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You have probably heard it or read it from hundreds of sources over the years: «Take lysine to prevent outbreaks.» Millions of people living with the upper and lower manifestations of this virus have added lysine supplements to their herpes-fighting arsenal. The once touted benefit of lysine is closer to myth than fact. Inconclusive studies show that the actual positive effects of lysine are slight at best.

Origins of the Lysine Myth

Like the origin of many myths, the Lysine Myth has some foundation in truth. To understand its genesis, we must understand the interaction between the amino acids lysine and arganine and their relation to the herpes virus.

It has been well established that the herpes virus is highly dependent on the amino acid arganine for replication. Lysine has shown to have an inhibitive counter-effect on arganine. This led to the idea that a high lysine concentration in our bodies would counteract the arganine on which herpes depends and thereby suppress its ability to multiply.

Conflicting Studies

Initial studies on the lysine-arganine hypothesis tended to support this idea. Several studies in the early 1980’s reported positive results. Subsequent studies have not been conclusive. Some researchers believe these conflicting studies occurred because the amounts of lysine and arganine supplied naturally from the diets of the study participants were not accounted for in the study controls. The typical American diet tends to include more lysine rich foods from meat and dairy products than arganine rich foods from beans, whole grains, and nuts. This means that the actual total amount of lysine and arganine in each individual participant in the studies was not known. Naturally, this created serious irregularities in the studies.

Finding Some Truth

Even with the inherent problems plaguing the current studies, most tended to show that high daily doses of lysine supplements (1000mg and greater) have a slight effect in reducing the rate of recurrence of outbreaks over extended periods. However, the studies do not support the idea that lysine significantly reduces the duration of outbreaks or their severity.

Long-term Risks

Extended use of lysine has recently raised some severe health concerns. Although long-term use of lysine supplements may help to reduce the rate of outbreak recurrence, it may not be a safe treatment. At least one person taking 3000mg of Lysine daily for five years developed Fanconi’s syndrome, a severe kidney disease that leads to renal failure. Even short-term use over a period of several days can cause abdominal pain and diarrhea. All people, especially those with kidney problems, should be heed lysine supplements with great caution. Further studies on lysine safety are warranted.

Find Better Alternatives

In conclusion, lysine is not proven effective at shortening outbreaks. Long-term use with high dosage does slightly reduce the rate of recurrences of outbreaks, but comes with serious safety concerns. Given the number of successful alternative treatments available, lysine supplementation is not a recommended option.

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