benefits of lysine supplements.
Lysine may help control herpes viruses. Therefore, lysine supplements may reduce the number and frequency of cold sore outbreaks, which are caused by the herpes simplex virus type 1.
Lysine can also help treat genital herpes. Some sources recommend that people with a history of herpes infection take at least 1,000 milligrams (mg) of lysine supplements daily. Smaller amounts than this were found to be ineffective.
A randomized trial of 34 subjects found that taking more than 3,000 mg per day significantly reduced the rate of recurrence of HSV episodes.
Further research is needed on what the optimal dose may be, and the data on this topic remains quite mixed. A 2015 review failed to find any short-term preventive effect of lysine in treating HSV.
Lower blood pressure
According to one small study, lysine may help reduce high blood pressure in people who don't get enough lysine in their diet. However, more research is needed before experts can determine whether lysine is effective in treating high blood pressure.
Results from a small study of 12 healthy volunteers suggest that lysine can slow the rise in blood sugar levels after eating. The discovery could lead to effective treatments for people with diabetes, but more research is needed.
A small randomized controlled trial of 110 participants used a product called Lysulin, which is a combination of lysine, zinc, and vitamin C. Patients in the study experienced improved blood sugar control and slowed the progression of diabetes. Further research is needed to confirm this effect.
Researchers are interested in the potential of lysine supplements due to the functions that lysine supports in the body:
- Preventing lean muscle mass loss and mobility problems in older adults
- relieve anxiety
- Prevents bone loss and osteoporosis by helping the body absorb calcium
- Promote healthy skin growth
- Treating Shingles
- Regulate blood pressure
- Prevent plaque buildup in arteries
- Support hair growth
- Bodybuilders build muscles
- Help athletes recover from high-intensity training
Source of lysine
Lysine is found in many different foods. The main sources are animal products such as meat and dairy products. For vegetarians and vegans, beans and wheat germ are good sources of this amino acid.
The following foods will help people meet their recommended daily intake of lysine:
- red meat
- fish, such as cod or sardines
- parmesan cheese
- cottage cheese
- wheat germ
- beer yeast
- Spirulina, a type of algae that manufacturers compress and sell in tablet or powder form
Most people, including vegetarians, can get enough lysine from their daily diet and do not need to take supplements.
Taking lysine supplements is very safe and does not appear to cause many side effects. Most people can take up to 3 grams (g) of lysine per day without experiencing any side effects.
Increasing the dose of lysine to 10-15 grams per day may cause digestive problems such as:
Diarrhea Nausea Stomach Cramps There have been reports of a link between lysine supplements and kidney problems, and animal studies have shown that lysine supplements may increase the risk of gallstones and high cholesterol.
How to use and dosage
People usually take lysine by mouth, but it can also be applied to the skin, for example to treat cold sores.
Experts believe that drinking water on an empty stomach is the most effective way to deliver lysine.
Researchers estimate that a 70-kilogram (kg) person needs about 800-3,000 mg of lysine per day. A person's weight affects their needs as follows:
- Adults 12 mg/kg body weight
- Children 11 to 12 years old 44 mg/kg
- Infants 3 to 6 months old 97 mg/kg
In the United States and other developed countries, most people get enough lysine without dietary modification. However, people who avoid animal products (including meat, dairy, and eggs) should make sure to get enough lysine from plant sources.
People recovering from burns or other serious injuries and those who regularly engage in high-intensity exercise may benefit from a higher-than-average daily intake of lysine.
Experts continue to study effective doses for clinical purposes. Some studies show benefits at doses of 100 mg to 4 grams per day.
People who use this amino acid to boost their fitness workouts may see greater benefits if they take it before bed or exercise.
Drug and chemical interactions
Lysine interacts with arginine, an amino acid that supports the circulatory system. Taking large amounts of lysine may reduce the body's ability to move arginine through the system.
Lysine may also interact with a group of antibiotics called aminoglycosides, potentially causing kidney damage. Doctors usually give these antibiotics (including streptomycin and neomycin) by injection to treat serious infections.
Because lysine increases calcium absorption, people should monitor their calcium intake when taking lysine supplements.
Doctors do not recommend lysine supplementation for children or pregnant or breastfeeding women.
People who take lysine supplements should monitor their cholesterol levels, as it may be associated with higher cholesterol.
Anyone with kidney or liver problems should avoid taking lysine supplements.
Lysine is an essential amino acid. It is one of the building blocks of protein and is vital to human health. The body does not produce lysine on its own, but most people get enough lysine through their diet to meet basic health needs. Lysine has few known side effects.
Scientific data on the benefits of certain lysines are inconclusive. However, many people are exploring the use of lysine supplements, especially athletes and people who do not eat animal products. It's best to discuss the use of any supplement with your doctor.