Lysine is an essential amino acid found in various proteins. Like its fellow amino acids, the main task of lysine is to help build protein -- although that's far from all it does. Lysine is also an important player in the production of various enzymes, hormones, and immune compounds.
While lysine is abundant in most high-protein foods, it is less available from many of the world's important food crops such as wheat and corn. In fact, these crops are so lysine-poor that populations in other parts of the world who depend heavily on these grains may suffer from lysine deficiency. Both growing children and fully matured adults suffer many health consequences from a lysine deficiency.
Lysine was first isolated from a protein in milk in 1889 and its structure has been well understood since 1902. Today it is used in fortified foods, and as a nutritional supplement. It is also used in various types of biochemical and nutritional research.
Lysine also pops up occasionally in popular literature. If you remember the 1993 movie Jurassic Park, you will recall it featured dinosaurs which were reconstructed from ancient DNA. In the film, the dinosaurs were genetically altered so they couldn't produce lysine. This was referred to in the movie as the lysine contingency," and the purpose was to make the colossal vertebrates dependent on daily lysine supplements doled out by their handlers.
Since fencing in dinosaurs isn't a very practical idea, the plan was to get the dinosaurs hooked on lysine that way they wouldn't wander off because they needed their lysine each day to stay alive. If you saw the movie, you know the plan didn't work too well.
But do you see why?
As you just learned, lysine is an essential amino acid among vertebrates that means the dinosaurs couldn't produce it anyway. They had to consume it in their diet, and they could get all the lysine they needed by eating meats and legumes freely available in the wild.
- Lysine plays an important role in supporting immune system function.
- Lysine may help with calcium absorption.
- Lysine is used for the health and integrity of skin and lips.
- Lysine is used for the production of collagen and tissue maintenance.
- Lysine is important for balanced nutrition and health.
- Lysine plays a critical role in the formation of collagen a compound important to the health and repair of bone, skin, tendons, and cartilage.
- Lysine may help the body absorb calcium. Since calcium is necessary for bone health, lysine may help support bone strength.
- Lysine plays an essential part in the production of carnitine, an amino acid which helps convert fatty acids into energy.
- Lysine is an essential building block for all protein which is particularly important to the proper growth and development of children.
In general, foods high in protein are good sources of lysine. Vegetables, on the other hand, are generally a poor source of lysine (except for legumes such as beans, peas, and lentils). For this reason, soy-based products are good options for vegetarians who may find it difficult to augment their lysine levels through diet.
Good dietary choices for lysine include:
The structure function claims made on this website have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These dietary supplement products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.