Lysine: The Heroic Amino Acid That Keeps You Strong, Healthy, and Blissful



Lysine was first isolated by the German biological chemist Ferdinand Heinrich Edmund Drechsel in 1889 from the protein casein in milk. He named it “lysin”. Later, in 1902, the German chemists Emil Fischer and Fritz Weigert determined lysine’s chemical structure by synthesizing it.

Since then, lysine has been the subject of numerous studies exploring its benefits for human health. For example, lysine has been found to support immune function, skin health, and muscle building, and may even have potential as a treatment for diabetes.

However, early observations that dietary protein utilization did not always correlate with gross amino acid composition led to an understanding that lysine, in particular, can be easily damaged during food processing.

Overall, lysine’s discovery and subsequent research has contributed significantly to our understanding of the role of amino acids in human health and the importance of a balanced diet.


Original By Ben Mills – Own work, Public Domain.

Lysine Health Benefits

Lysine is an essential amino acid that provides numerous health benefits. One of its most well-known benefits is its potential to reduce symptoms of herpes simplex virus (HSV) and cold sores. It has antiviral activity and may help prevent eruptions of cold sores and genital herpes.

Lysine has also been found to help reduce anxiety and stress in some people, potentially by reducing levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Additionally, it may help lower blood pressure and improve blood sugar control.

Another important health benefit of lysine is its role in promoting collagen production, which can help reduce inflammation and prevent sores, particularly in the mouth and genital area. This can be particularly helpful for those undergoing radiation or chemotherapy.

Furthermore, lysine has potential benefits for gut health, as it may help support a healthy gut and reduce symptoms of leaky gut syndrome. It has also been studied for its potential in preventing osteoporosis, as it helps the body absorb calcium and minimize the amount of calcium lost in urine.

While research on lysine’s benefits is ongoing and limited in some areas, it is clear that this essential amino acid plays a crucial role in many aspects of human health.

Lysine health benefits

Original By Ben Mills – Own work, Public Domain.

Foods rich in Lysine

While the human body cannot produce lysine, it can be obtained through diet. Here are some foods that are rich in lysine:

  • Animal-based sources of lysine include beef, pork, poultry, fish, and dairy-based products such as cheese, yogurt, butter, and milk. These are among the most concentrated sources of lysine and are ideal for those who consume animal products.
  • Plant-based sources of lysine include legumes such as beans, lentils, peas, and soybeans. Additionally, lysine is found in lower levels in some fruits like bananas, as well as nuts, oatmeal, and popcorn.
  • For those who are vegan, it’s important to make sure they’re consuming enough lysine through plant-based sources. Legumes are particularly high in lysine and can be a good way for vegans to get enough of this essential amino acid.

In summary, eating a balanced diet that includes these lysine-rich foods can help ensure you’re getting enough of this essential amino acid for optimal health.

Recommended daily intake

The recommended daily intake of lysine can vary depending on factors such as age, sex, and level of physical activity.
Age groupRecommended daily intake of lysine
Infants 0-6 monthsAdequate Intake recommendation: 107 mg/kg body weight
Children 1-3 years64 mg/kg body weight
Children 4-8 years58 mg/kg body weight
Children 9-13 years51 mg/kg body weight
Teenagers 14-18 years47 mg/kg body weight
Adults12 mg/kg of body weight

Lysine deficiency

Lysine deficiency can lead to various health issues as lysine is an essential amino acid that the body cannot produce and must be obtained from the diet. Here are some of the symptoms and consequences of lysine deficiency:

  1. Defective connective tissues: Lysine is essential for collagen synthesis and a deficiency can result in weakened or defective connective tissues.
  2. Impaired fatty acid metabolism: Lysine is involved in the breakdown of fatty acids for energy production, and a deficiency can impair this process.
  3. Anemia: Lysine deficiency can lead to anemia, a condition in which red blood cell levels are unusually low, resulting in symptoms such as pale skin, dizziness, fatigue, headache, and cold extremities.
  4. Poor concentration and irritability: Lysine deficiency can cause symptoms such as poor concentration, irritability, and occasional nausea.

It’s important to note that lysine deficiency is rare in most people as it can be obtained from various dietary sources. However, people who follow a strict vegan or vegetarian diet or those who have certain health conditions that affect nutrient absorption may be at a higher risk of lysine deficiency. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms of lysine deficiency, it’s important to consult with a healthcare professional to determine the underlying cause and receive appropriate treatment.

Lysine excess

It’s worth noting that most people get enough lysine in their diet and that adverse side effects from lysine are generally rare. However, taking high doses of lysine supplements (more than 6,000mg per day) may increase the risk of experiencing some of these side effects. Additionally, the University of Michigan cautions against taking lysine supplements without medical advice if you take calcium supplements or medications that affect your gastrointestinal system. Excess intake of lysine may lead to potential side effects:
  1. Allergic reactions: Excessive consumption of lysine may lead to severe allergic reactions such as hives, swelling of the face, lips, tongue, or throat, difficulty breathing, and closing of the throat.

  2. Gastrointestinal problems: Lysine overdose may cause gastrointestinal problems such as abdominal pain, diarrhea, bloating, and stomach cramps.

  3. Respiratory problems: Overconsumption of lysine supplements may cause inflammation of the airway and other allergic symptoms.

  4. Swelling: Swelling of the face, lips, and tongue is one of the intense symptoms observed in patients who have consumed excess lysine supplements.

  5. Difficulty in breathing: Consuming high doses of lysine supplements may lead to difficulty in breathing and closing of the throat, which can be life-threatening in severe cases.

Fun facts

Here are a few fun facts about lysine:
  • The 1993 film Jurassic Park, features dinosaurs that were genetically altered so that they could not produce lysine, an example of engineered auxotrophy. This was known as the “lysine contingency” and was supposed to prevent the cloned dinosaurs from surviving outside the park.
  • In 1996, lysine became the focus of a price-fixing case, the largest in United States history. The Archer Daniels Midland Company paid a fine of US$100 million, and three of its executives were convicted and served prison time.

Why is Lysine important for sports performance?

First, it plays a role in building and maintaining skeletal muscle tissue, which is essential for athletes to improve their performance. Low levels of lysine have been linked to a slowdown of protein synthesis, which is essential in helping the body rebuild muscle after a workout. 
Additionally, lysine helps support hormone production and enzyme regulation, which can contribute to optimal immune, heart, and cognitive health.
Moreover, lysine may help reduce feelings of anxiety and reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol in some people, which can be beneficial for athletes who are under stress or pressure.
Finally, lysine is known to enhance overall athletic performance by increasing hormone secretions, modifying fuel during activity, and preventing mental fatigue and unwanted effects of overtraining.

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