Supplements: Lysine

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Lysine is an essential amino acid that you must get from food because your body cannot make enough of it. Lysine helps your body process fatty acids, and it is particularly important for proper growth. Lysine also helps your body absorb calcium, and it plays an important role in the formation of collagen, a substance important to your bones and tissues.

A vegetarian diet may not provide sufficient lysine. Plants, although they are sources of protein, do not contain enough lysine. This is especially true of cereal grains as sources of protein. If you get too little lysine in your diet, your body may develop a poor nitrogen balance, and you may ultimately develop kidney stones. Signs of getting too little lysine include fatigue, nausea, dizziness, appetite loss, emotional agitation, bloodshot eyes, decreased immunity, slow growth, anemia, enzyme deterioration, reproductive disorders, pneumonia, and acidosis (a pH imbalance in the body).


Lysine is used to treat herpes infections caused by both herpes simplex and herpes zoster viruses. Taking lysine supplements can speed your recovery time and reduce chances of reinfection.

Some studies have found lysine helpful in treating cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, asthma, migraine, nasal polyps, and postepisiotomy pain. Consult your health care provider about taking lysine for these problems.

Dietary Sources

Good sources of lysine include the following.

Meat, particularly red meat Cheeses Poultry Sardines Nuts Eggs Soybeans

The most concentrated sources of lysine are torula yeast, dried and salted cod, soybean protein isolate, soybean protein concentrate, Parmesan cheese, pork loin (excluding fat), dried and frozen tofu, freeze-dried parsley, defatted and low-fat soybean flour, fenugreek seed, and dried spirulina seaweed.

Other Forms

L-lysine acetylsalicylate (LAS) Lysine clonixinate (LC) L-lysine monohydrochlorine (LMH)

How to Take It

The recommended dietary allowances for lysine include the following.

  • Birth to 4 months: 103 mg per kilogram of body weight a day
  • 5 months to 2 years: 69 mg per kilogram of body weight a day
  • 3 to 12 years: 44 mg per kilogram of body weight a day
  • Adults and teenagers: 12 mg per kilogram of body weight a day

Some experts say that adults need 30 mg per kilogram of body weight a day.

You should determine how much lysine your diet provides, and if you are not getting enough, discuss with your health care provider whether you should supplement your diet. He or she can help you decide how much lysine to take and what form would be best for you.


Lysine may increase cholesterol and triglyceride levels in your blood. If you have problems with cholesterol or triglyceride levels, or if you have cardiovascular disease, be sure to talk with your health care provider before taking supplements.

Lysine appears to be nontoxic.

Possible Interactions

Vitamin C aids lysine in collagen formation. No harmful interactions are known.

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Previously Published in OSA Today Reproduced by permission
Updated on: 02/01/10