What is the Connection Between Lysine and Arginine?

Dennis Wilcox

Lysine and arginine are amino acids, which are the basic building blocks of proteins. They have an antagonistic relationship with one another that results in lysine being able to reduce arginine's ability to help synthesize certain proteins. This antagonistic relationship might benefit people who suffer from frequent herpes outbreaks, such as cold sores or genital herpes, because arginine is needed by these viruses to reproduce. Ingesting lysine might, therefore, interfere with arginine’s role in herpes reproduction, reducing the frequency and duration of herpes outbreaks as a result. Another connection between lysine and arginine points to a more collaborative relationship, with claims that joint supplementation can be beneficial because it will help boost the production of growth hormone in the body.

The structure of lysine.
The structure of lysine.

Herpes viruses require arginine to build their outer protein layers. Without their protein outer coats, herpes viruses cannot reproduce. Lysine suppresses this protein building process by competing with arginine for the use of the biochemical pathways necessary for it to take place.

Green peas contain lysine.
Green peas contain lysine.

This indicates that a diet high in lysine might help reduce herpes outbreaks. Lysine-rich foods include certain meats, such as beef and chicken. They also include eggs and vegetables such as beans and peas. Lysine supplementation is another choice for this natural therapy, either alone or in conjunction with the dietary approach.

Lysine supplements can be taken to counter the effects of arginine.
Lysine supplements can be taken to counter the effects of arginine.

A high intake of lysine will not be effective, however, if foods high in arginine are eaten or if arginine supplements are taken at the same time. Too much arginine will simply not allow lysine to effectively cancel arginine’s role in herpes reproduction. Anyone wishing to try this therapeutic approach of using lysine to suppress herpes outbreaks should research the foods he or she eats to make sure they are low in arginine. Taking arginine supplements should also be avoided under these circumstances.

Another connection between lysine and arginine seemingly contradicts the antagonistic relationship between the two amino acids because it indicates that they can collaborate to produce positive effects on one’s health and well-being. Certain bodybuilders and natural health adherents claim that taking these substances together stimulates the body to produce more growth hormone, which some also claim will build muscles, increase a person’s energy and reduce — or even reverse — the aging process. Scientific research has indicated that a combination of lysine and arginine might stimulate the body's production of growth hormone.

Lysine might block arginine's role in herpes outbreaks, with accompanying cold sores.
Lysine might block arginine's role in herpes outbreaks, with accompanying cold sores.

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