views updated May 21 2018



Lysine is an amino acid not produced by the body, but essential to the growth of protein molecules in the body. It is necessary for tissue repair and growth, and for producing antibodies, enzymes, and hormones. Lysine is found in other protein sources, such as red meats, chicken, and turkey. Most individuals have an adequate intake of lysine; however lysine levels may be low in vegetarians and low-fat dieters. Without enough lysine or any other of the eight essential amino acids , the body cannot build protein to sustain muscle tissue.

General use

The body only uses L-lysine to build protein. Since amino acid molecules are asymmetrical, each amino acid exists as both a right- and left-handed form, distinguished as "D" and "L" respectively. As a supplement, L-lysine is used to treat the herpes simplex virus, help prevent osteoporosis and cataracts , and boost the immune system.

Herpes simplex virus remedy

In the 1950s, scientists discovered that foods containing certain amino acids could encourage or discourage the growth of the herpes virus. When added to the herpes virus, the amino acid arginine increases the growth of the virus. Lysine, on the other hand, suppresses it. Since the virus can cause cold sores, canker sores , and genital sores, L-lysine supplements increase the ratio of lysine to arginine in the body, curing the outbreak of the virus. Avoiding foods with arginine and eating foods with a higher lysine content will also help alleviate the symptoms of the virus.

Foods containing arginine:

  • gelatin
  • nuts
  • chocolate

Foods containing lysine:

  • milk
  • soybeans
  • meat
  • lentils
  • spinach

Other uses

Lysine also promotes the body's absorption of calcium , helping to prevent osteoporosis. It slows the damage to the eye caused by diabetes, and it may help cure atherosclerosis . Since it is used to slow the herpes simplex virus, its antiviral properties may help treat chronic fatigue syndrome, hepatitis , and HIV.


L-lysine is best taken as a single supplement and not in combination with other amino acids. Such combinations are touted as nutritional supplements that build more muscle and are often used by athletes and bodybuilders. However, too much protein strains the functions of the liver and kidneys and can cause other health problems. The single supplement should be taken on an empty stomach because larger amounts of the amino acid can build up in the blood and brain, enhancing its health benefits. Supplements are best used by individuals suffering from a herpes outbreak or by vegetarians and low-fat dieters. Postmenopausal women can take lysine to encourage absorption of calcium by the body.


Supplemental combinations of amino acids are not recommended to build muscle. Excessive build-up of protein in the body can cause kidney and liver problems.

Some consumers are sensitive or allergic to soybeans, a popular food used by vegetarians to replace the natural supply of lysine found in many meats. However in 2002, researchers announced progress in creating soybeans that could be tolerated by consumers with those sensitivities by shutting off a gene in soybean seeds believed responsible for causing the allergies .

Side effects

None reported.


None reported.



Atkins, Robert C. M.D. Dr. Atkins'Vita-Nutrient Solution. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1998.

Carper, Jean. FoodYour Miracle Medicine: How Food Can Prevent and Cure Over 100 Symptoms and Problems. New York: HarperCollins, 1993.

Duke, James A. The Green Pharmacy. Emmaus, PA: Rodale Press, 1997.


Gramling, Jack. "Lysine Helped CFIDS Sufferer Gain Control of his Life." Medical Update (October 1995): 1-2.

Krieter, Ted. "A Microbiologist Who Stopped Her Fever Blisters." Saturday Evening Post (November-December 1995): 54-56.

"Lysine and Cold Sores." Medical Update (January 1995): 1.

"New Soybeans Could Help Consumers with Soy Allergen." On the Plate (August 31, 2002).

Stauth, Cameron. "Beating Chronic Fatigue." Saturday Evening Post (November-December 1995): 50-54.


"Lysine." (July 24, 2000).

Jacqueline L. Longe

Teresa G. Odle


views updated May 14 2018

lysine An essential amino acid of special nutritional importance, since it is the limiting amino acid in many cereals. Can be synthesized on a commercial scale, and when added to bread, rice, or cereal‐based animal feeds, it improves the nutritional value of the protein.

Not all of the lysine in proteins is biologically available, since some is linked through its side‐chain amino group, either to sugars (see Maillard reaction), or to other amino acids. These linkages are not hydrolysed by digestive enzymes, and so the lysine cannot be absorbed. Available lysine is that proportion of the protein‐bound lysine in which the side‐chain amino group is free, so that it can be absorbed after digestion of the protein.


views updated May 17 2018

ly·sine / ˈlīˌsēn/ • n. Biochem. a basic amino acid, NH2(CH2)4CH(NH2)COOH, that is a constituent of most proteins. It is an essential nutrient in the diet of vertebrates.


views updated May 18 2018

lysine An aliphatic, basic, polar (see POLAR MOLECULE) amino acid that is of limited occurrence in plant proteins (but generally abundant in animal proteins).


views updated May 29 2018

lysine (ly-seen) n. an essential amino acid. See also amino acid.


views updated May 18 2018

lysine An aliphatic, basic, polar amino acid that is generally abundant in animal proteins, but is of limited occurrence in those of plants.


views updated May 14 2018

lysine See amino acid.