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Lysine is important for a variety of reasons, but its primary function is to help build protein. It also plays a role in the production of hormones, enzymes, and various immune compounds—but lysine is basically important for the production of protein. In fact, it is present in every protein molecule in our body.
Lysine is an essential amino acid which was first identified in milk in 1889. It is termed “essential” because it can only be obtained through diet or supplementation—it cannot be manufactured in the body. It is commonly used today as an additive in pharmaceuticals and certain foods.
High-protein foods provide the richest source of dietary lysine, but unfortunately, in some parts of the world high protein foods are scarce. In regions where low-protein crops like corn and wheat are the dietary mainstays, lysine deficiency is a very real threat, and for both children and adults the dangers of insufficient lysine are quite serious.
Movie-goers learned a bit about lysine in the 1993 movie Jurassic Park. If you watched the film, you’ll remember the story involved an ambitious scientist who longed to re-construct dinosaurs from actual DNA recovered from dinosaur remains.
He succeeded in doing so, but he had one additional challenge to overcome—how to contain many ill-tempered creatures weighing many tons each? Fencing was clearly not an option.
His solution was to genetically alter his dinosaurs to be incapable of producing lysine. He reasoned that since lysine is crucial to their existence, the dinosaurs would quickly develop an addiction and stay close at hand so handlers could give them their daily ration of lysine. In the movie, this was referred to as “the lysine contingency.”
Alas, the scientist overlooked an important detail about lysine you already know—lysine is an essential amino acid—meaning the dinosaurs couldn’t produce it themselves anyway. They obtained all the lysine they needed by eating high-protein meats and legumes readily available in the wild. Oops!
- Lysine is an important building block in the formation of all protein. It is especially critical for the development and growth of children.
- Lysine is indispensable to the construction of collagen, a compound which helps maintain and repair skin, tendons, bone, and cartilage. The process of producing collagen is improved even more when Vitamin C is involved in the process.
- Lysine is invaluable for recovering from exercise or strenuous activity because it helps build muscle protein and repair tissue.
- Calcium levels in the body are benefited in two ways by lysine. First, it helps the body readily absorb more calcium; second, it works to slow the loss of calcium due to urination. Adequate calcium levels are important for bone health; therefore lysine may help support bone strength.
- Lysine is important in producing carnitine—an amino acid which helps convert fatty acids into energy.
Just like dinosaurs, you need good sources of lysine. Fortunately, there are many options available.
High-protein foods are rich in lysine, so good sources are red meat, cheese, nuts, soybeans, poultry, milk, eggs, cod, pork, and kidney beans. Even though vegetables are generally poor sources of lysine, vegetarians need not worry if they consume certain legumes and soy-based products.
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.