What is Lysine?
Lysine is one of 20 amino acids, which are the building blocks that make up proteins. They are broken up into two categories: essential and non-essential amino acids. Non-essential amino acids can be produced in the body, while essential ones cannot. Lysine is one of the eight essential amino acids and must be completely derived from protein in our diet or through supplementation. Fortunately, most of us receive an adequate amount of lysine from our diet. People at risk of a lysine deficiency include serious athletes, vegans who don’t consume beans and burn patients. These groups of people may require additional lysine.
Lysine and L-Lysine – is there a difference?
You may have noticed that some supplements and food items list lysine as an ingredient, while others contain l-lysine. These two names are actually referring to the one substance, they mean the same thing, and are interchangeable. There is another form of lysine called d-lysine which is different. This form is not as common and is not biologically active.
Which foods contain Lysine?
Foods that are rich in protein are good sources of lysine. If you wish to increase your lysine intake, consider including more of the following foods in your diet:
- Meat, especially red meat, pork and poultry
- Cheese, in particular parmesan
- Certain fish, such as cod and sardines
- Soybeans and soybean products, including tofu and isolated soy protein
- Spirulina and fenugreek seeds
Foods which contain lysine in smaller quantities include:
- Brewer’s yeast
- Beans and legumes
Lysine and the Herpes Simplex Virus/ Cold Sores
Lysine is important for growth and human development. While it is involved in several physiological processes in the human body, possibly the best known action of lysine is its ability to reduce the severity and frequency of cold sores. Cold sores are caused by certain strains of the herpes simplex virus, in particular herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1). Once a person is infected with the herpes simplex virus, it remains dormant in the nerve cells of the skin. Recurrent cold sore episodes are commonly triggered by fever (such as during a cold or flu), stress, fatigue, exposure to the wind, sun and hormonal changes. If you are prone to cold sore outbreaks, taking a lysine supplement may prove helpful in minimising your symptoms. Studies have shown that lysine is an effective agent in reducing the occurrence and severity of cold sore outbreaks, as well as improving healing times.
Lysine and Arginine: The right balance
When discussing lysine and the herpes simplex virus, it is important to also consider the possible effects of arginine. Arginine is considered to be a ‘semi’ essential amino acid: although it is normally produced in sufficient quantities by the human body, supplementation is sometimes needed. Lysine has to compete with arginine for transport into cells. It is thought that foods rich in arginine may result in cold sore outbreaks and reduce the efficacy of lysine supplementation. Therefore, it is a good idea to avoid eating large quantities of arginine rich food if you suffer from frequent cold sore episodes. Foods containing high levels of arginine include:
- Certain nuts, including almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, peanuts, pecans and walnuts
- Grains, including barley, brown rice, buckwheat, corn and oats
- Dairy products
- Meats and gelatine
- Seeds, including sesame and sunflower seeds
Lysine benefits and deficiency symptoms
Along with its use as a treatment for cold sores, lysine is involved in the cellular absorption, regulation and use of calcium by the body. It is also necessary for the production of carnitine, elastin and collagen. It is thought that lysine may have a positive effect on anxiety levels as well. If you feel that you may be deficient in lysine due to a poor diet, symptoms to look out for include fatigue, nausea, dizziness, loss of appetite, irritability, slow growth, anaemia, bloodshot eyes and reproductive disorders.
By Taryn Scott, M.Tech. (Hom)
Sanofi Consumer Healthcare
Nature’s Own L-Lysine contains 500mg of Lysine hydrochloride per tablet and is available for secure order from our online shop.
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