|Also Known As:
|| amino acid K, L-lysine
Lysine is an essential amino acid, which means that it is essential to human
health but cannot be manufactured by the body. For this reason, lysine must be
obtained from food. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. Lysine is
important for proper growth and it plays an essential role in the production of
carnitine, a nutrient responsible for converting fatty acids into energy and
helping to lower cholesterol. Lysine appears to help the body absorb and
conserve calcium and it plays an important role in the formation of collagen, a
substance important for bones and connective tissues including skin, tendon, and
If there is too little lysine in the diet, kidney stones and other health
related problems may develop including fatigue, nausea, dizziness, loss of
appetite, agitation, bloodshot eyes, slow growth, anemia, and reproductive
disorders. It is extremely rare, however, to obtain insufficient amounts of
lysine through the diet. Generally, only vegetarians who follow a macrobiotic
diet and certain athletes involved in frequent vigorous exercise are at risk for
lysine deficiency. For vegetarians, legumes (beans, peas and lentils) are the
best sources of lysine.
Lysine is involved in the browning reaction, or carmelization, in foods such
as pastries, doughnuts, cookies and cereals. In this process, lysine and sugar
become linked together in a way that makes lysine difficult for the body to
absorb. As a result, a diet high in cereals and baked goods, especially those
that contain a lot of simple sugars, can result in low lysine
Herpes and Shingles
L-lysine can be used to treat mouth and
genital lesions caused by herpes simplex virus as well as shingles caused by
herpes zoster viruses. Taking lysine supplements can speed recovery time and
reduce the chance of recurrent breakouts of the herpes infection.
L-lysine helps improve the absorption of calcium
from the digestive tract and prevent loss of calcium in the urine. In so doing,
some researchers speculate that L-lysine may help prevent bone loss associated
with osteoporosis. In addition, test tube studies suggest that L-lysine in
combination with L-arginine (another amino acid) increases the activity of
bone-building cells and enhances production of collagen.
Certain forms of lysine and/or lysine bound to
anti-inflammatory medications may help alleviate pain following an episiotomy (a
procedure performed during labor that involves cutting the vaginal area to
enlarge the vaginal opening and facilitate delivery). These forms of lysine may
also relieve migraine headaches and painful periods. Whether L-lysine and other
readily available lysine supplements also offer these benefits is not known.
Good sources of lysine are foods rich in protein including meat (specifically
red meat, pork, and poultry), cheese (particularly parmesan), certain fish (such
as cod and sardines), nuts, eggs, soybeans (particularly tofu, isolated soy
protein, and defatted soybean flour), spirulina, and fenugreek seed.
Lysine is available in tablets, capsules, creams, and liquids, and is usually
sold in the L-lysine form.
|How to Take It|
A healthcare provider can help determine whether your diet provides enough
lysine. If your diet does not contain sufficient lysine, a healthcare
practitioner may recommend lysine supplements as part of a complete amino acid
The daily recommended dietary allowances (RDA) of lysine are listed below:
- Birth to 4 months: 103 mg per kilogram of body weight per day
- Children 5 months to 2 years: 69 mg per kilogram of body weight per
- Children 3 to 12 years: 44 mg per kilogram of body weight per day
- 13 and older: 12 mg per kilogram of body weight per day
Some experts suggest that adults may need up to 30 mg per kilogram of body
weight per day.
Adults with herpes simplex should follow these guidelines:
- To treat symptoms: 3,000 - 9,000 mg per day
in divided doses
- To prevent recurrences: 500 - 1,500 mg per
Because of the potential for side effects and interactions with medications,
dietary supplements should be taken only under the supervision of a
knowledgeable healthcare provider.
Lysine supplements are considered safe and nontoxic. However, one animal
study found that chicks fed with L-lysine developed elevated cholesterol and
triglyceride levels. For this reason, individuals with cardiovascular disease
and those with elevated cholesterol and/or triglyceride levels should consult a
healthcare practitioner before taking lysine supplements.
There are no reports in the scientific literature to suggest that lysine
interacts with any conventional medications.
Bruzzese N, Sica G, Iacopino F, et al. Growth inhibition of fibroblasts from
nasal polyps and normal skin by lysine acetylsalicylate. Allergy.
Civitelli R, Villareal DT, Agnusdei D, Nardi P, Avioli LV, Gennari C. Dietary
L-lysine and calcium metabolism in humans. Nutrition.
De los Santos AR, Marti MI, Espinosa D, Di Girolamo G, Vinacur JC, Casadei A.
Lysine clonixinate vs. paracetamol/codeine in postepisiotomy pain. Acta
Physiol Pharmacol Ther Latinoam.
Di Girolamo G, Zmijanovich R, de los Santos AR, Marti ML, Terragno A. Lysine
clonixinate in the treatment of primary dysmenorrhea. Acta Physiol Pharmacol
Ther Latinoam. 1996;46(4):223-232.
Fini M, Torricelli P, Giavaresi G, Carpi A, Nicolini A, Giardino R. Effect of
L-lysine and L-arginine osteoblast cultures from normal and osteopenic rats.
Biomed Pharmacother. 2001;55(4):213-220.
Flodin NW. The metabolic roles, pharmacology, and toxicology of lysine. J
Am Coll Nutr. 1997;16:7-21.
Furst P. Dietary L-lysine supplementation: a promising nutritional tool in
the prophylaxis and treatment of osteoporosis. Nutrition.
Griffith RS, Walsh DE, Myrmel KH, Thmpson RW, Behforooz A. Success of
L-lysine therapy in frequently recurrent herpes simplex infection. Treatment and
prophylaxis. Dermatologica. 1987;175(4):183-190.
Hugues FC, Lacoste JP, Danchot J, Joire JE. Repeated doses of combined oral
lysine acetylsalicylate and metoclopramide in the acute treatment of migraine.
Krymchantowski AV, Barbosa JS, Cheim C, Alves LA. Oral lysine clonixinate in
the acute treatment of migraine: a double-blind placebo-controlled study. Arq
Pizzorno JE, Murray MT. Textbook of Natural Medicine. Vol 1. 2nd ed.
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Schmeisser DD, Kummerow FA, Baker DH. Effect of excess dietary lysine on
plasma lipids of the chick. J Nutr. 1983;113(9):1777-1783.
Shils ME, Olson JA, Shike M, Ross AC. Modern Nutrition in Health and
Disease. 9th ed. Baltimore, Md: Williams & Wilkins; 1999:41;1,010.
Tfelf-Hansen P. The effectiveness of combined oral lysine acetylsalicylate
and metoclopramide in the treatment of migraine attacks. Comparison with placebo
and oral sumatriptan. Funct Neurol. 2000;15(Suppl 3):196-201.
Werbach MR. Nutritional Influences on Illness. 2nd ed. Tarzana, Calif:
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|Review Date: April 2002|
|Reviewed By: Participants in the review process include: Jacqueline A. Hart, MD,
Department of Internal Medicine, Newton-Wellesley Hospital, Harvard University
and Senior Medical Editor Integrative Medicine, Boston, MA; Gary Kracoff, RPh
(Pediatric Dosing section February 2001), Johnson Drugs, Natick, Ma; Steven
Ottariono, RPh (Pediatric Dosing section February 2001), Veteran's
Administrative Hospital, Londonderry, NH; Margie Ullmann-Weil, MS, RD,
specializing in combination of complementary and traditional nutritional
therapy, Boston, MA. All interaction sections have also been reviewed by a team
of experts including Joseph Lamb, MD (July 2000), The Integrative Medicine
Works, Alexandria, VA;Enrico Liva, ND, RPh (August 2000), Vital Nutrients,
Middletown, CT; Brian T Sanderoff, PD, BS in Pharmacy (March 2000), Clinical
Assistant Professor, University of Maryland School of Pharmacy; President, Your
Prescription for Health, Owings Mills, MD; Ira Zunin, MD, MPH, MBA (July 2000),
President and Chairman, Hawaii State Consortium for Integrative Medicine,
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