Health Benefits Of Lysine

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Health Benefits Of Lysine
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Lysine is an essential amino acid responsible for a variety of biological processes related to receptor affinity, protease-cleavage points, and nuclear structure and function. It is also involved in the retention of endoplasmic reticulum, chelation of heavy metals, muscle elasticity, sufficient absorption of calcium in the body, formation of collagen, and production of antibodies, hormones, and enzymes. [1] Being an essential amino acid vital to human health, lysine must be obtained from different food sources or supplements since our body cannot manufacture it. Notable lysine-rich food items include turkey, pork loin, chicken, egg whites, soybeans, beef, and fish, which are basically foods packed with protein content. [2]

Lysine, Stress, and Anxiety

In several studies, L-lysine supplementation has been demonstrated to reduce chronic anxiety and to stabilize stress-induced hormonal responses in highly anxious but otherwise healthy individuals. Moreover, L-lysine has been proved to block a range of stress-induced pathologies in experimental animal models. A 2007 double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized study had come up with research results indicating a significant reduction in trait anxiety and stress-induced state anxiety among Japanese adults treated for one week with orally administered lysine and arginine. A decrease in basal levels of salivary cortisol and chromogranin A (a tumor marker of neuroendocrine tumors), which were both utilized as objective measures of stress response in this study, was further observed. [3] Another double-blind, randomized study by Smriga et al. (2004) found lysine fortification to be efficacious in reducing anxiety and stress response. In this 3-month study, wheat was enriched with lysine and was fed to family members belonging to poor Syrian communities, who, upon measurement, manifested reduced plasma cortisol response (in females) to the blood drawing as a cause of stress, reduced sympathetic arousal (in males), and significantly decreased chronic anxiety. [4]

Lysine and Herpes Simplex Viruses

Lysine has been shown to suppress the normal replication process of herpes simplex virus and, in turn, shorten the duration and course of diseases associated with the virus. According to an open-label study by Singh et al. (2005), lysine, in combination with botanicals and other nutrients, relieves the symptoms of facial and circumoral herpes such as tingling, itching, burning, tenderness, prickling, soreness, swelling, and small blisters, with 40% of study participants achieving full resolution of symptoms by the third day after lysine ointment treatment and 87% by the sixth day. [5] In a multicentered study on the effect of lysine therapy on herpes simplex virus infection, patients experiencing frequently recurring herpes infection and taking 312-1,200 mg of lysine daily in single or multiple doses exhibited accelerated recovery from the infection and absence of infection recurrence. Additionally, when the amino acid ratio between lysine and arginine favors lysine, viral replication and cytopathogenicity of herpes simplex virus were strongly inhibited. [6]

Lysine and Osteoporosis

Several animal studies have confirmed that Lysine assists with the prevention of calcium deficiency – which is famously associated with bone loss and osteoporosis. Lysine achieves this by increasing the absorption of calcium in the intestines and by considerably conserving the absorbed calcium in the kidneys; resulting in a positive calcium balance. In a certain Italian study comparing the effect of oral calcium load administered with or without 400 mg of L-lysine on 15 healthy and 15 osteoporotic women, a progressive increase in serum calcium was noted in all cases, but only the individuals treated with L-lysine displayed decreased urinary excretion of calcium. Another study provided short-term dietary supplementation with either L-lysine, L-valine, or L-tryptophan (800 mg/day) to osteoporotic subjects, but only L-lysine significantly enhanced the calcium intestinal absorption. [7]

Lysine and Schizophrenia

Accumulating research findings suggest that the pathophysiology of schizophrenia may be linked to alterations on the function of the brain’s nitric oxide (NO) signaling system. NO is synthesized in the body from L-arginine and molecular oxygen, but L-arginine so happens to compete for a very specific membrane-bound transport system with L-lysine, which functions as a cationic amino acid transporter. If this transporter becomes saturated with L-lysine, L-arginine is inhibited – leading to a decrease in intracellular L-arginine and, in turn, to a decrease in the production of NO. Since L-lysine thus interferes with NO production, a single-blinded, crossover study investigated the effect of L-lysine (6 g/day) as an adjunctive treatment for schizophrenic subjects. Results from this study indicated a substantial decrease in the severity of positive symptoms among patients; self-reports of improved cognitive functioning were also collected from three out of ten patients. [8]


[1] Lysine: Pharmacology and biochemistry. PubChem, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine.

[2] USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release 27.

[3] Smriga M. et al. (2007). Oral treatment with L-lysine and L-arginine reduces anxiety and basal cortisol levels in healthy humans. BioMed Research International. 28(2): 85-90.

[4] Smriga M. et al. (2004). Lysine fortification reduces anxiety and lessens stress in family members in economically weak communities in Northwest Syria. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 101(22): 8285-8288.

[5] Singh B. B. et al. (2005). Safety and effectiveness of an L-lysine, zinc, and herbal-based product on the treatment of facial and circumoral herpes. Alternative Medicine Review. 10(2): 123-127.

[6] Griffith R. S., Norins A. L., Kagan C. (1978). A multicentered study of lysine therapy in Herpes simplex infection. Dermatologica. 156(5): 257-267.

[7] Civitelli R. et al. (1992). Dietary L-lysine and calcium metabolism in humans. Nutrition. 8(6): 400-405.

[8] Wass C. et al. (2011). L-lysine as adjunctive treatment in patients with schizophrenia: a single-blinded, randomized, cross-over pilot study. BMC Medicine. 9: 40. doi:10.1186/1741-7015-9-40.

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By Mike Westerdal CPT

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