1. May Decrease Outbreak and Frequency of Herpes Viruses
If you’ve heard of L-lysine before, it’s probably in conjunction with a natural cold sore remedy. Cold sores are a result of the herpes simplex-1 virus, also referred to as HSV-1, and around 67 percent of people under 50 are infected with the virus, even if they never display symptoms. HSV-2 is the herpes virus responsible for genital herpes, which 85 percent of carriers are unaware they even have.
While research is inconsistent on the subject, most individuals who use L-lysine to treat cold sores rate it as very effective. (2) Some studies support that L-lysine can help reduce the number of HSV outbreaks someone has, while others say that outbreaks happen at the same frequency but last a shorter period of time. Experts generally agree that L-lysine is unlikely to completely stop outbreaks altogether but may aid in lessening their severity and/or frequency.
One study using a cream combining L-lysine with herbs and zinc found that 87 percent of patients found their cold sores gone by day six of treatment, although these outbreaks usually last about 21 days. (3)
The way this nutrient may fight cold sores is not entirely clear, but one such reason may be the way that it interacts with arginine, another amino acid that’s produced in small amounts within the body. Arginine has been shown to increase the replication rate of herpes virus cells, and high amounts of L-lysine in the body decrease the activity of arginine because they work against one another.
Along with the HSV-1 virus that causes cold sores, L-lysine may potentially help alleviate genital herpes caused by HSV-2 using this same mechanism, although research is still unclear.
2. May Help in the Treatment of Cancer
One reason many scientists search for natural cancer treatments has to do with the way conventional treatments, like chemotherapy and radiation, negatively impact healthy cells along with diseased ones. Amazingly, there have been huge strides recently in this area, as researchers discover more and more ways that nutrients found in our food and in nature may potentially do just what we desire — target malignant cells without killing good ones.
In 2007, scientists at Florida State University studied the effects of “lysine conjugates” on damaged strands of DNA, like the ones found in cancer. Basically, this substance can locate a damaged strand by identifying “cleavage” in it (a damaged spot) and cause the rest of the strand to cleave (tear apart) as well. The cell is usually unable to repair this damage, leading to apoptosis, the suicidal death of cells.
What’s most fascinating about the potential of this treatment is how it works alongside specific types of light. The cancer-killing ability of lysine conjugates are only activated when exposed to particular types of light, which allows researchers, and potentially doctors, to inject or place the treatment into the most concentrated location of cancer cells and activate them at their most potentially effective spots.
The scientists conducting the study found results ranging from 25 percent all the way to 90 percent of destroyed cancer cells, which is astounding! (4)
A lysine oxidase was tested against instances of colorectal cancer in mice in 2014. In this study, the injection of lysine oxidase was associated with zero deaths and shrunk solid tumors in significant amounts, signifying this may be a promising form of cancer treatment for colorectal cancer in the future. (5)
Cancers related to the bone marrow, such as leukemia, may also meet their match with L-lysine, according to preliminary research. In one study, L-lysine injection helped prevent genotoxicity (DNA and RNA damage) in cells exposed to a cancer-causing substance. (6)
3. Reduces Anxiety and Other Psychological Symptoms
Along with eating foods high in B vitamins, magnesium and omega-3 fatty acids, you can also try increasing your L-lysine intake to minimize anxiety. Because L-lysine may help your body absorb calcium, which is another beneficial nutrient for anxiety sufferers, this may be one of the primary ways in which it helps treat anxiety.
In addition to helping you absorb calcium more efficiently, L-lysine behaves like a serotonin receptor antagonist. That’s a wordy phrase that means it partially binds to serotonin receptors in order to partially prevent anxiety responses. This research, in particular, found that L-lysine helps reduce stress-induced anxiety responses, including diarrhea. (7)
This is especially important in developing countries in which wheat is the primary staple food. People living in these environments are much more likely than those in first-world countries to be deficient in L-lysine. Fortifying diets of people in wheat-dependent countries can help reduce both stress-induced anxiety and diarrheal responses. (8)
It’s possible that L-lysine benefits those with schizophrenia as well, which manifests in extremely serious symptoms often related to anxiety. Preliminary findings suggest that L-lysine supplementation along with conventional therapy can help decrease negative and general symptoms of schizophrenia, although dosing and long-term effects have not yet been determined.
4. Increases Absorption of Calcium
Consuming L-lysine is associated with better absorption of calcium, which leads some to believe that it can help people with or at risk for osteoporosis. No studies have been done to date on the link between L-lysine and osteoporosis, but because of the important role calcium plays in bone health, logic suggests it may be a beneficial nutrient to supplement those with brittle bones.
In fact, calcium is good for more than just your bones — consuming appropriate amounts of calcium is associated with healthy weight, cancer prevention, PMS symptom reduction, dental health, nerve and muscle health, and the prevention of diabetes.
Athletes often take L-lysine as a protein supplement to improve performance. This, too, may be related to the way L-lysine causes your body to absorb calcium.
5. Reduces Diabetes-Related Problems
One of the most difficult things patients with diabetes experience is an increased risk for infection and other diabetes-related conditions. In the past several years, much attention has been given in this context to the large presence of advanced glycation end products, referred to as AGEs for short.
These AGEs are part of the aging process in the body in all people, but they’re in very high concentrations in diabetic patients. They’re implicated in many diabetes-related health conditions, leading scientists to study therapies that involve stopping AGEs from collecting in large numbers. (10)
It seems one of the L-lysine benefits for diabetics may be to prohibit the formation of AGEs in those with diabetes by preventing specific paths of glycation that lead to these products, helping to stave off infection. (11) Thus, the addition of L-lysine benefits those following a diabetic diet planif lysine foods are included.
6. Supports a Healthy Gut
An extremely common problem that millions of people have, many of whom aren’t even aware of it, is leaky gut syndrome. This condition is the permeating of your digestive tract lining, allowing larger-than-intended particles to get out of your digestive system and into the rest of your body. This causes allergic reactions, low energy, joint pain, autoimmune diseases and thyroid disease.
A form of L-lysine known as poly-L-lysine very recently was found to have anti-inflammatory effects on the lining of your gut, hopefully leading to more extensive research on how this amino acid may help improve the health of this lining and possibly prevent leaky gut. (12)
Although not necessarily directly related to leaky gut syndrome, L-lysine has also been found to suppress pancreatitis, an inflammation of the pancreas, another important part of the digestive system. (13)