Anxiety Caused by Lysine Deficiency
People whose diet is deficient in lysine may experience a reduction in anxiety if they supplement with lysine, reports a study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2004;101:8285–8).
Lysine is one of approximately 20 amino acids that function as building blocks for protein synthesis. Some amino acids are also precursors to chemical messengers in the brain (neurotransmitters) and, as such, influence mood and mental function. Eight amino acids (including lysine) are “essential,” meaning that they must be consumed in the diet because the body is unable to synthesize them.
Ninety-three households in Northwest Syria participated in the current study. The diet of people in this region is often deficient in lysine, because most of their protein is derived from wheat, which contains inadequate amounts of this amino acid. The participants were randomly assigned to use regular wheat flour or wheat flour fortified with lysine (1.9 grams per pound of flour) for three months. Among men who were experiencing high levels of anxiety, there was a significant reduction in anxiety in the group consuming lysine-fortified wheat, but not in the group eating regular wheat. No improvement was seen in women.
The richest dietary sources of lysine are animal foods (eggs, meat, fish, dairy products) and legumes, whereas most grains are deficient in lysine. It is generally assumed that the American diet, which typically contains large amounts of protein, provides adequate amounts of essential amino acids, including lysine. Vegetarians who emphasize grains in their diet, however, are at risk of developing lysine deficiency. In addition, the way foods are prepared can greatly affect their lysine content. For example, cooking meats or legumes at very high temperatures can destroy significant amounts of lysine. Even low-temperature cooking can destroy lysine in the presence of certain sugars (fructose, glucose, or lactose), as might occur when baking sweet foods or baking with milk. Using sucrose (table sugar) when baking with yeast can also destroy significant amounts of lysine because yeast breaks sucrose down into fructose and glucose. Consequently, even people who consume presumably adequate amounts of animal protein and legumes are not guaranteed of having optimal lysine status.
Avoiding pastries, pies, cookies, doughnuts, and similar foods, and cooking foods at moderate rather than excessive temperatures, should increase the amount of lysine available to the body. Lysine can also be taken as a dietary supplement; common amounts used are 500 or 1,000 mg per day. Lysine supplementation at that level is considered safe, with no evidence of long-term adverse effects.
Alan R. Gaby, MD, an expert in nutritional therapies, testified to the White House Commission on CAM upon request in December 2001. Dr. Gaby served as a member of the Ad-Hoc Advisory Panel of the National Institutes of Health Office of Alternative Medicine. He is the author of Preventing and Reversing Osteoporosis (Prima, 1994), and co-author of The Natural Pharmacy, 2nd Edition (Healthnotes, Three Rivers Press, 1999), the A–Z Guide to Drug-Herb-Vitamin Interactions (Healthnotes, Three Rivers Press, 1999), Clinical Essentials Volume 1 and 2 (Healthnotes, 2000), and The Patient’s Book of Natural Healing (Prima, 1999). A former professor at Bastyr University of Natural Health Sciences, in Kenmore, WA, where he served as the Endowed Professor of Nutrition, Dr. Gaby is the Chief Medical Editor for Healthnotes, Inc.
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