Lysine - Definition, Function, Uses, Health Benefits, Top Foods, and Side Effects

It is one of the essential amino acids that compounds our proteins, therefore it must be obtained from food because the body can not produce it.

Its chemical formula HO2CCH(NH2)(CH2)4NH2.

Facts and uses

Since 1970, this amino acid has been frequently added to animal feed. In 1889, it was first isolated from casein (the protein in milk).

It is required by the body to produce carnitine, a quaternary ammonium compound which is used for the conversion of essential fatty acids into energy.

Functions and health benefits of lysine 

  • This amino acid helps produce antibodies, enzymes, and hormones and is useful in the formation of collagen (representing the organic basis of bones and skin) and tissue repair. For it helps build muscle mass, it is very effective in the recovery process from surgery and sports injuries.
  • It lowers triglycerides levels.
  • It is good for the proper growth and bone development of children. It also helps in the absorption of calcium (therefore preventing osteoporosis) in the intestines and maintains a proper nitrogen balance for the adults.
  • Another great quality of this amino acid is its great ability to fight colds and herpes viruses. Furthermore, supplementation with this amino acid is a great method to cures pimples and zits.
  • It is necessary in cases of diabetes, hyperglycemia because it prevents glycosylation.
  • This amino acid improves erections of men and libido of women.
  • Supplements containing this essential amino acid can improve the symptoms of acute alcohol intoxication.
  • It fights the herpes virus (herpes simplex) and is effective in preventing herpes labialis, as well as shingles and chickenpox. However, it has not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for herpes simplex suppression
  • The combination of lysine, proline and vitamin C helps prevent the formation of lipoproteins (which stiffen the arteries) and thus the occurrence of cardiovascular diseases.
  • According to research, supplementation with this amino acid promotes human growth hormone release.
  • Consuming foods high in this amino acid can help treat or lower symptoms associated with Bell’s palsy –  a weakness or paralysis of the muscles on one side of your face.
  • Along with consuming foods rich in magnesium, B-complex vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids, and potassium, you can also try increasing your intake of this amino acid to minimize panic attacks and anxiety. For instance, supplementing cereal-based diets with this amino acid lowered chronic stress and anxiety in a low-income population which consumed wheat as the central diet component, according to a 2004 study published in the “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.”
  • It is important to emphasize the fact that this amino acid is essential for the synthesis of carnitine, another essential amino acid which helps transform fatty acids into energy and lowers cholesterol levels.
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Food sources 

This amino acid is found in dairy products, eggs, meat, legumes (lentils, red kidney beans, white beans, soybeans, mung beans, chickpeas, peanuts, black beans, pinto beans), potatoes, seaweed, fenugreek seeds, chia seeds, flax seeds, sesame seeds, black caraway, spinach, fennel flower, wheat germ, oatmeal, oat bran, watercress, parsley, hazelnuts, almonds, cashew nuts, watermelon seeds, pistachio nuts, pecans, and beer yeast.

Deficiencies

Most times l-lysine deficiency occurs when the foods containing this amino acid are cooked at high temperatures. Also, in order to prevent deficiency one should avoid a diet rich in refined sugar. Nevertheless, most people, including vegans (also known as complete vegetarians who also avoid eggs and dairy products), consume adequate amounts of this amino acid.

Symptoms of deficiency include – loss of appetite, loss of energy, difficulty concentrating, hair loss, as well as anemia, reproductive disorders, bloodshot eyes, poor growth, enzyme disorders, irritability, retardation and weight loss.

Dosage

This amino acid is best taken not in combination with other essential amino acids but as a single supplement. Adults should get 51 milligrams of this amino acid in each gram of protein they take in, according to the Institute of Medicine. It is available in powder, capsule, and tablet form.

Side effects of lysine

Although it is generally safe to intake this amino acid as a health supplement, in some sensitive individuals it can have some adverse effects on the digestive system.

According to medical specialists, side effects include kidney stones or increased cholesterol levels. People who have exceeded a daily dose of 15 mg of lysine, also experienced abdominal cramps and diarrhea.

Keep in mind that this amino acid may interact with other substances when it is taken in large quantities and can cause a deficiency in arginine, another important amino acid.

Pregnant and breastfeeding women, patients with heart problems, liver or kidney diseases and those taking certain antibiotics should see a doctor before taking these supplements.

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