L-lysine or lysine is an essential amino acid, which means that it cannot be synthesized in the body and hence, has to be taken from foods or supplements. Only plants and bacteria have the ability to synthesize this crucial amino acid from aspartic acid. Lysine is an important constituent of proteins and hence, plays a crucial role in growth.

It is found in a small amount in cereals, while pulses are a significant source of lysine. Lysine supplements are nowadays used in treating certain medical conditions. However, when taken in excess, these supplements can cause a few side effects, which are discussed below, along with the benefits of lysine, its dietary sources, and the problems associated with the deficiency of this amino acid.

Benefits of L-Lysine

Helps Absorb Calcium

As an indispensable component of proteins, lysine plays many significant roles in the human body. It is crucial for the proper absorption of calcium from the gastrointestinal tract. It also helps in conserving calcium. By facilitating the absorption of calcium, lysine helps promote bone health and may help in preventing osteoporosis as well. Besides these, lysine prevents the excessive loss of calcium through urine.

Facilitates the Production of Connective Tissues

It facilitates the production of enzymes, hormones, and antibodies, and assists in the formation of muscle protein. Lysine aids in the synthesis of collagen, an important constituent of the bones and connective tissues. Collagen is required for maintaining healthy bones, tendons, cartilage, and skin.

Reduces LDL Cholesterol

L-lysine is required for the production of carnitine, which facilitates the process of converting fatty acids into energy. Carnitine can play an important role in reducing the level of cholesterol, especially the harmful LDL cholesterol in the body. An elevated level of LDL cholesterol is associated with the increased risk for coronary heart disease and atherosclerosis (narrowing of the arteries due to the deposition of fats inside the arterial wall).

Helps Treat Cold Sores

Lysine is often used in treating herpes viral infections, especially cold sores, caused by the herpes simplex virus 1. It may help check the growth of the virus and thus, accelerate the process of recovery and reduce the frequency of cold sores. It is also helpful in another viral disease, known as shingles, which is characterized by skin rashes.

Helps Alleviate Pain

Certain forms of lysine are also believed to have anti-inflammatory properties, and hence, may be effective in alleviating pain and inflammation. It may prove helpful in conditions, like migraine as well.

Reduces Symptoms of Angina Pectoris

L-lysine can help alleviate the symptoms associated with the heart condition, known as angina pectoris, when taken along with vitamin C. Both the nutrients have been found to be effective in reducing chest pain, associated with this condition.

Side Effects of L-Lysine

» No major side effect of l-lysine has been discovered so far, especially when it is taken from dietary sources. A high dose of lysine supplement is however, known to cause the formation of gallstones.

» An excessive intake of lysine over a long time is also believed to increase the level of cholesterol and triglycerides in the body. So, people who have a history of heart or cardiovascular problems should consult their doctor, before going for lysine supplements.

» Overuse of lysine supplements can reduce the level of the amino acid, arginine, as lysine competes with arginine for absorption.

» An overdose of lysine supplement may result in nausea, abdominal cramps, stomach pain, and diarrhea.

» Pregnant and lactating women should not take this amino acid supplement, without consulting a physician. The same goes for people who have liver and kidney problems.

» L-lysine supplements can interact with certain antibiotics, and so, if you are taking any antibiotic, talk to your physician before taking this supplement.

» Some people may develop an allergic reaction to lysine supplements, which can manifest in rashes, dizziness, swelling of the lips and tongue, and shortness of breath.

Deficiency of L-Lysine

Lysine deficiency may be associated with the formation of kidney stones and other health problems, such as nausea, dizziness, loss of appetite, fatigue, anemia, hair loss, and disorders of the reproductive system. As it is a vital amino acid, its deficiency can inhibit the normal rate of growth and development. Deficiency of this amino acid may also lead to asthma, a low level of thyroid hormone, and prolonged viral infections.

Dietary Sources

We can get the required amount of lysine from our daily diet. Foods like meat, specifically red meat, pork and poultry, fish like cod, catfish, and sardines, eggs, nuts, and cheese, are some of the good sources of this amino acid. Some important plant sources of lysine are soybean, berro, beans, legumes, lentils, quinoa, buffalo gourd, buckwheat, and spinach. Brewer's yeast is another good source of lysine. Lysine binds with sugar and the body finds it difficult to absorb lysine from sugary foods. So, if your diet contains a large amount sugary cereals or baked goods, you can opt for lysine supplements.

L-Lysine Supplements

Supplements of lysine are usually taken by vegans, as their diet does not include animal proteins, the main source of this amino acid. Lysine supplements can also be required in certain medical conditions that cause protein loss, such as large wounds and burns. Apart from these, athletes and bodybuilders, as well as people suffering from cold sores and shingles, have been found to use supplements of lysine.

As far as the dosage is concerned, it is always better to talk to your health care provider. Usually, dose is adjusted on the basis of body weight. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, for people aged 13 years and above, the usual daily recommended dose of lysine is 12 mg per kilogram of body weight.

To sum up, lysine is an important amino acid that plays a vital role in many crucial life processes. But, the supplements of this amino acid should be taken in the required amount, as an overdose can lead to several health problems. Also, be sure to consult an experienced physician before taking lysine supplements, especially if you have a health problem or you are taking any kind of medication.

Disclaimer: This article is for informative purposes only, and should not be treated as a substitute for professional medical advice.