L-lysine is an essential amino acid; it must be ingested or injected as a supplement since it cannot be synthesized by the body. Supplementation and topical applications of L-lysine are used to prevent the treatment of herpes simplex labialis. In 1992, the FDA determined that no orally administered active ingredient or OTC treatment was recognized as a safe and effective treatment for cold sores; this means that L-lysine products are marketed as nutritional supplements under DSHEA, not approved OTC drugs. L-lysine is also used orally by athletes to improve performance, because it is believed to enhance anabolic processes which encourage the growth of muscle tissue. Because L-lysine may support calcium absorption and homeostasis, some researchers have suggested it as a treatment for osteoporosis.

Mechanism of Action

L-lysine contributes to protein and enzyme synthesis. L-lysine may also be involved in the cellular absorption and regulation of calcium.

Anti-viral activity: L-lysine inhibits the multiplication of herpes simplex type 1 virus in vitro. Lysine appears to be an anti-metabolite, which means it competes with arginine for inclusion into viral replicative processes. The herpes simplex virus depends on arginine, so competition can suppress its growth.

Herpes simplex type 1 (HSV-1): Few reliable studies are available, but oral L-lysine prophylaxis does not appear to reduce the recurrence rate of HSV-1 lesions. However, some L-lysine-treated patients were recurrence-free in a few studies. L-lysine has been associated with decreases in active lesion healing-times in some open studies; other trials have not found this effect when compared to placebo. Most experts have concluded that orally administered L-lysine does not improve the healing of cold sores, but supplementation may decrease recurrences or improve symptoms in some patients.

Ergogenesis: Studies suggest that L-lysine supplementation does not enhance hGH or insulin secretion compared to exercise alone, and it does not appear to be an effective ergogenic. A diet of normal high-protein foods should meet increased the increased dietary needs induced by intense exercise.

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