L-lysine is an amino acid (a building block of protein) that is essential for health. However, it cannot be manufactured naturally in the human body like other types of amino acids. Therefore, L-lysine, also called lysine, is considered as one of the eight essential amino acids.
In order to obtain lysine, one has to eat foods high in its content or take dietary supplements containing it. As a building block for protein, amino acids like L-lysine are necessary for normal growth and development. In particular, L-lysine is needed by the body to manufacture carnitine, a substance that is used in the conversion of fatty acids into energy. It also helps in calcium absorption and collagen formation which are important for muscle and bone health.
Foods that are high in L-lysine include high protein foods like nuts, red meat, eggs, milk, cheese, beans, and sardines. However, some people may need more than just the usual dietary food to supply their needs for lysine, such as athletes, body builders, vegetarians, and vegans. These people can get additional sources of L-lysine from nutritional supplements in the form of liquids, tablets, or capsules which are available in health stores or pharmacies.
L-lysine is an important and indispensable component of proteins. As previously mentioned, it plays a role in the production of carnitine and collagen. Its benefits include:
- Promotes normal growth and development by increasing collagen formation
- Supports the production of other proteins like enzymes, antibodies and hormones
- Promotes bone health by increasing calcium absorption; prevents osteoporosis or weak bones by reducing bone loss
- Helps convert fatty acids to energy, aiding in weight reduction
- Helps lower bad cholesterol levels, thus reducing the risk for heart disease
- Promotes skin health through increased collagen formation
- May be used to treat viral infections like herpes simplex, cold sores, shingles,human papilloma virus (HPV) infection such as genital warts, and genital herpes
- Can relieve migraines and other types of pain and inflammation
- When taken with other nutrients like vitamin C, it can reduce chest pains (angina) related to heart disease
- Helps in muscle building, when taken with other amino acids like arginine
What happens when one's diet is deficient in lysine? Some health problems have been found to be related to L-lysine deficiency such as kidney stone formation, low thyroid hormone production, asthma, chronic viral infections, and abnormal growth and development.
Symptoms related to a deficiency in this amino acid include nausea, fatigue, dizziness, anemia, and loss of appetite. Some disorders of the reproductive system have also been linked to a lack of l-lysine in the diet. To deal with L-lysine deficiency, you can take following steps.
- Avoid a high sugar diet - To prevent l-lysine deficiency, one must avoid a high sugar diet, since sugar has been known to bind lysine.
- Arginine intake - Another cause of low lysine levels is taking large doses of arginine (another amino acid).
- Consume high protein foods - To get adequate amounts of L-lysine, one must consume high protein foods like red meat, legumes, eggs, and dairy products. Certain fish like sardines and cod, nuts, soybeans products like tofu and soybean flour, spirulina, fenugreek seed, and Brewer's yeast are also good lysine sources.
- Supplements intake - For those who need additional sources of L-lysine, dietary supplements in the form of tablets, capsules, or liquids may be taken.
Precautions of L-lysine Intake
L-lysine supplements are often taken by vegans who do not eat food products containing animal protein, athletes who are highly active and bodybuilders who want more muscle mass. Patients who have large wounds, burns, or other medical conditions involving protein loss also need supplemental lysine for repair. Some people take l-lysine supplements to treat or prevent viral infections like cold sores and shingles.
Although lysine may be taken without prescription, it must be taken with caution to avoid side effects such as nausea, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, and stomach pain.
It is always best to ask your healthcare provider for advice regarding L-lysine supplementation, especially with regards to dosage. According to experts at the University of Maryland Medical Center, the usual recommended dose for people aged 13 years and above is 12 milligrams (mg) per kilogram (kg) of body weight per day.
For treating herpes infections, one may need a higher dosage, ranging from 3,000 - 9,000 mg, taken in divided doses, daily. To prevent recurrences, one may need to take 1,000 mg three times a day. Consult a physician for more information on proper dosage and duration of intake.
Experts recommend obtaining one's nutrients from a balanced diet that includes a variety of foods. One can obtain L-lysine supplements from online health stores or from health food stores without prescription, but one must be aware of the possible side effects of taking too much lysine.
L-lysine can interact with other substances when taken in large amounts, and can cause a deficiency in L-arginine, another important amino acid. Excessive doses can also lead to gallstone formation and increased cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
Pregnant and lactating women, patients with heart, liver, or kidney disease and those taking certain antibiotics should consult a physician before taking these supplements.