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Lysine & Zinc

By Brenda Goodnough

Lysine and zinc aren't closely related -- lysine is an amino acid, while zinc is a mineral -- but they're both essential nutrients that support your metabolism and help build proteins. They also share one similar role: Both of them may help if you experience herpes outbreaks. Lysine supplements and zinc ointments both show promise for reducing the frequency of flare-ups caused by the herpes virus.

Functions of Lysine

Lysine fills many vital roles, from converting fatty acids into energy to helping absorb calcium. As an amino acid, it’s essential for building a variety of proteins, including the most abundant protein in your body: collagen. Collagen forms connective tissue, which supports organs and adds strength to tendons, bones, skin and blood vessels. If you follow a vegetarian or vegan diet, lysine is the most important amino acid to watch because most grains are low in lysine, according to The best sources are soy products, lentils and beans, which is why mixing beans with grains such as rice results in complete protein.

Zinc Supports Immunity

Zinc provides structure for proteins and influences cell growth by regulating DNA. It also exerts a significant impact on your metabolism because more than 300 enzymes depend on zinc to do their jobs. Without enough zinc in your diet, you may become more susceptible to colds and illness due to its vital role in your immune system. If you take zinc supplements, be aware that it can become toxic if you consume more than 40 milligrams daily. The best food sources include red meat, shellfish and dark meat chicken and turkey. Beans and nuts don’t contain as much as animal products, but they’re also good choices for getting zinc into your diet.

Lysine and Zinc Help Treat Herpes

When the two are combined, lysine may improve the absorption of zinc in your small intestine. Lysine and zinc may also treat or prevent flare-ups of the herpes virus. While research to date has produced mixed results, some studies show that regular use of lysine supplements may reduce the number of herpes flare-ups and speed recovery time, reports New York University. Topical application of zinc may help treat herpes-based cold sores on your mouth and face. Zinc ointment also prevents outbreaks of genital herpes and may have the potential to stop the virus from spreading, according to the December 2012 issue of “Antiviral Research.”

Recommended Intakes

Women should consume 8 milligrams of zinc daily, while men need to get 11 milligrams per day. The daily requirement of lysine for all adults is 12 milligrams for every kilogram, or 2.2 pounds, of body weight. You’ll need more lysine for therapeutic uses, such as treating cold sores. A typical therapeutic dose of lysine is 1 gram three times daily, according to New York University. MedlinePlus reports that the strength of zinc ointments varies, so it’s best to consult your health care provider. If you have high cholesterol or heart disease, don’t take high doses of lysine unless it’s under the supervision of your doctor.

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