7 Notable Health Benefits of Lysine

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amino acid lysine

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  • Lysine recently became popular for its ability to help manage cold sores caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV)
  • Lysine is an amino acid, one of the building blocks of protein that plays an important role in the production of enzymes and hormones, as well as the formation of bones and muscles
  • Research shows that lysine has other uses, such as improving athletic performance, boosting your immune system and promoting insulin secretion

Lysine’s rise to popularity began in the 1980s when researchers noted that it could be used to help fight off cold sores caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV).1 However, lysine is more than just a remedy for HSV infections, since it’s also crucial in various physiological processes. Read on to find out how lysine can help you take control of your health.

What Is Lysine?

Lysine is an amino acid, which is a component required to form protein, one of the building blocks of life. Your body cannot create lysine, so it must be taken from the protein found in your diet.2 Without sufficient levels of lysine, you may experience various health problems, including:3

  • Anemia
  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Depression
  • Edema
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Blisters
  • Hair loss
  • Concentration problems
  • Muscle loss
  • Stomach ulcers
  • Liver damage

You can lower the risk of the aforementioned health issues by eating foods naturally rich in lysine. You may also consider taking lysine supplements.

If you’ve looked into lysine supplements, you may have encountered the term “l-lysine.” Don’t let this confuse you, since it refers to the form of lysine used in protein synthesis. Hence, it’s the form found in foods and supplements. Because of its abundance, l-lysine is often referred to as “lysine” for short.4

8 Natural Sources of Lysine to Include in Your Diet

Lysine can be obtained from a variety of foods, particularly those rich in protein. Here are the eight best dietary sources of this vital nutrient, arranged in descending order per 100-gram serving:5

  • Egg white — 5.51 grams
  • Shredded parmesan cheese — 3.64 grams
  • Beef (round top roast, lean) — 3.61 grams
  • Parsley3.12 grams
  • Chicken (breast) — 3.08 grams
  • Turkey (breast) — 3.04 grams
  • Spirulina — 3.02 grams
  • Romano cheese — 2.94 grams

7 Noteworthy Benefits of Lysine

Lysine supports the production of protein in order to repair and promote the growth of cells throughout your body. Without it, your cells will slowly degrade, ultimately hindering a wide range of physiological functions. Aside from keeping your cells healthy, lysine provides a variety of other health benefits:

  • Increases collagen production6
  • Promotes better bone strength7
  • Increases insulin secretion8
  • Supports the production growth hormones9,10
  • Helps produce carnitine11
  • Lowers pancreatic inflammation12
  • Lowers the risk of diabetes-related infections13

7 Other Common Uses of Lysine

Maintaining appropriate levels of lysine in your body not only helps maintain your overall well-being, but also helps control or lower the risk of various health issues. Here are some of the common uses of l-lysine that you should be aware of:

  • Reduce the frequency and severity of cold sores — As mentioned earlier, lysine was discovered to be effective in managing cold sores caused by HSV.14
  • Improve bone health — Lysine helps your body absorb calcium more efficiently, ultimately increasing your bone strength and reducing the risk of skeletal conditions like osteoporosis.15
  • Support muscle growth — Taking lysine (combined with arginine) may help increase the production of growth hormones.16
  • Reduce the risk of diabetes-related complications — By inhibiting the production of AGEs, lysine may help ward off Type 2 diabetes complications.17
  • Improve heart health — Lysine may help improve heart health by supporting the production of carnitine, a compound that can reduce bad cholesterol levels by converting fatty acid into energy. Lysine may also help protect against clogged arteries, when taken along with vitamin C. This helps reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke.18
  • Reduce anxiety and stress — Maintaining high levels of lysine in your body may help improve your mental health, since a deficiency in this nutrient is linked to anxiety and schizophrenia.19,20 Lysine may also help reduce anxiety responses, such as diarrhea, by binding itself to the brain’s serotonin receptors.21,22

Lysine is also believed to be good for alleviating canker sores when taken orally. However, further studies are still needed to confirm its effectiveness.23

More Studies Support the Efficiency of Lysine for Cold Sores, Anxiety and Other Health Issues

Lysine has been used for various therapeutic applications. Its ability to help fight off cold sores is one of its most popular uses. In fact, numerous studies have confirmed its efficiency in managing this viral infection.

In a double-blind, placebo-controlled study conducted by the Indiana University School of Medicine, 27 participants who took lysine supplements three times a day for six months experienced reduced severity and shorter healing time of cold sore episodes.24 Another study published in the Journal of Oral Surgery, Oral Medicine and Oral Pathology also concluded that lysine may be useful in managing herpes infections if taken in adequate concentrations.25

Researchers also looked into lysine’s benefits on mental health. A study conducted in 2003 involved a three-month-long lysine fortification trial in poor Syrian communities. The results show that lysine may help reduce stress responses and control chronic anxiety.26

Lysine’s efficiency when it comes to decreasing the risk of diabetes complications has been tested as well. According to a study published in the Journal of Acta Medica Iranica, l-lysine may help reduce the structure and function of glycated lysozyme, enabling it to decrease the risk of complications in patients with Type 2 diabetes.27

A study published in the Journal of Nutrition in 1992 states that lysine may help reduce the risk of or improve the symptoms of osteoporosis, since it increases intestinal calcium absorption and prevents calcium from getting out of the body through urine.28

Take Note of These 5 Side Effects Before Taking Lysine Supplements

While lysine supplements are generally safe and beneficial to take, they may still cause a variety of adverse effects when taken in excessive amounts. Here are some of the most common side effects of l-lysine supplements:

Pregnant or breastfeeding women should talk to their physician before taking lysine, since there is not enough evidence to confirm if this supplement is safe for them. Those who are suffering from kidney or liver disease should take extra precaution as well.

It’s important to note that lysine may interact with other medications. It increases the absorption of calcium, so make sure you don’t take large amounts of calcium while supplementing with lysine. It may also increase the risk of nephrotoxicity if taken with aminoglycoside antibiotics.29,30

Long-term excessive consumption of lysine may also increase the risk of Fanconi syndrome,31 a condition wherein nutrients normally absorbed into the bloodstream are excreted as urine instead.32

Remember This Tip When Getting Lysine From Your Diet

Since most foods rich in lysine also contain protein, it’s important to eat them in moderation. Keep in mind that there’s a limit to how much protein your body can use. Consuming more than the recommended intake may lead to weight gain and higher glucose levels.

Here’s a simple guideline you can use to help compute your protein consumption: Half a gram of protein per pound of lean body mass should be enough to meet your needs without becoming deficient in lysine and other amino acids.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Lysine

Q: What does lysine do to your body?

A: Lysine is an essential amino acid that provides a wide array of health benefits, including better calcium absorption, increased collagen production, improved athletic performance, reduced stress and stronger bones. This nutrient may also help reduce your risk of developing cold sores, diabetes-related complications and heart diseases.33

Q: Does lysine help with cold sores?

A: Numerous studies have confirmed that lysine is helpful when it comes to reducing the severity and frequency of cold sores.

Q: Can you overdose on lysine?

A: There’s currently little information regarding lysine overdose. Published studies that administered lysine in participants have no adverse effects, except for an upset stomach.34

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