Those who are familiar with this amino-acid might associate it with body-building, since Arginine/Ornithine combo is often seen beside protein jars in health stores. While it is true that Arginine is one of the most popular supplements for weight lifters, it is also favourable in pharmaceutical and healthcare industry. L-Arginine is a very interesting semiessential amino-acid. Its primary metabolic role is within the Urea Cycle – the biochemical pathway that metabolises nitrogen and protein. Arginine is a precursor to some important hormones, such as hypothalamic corticotropin releasing factor (CRF), pituitary growth hormone, prolactin, pancreatic insulin, glucagon (opposite of insulin), pancreozymin and polypeptide, somatostatin, aldosterone and adrenal catecholamines. It is also an immediate precursor to Nitric Oxide and Ornithine.
Arginine In Action.
One of the reasons it is so popular amongst active people is because arginine is needed for the synthesis of NO (Nitric Oxide) which plays a role in many processes, most notable of which are vasodilation, vasorelaxation, neurotransmission, increased perfusion of the kidneys, lungs and liver by enhancing the blood flow, etc. All these are vital for a good cardiovascular performance that is so important in any sport activity. Thus, Arginine can be useful in the management of some cardiovascular conditions, such as angina, hypertension, coronary heart disease, intermittent claudication, atherosclerosis, etc. In fact, Arginine has been proven to be just as good or better than often prescribed nitrates and with less side effects. However, studies showed that taking arginine after heart attack has been occurred is not effective. It is more of a preventative measure rather than the cure.
Arginine triggers the production of protein in the body. This aids wound healing and shortens the recovery time from injury. Arginine supplements are particularly good for bone and muscle injuries, and tissue damage. Creams with arginine are available for topical application to aid wound healing.
Arginine is required for insulin production and blood sugar control. It is particularly good for those with low blood sugar level.
Arginine/Ornithine combination has been studied in relation to muscle growth and weight control. This is because Arginine/Ornithine increases the fat metabolism in liver, using fat as energy source and preventing its absorption. In one 5 week progressive strength training program, volunteers were given a placebo or a supplement containing 1g of Arginine and 1g of Ornithine each day. The result showed that taking this combination while on high intensity training program can significantly increase muscle strength and lean body mass. Arginine is also necessary for a synthesis of Creatine, that aids muscle growth and speeds up recovery. The above combination is often prescribed to AIDS/HIV and cancer patients during chemotherapy to prevent muscle wasting.
Arginine is often recommended to men with erectile dysfunction. Because Arginine is a potent vasodilator, it plays a role in blood flow and blood pressure, aiding the erection. Because arginine triggers protein production, it consequently enhances sperm production.
Another application of arginine’s vasodilating properties is for alleviating headaches and migraines cause by narrow blood vessels and lack of blood flow.
Arginine is also used for treatment and maintenance of sensitive teeth. Some toothpaste companies (Colgate for example) incorporate arginine into their products to strengthen the tooth enamel.
Dietary Sources of Arginine.
Arginine is conditionally non-essential amino-acid because it can be produced in the body. However, some people might have difficulties to produce it in sufficient amounts, elderly for example, so a supplement or arginine rich food might be required. Arginine is found in all animal products: meats, dairy, eggs, fish, etc. Vegetarian sources of arginine include: wheat germ, quinoa, buckwheat, whole grain oats, most nuts and seeds, chickpeas and soy beans.
Arginine is also a component of some over the counter drugs and skin care products.
- Arginine is believed to stimulate the herpes virus. Various studies have been done regarding this matter, but none is conclusive enough. Some studies show that Arginine in fact helps to heal herpes outbreak, other studies show that too much arginine and too little lysine stimulates its outbreak. Both can be true, as the stages described are different. For this reason, it is probably best not to take arginine if the outbreak is possible and to take it if the outbreak has already happened.
- It also should not be taken together with other vasodilating medication and blood thinning medication. Care should be taken if combining arginine with Viagra.
- Arginine can elevate blood sugar by neutralising insulin in some Type II diabetes sufferers. Those with Type II diabetes should probably avoid it or use it under the medical supervision. Combining arginine with xylitol can prevent glucagon release and the consequent raise in blood sugar level, so if necessary – take arginine in combination with xylitol.
- Arginine might worsen asthma and allergy symptoms. Especially if inhaled.
- People with low blood pressure should not take arginine.
- Because arginine can change blood pressure it is also not recommended to take it 2 weeks before surgery.
It can be taken in doses up to 20g per day, divided. It depends on health condition, other drugs used and the legislations of the country you live in. Most common and recommended form of arginine is powder. It does taste a little and would probably be better taken with juice or other drink rather than plain water.