Nutrition Made Simple


March 20 2021



L-arginine is a chemical building block called an 'amino acid'. It is a semi-essential amino acid as preterm infants are unable to synthesize them. It can be produced in several ways. It can be synthesized from amino acid citrulline through a breakdown of body protein or it is obtained from dietary protein intake. It is present in poultry, fish, nuts, and dairy products. It can also be synthesized in the laboratory to be used as a medicine. Some people take L-arginine as a supplement. L-arginine is considered safe in moderate doses, but too much L-arginine can have severe Side Effects, including death. It is a popular supplement for athletes as it is touted to increase nitric oxide activity in the body. 

L-arginine is used for angina, which is caused by the constriction of blood vessels that causes poor blood flow to the heart. It is also used in high blood pressure and serious intestinal disease in premature infants. Arginine is necessary for the development of T-cells, which are white blood cells that play important role in the immune response. As L- arginine has so many critical roles in our body. A deficiency in this amino acid can disrupt Cellular and organ function and leads to serious adverse health outcomes. 

Arginine was first isolated in 1886 by German chemist Ernst Schulze while working on yellow Lupin seedlings. It is traditionally obtained by hydrolysis of various sources of proteins such as gelatin and is commercially obtained by fermentation. 

So, let’s move on to the next question, how does it work?

In our body, L-arginine is converted into a chemical substance called nitric oxide. Nitric oxide causes blood vessels to dilate or open wider for improved flow of blood. L-arginine also promotes the release of insulin, a hormone secreted by the pancreas. 

L-arginine has numerous benefits as discussed below: 

  • In chest pain (angina): Taking l-arginine seems to improve the quality of life in people with angina by preventing worsening of symptoms. However, it does not seem to help wider the blood vessels that are narrowed in angina. This effect is due to the synthesis of nitric oxide.
  • High blood pressure- Taking l-arginine can reduce blood pressure in healthy people, and people with slightly high blood pressure with or without diabetes. 
  • A serious intestinal disease in premature infants is necrotizing enterocolitis Or NEC. In this, the intestinal wall in infants is invaded by bacteria leading to intense pain and inflammation. L-arginine seems to prevent this inflammation of the digestive tract in premature infants. 
  • In peripheral arterial disease, there is a narrowing of blood vessels that causes poor blood flow to the limbs. This may present itself in symptoms like numbness in limbs, cramps after walking short distances, etc. Taking l-arginine for up to 8 weeks may improve blood flow in such people. However, long term use was found not to improve walking speed. 
  • Taking l-arginine intravenously may reduce blood pressure in pregnant women when blood pressure is generally elevated.  
  • L arginine supplements are used in a clinical setting to treat critically ill people or those with wounds. L-arginine, along with Vitamin C and zinc is found to be a great formula to speed up wound healing. 
  • Blood sugar regulation - L-arginine may benefit those with diabetes by improving glucose metabolism and insulin sensitivity. 
  • In diseases such as Alzheimer's that interfere with thinking (dementia). Early research suggests that l-arginine may improve memory loss related to ageing. 
  • Tooth sensitivity- Early research suggests that tooth sensitivity can be reduced by using toothpaste containing arginine, calcium, and fluoride when used twice daily. A new study has found that the arginine in our saliva is utilized by pH increasing oral bacteria, reducing the incidence of caries inducing bacteria that decrease the pH levels. 
  • Animal studies show that applying l-arginine to the feet can improve circulation in people with diabetes which might help prevent diabetic foot ulcers.
  • Animal studies suggest that some complications after a heart transplant, like breathing difficulties, can be improved by taking l-arginine for six weeks. This improvement includes an increase in walking distance and also an improvement in breathing. 
  • In involuntary weight loss in people with HIV. Taking l-arginine along with hydroxymethyl butyrate (HMB) and glutamine for 8 weeks seems to increase body weight and also improve immune function. 
  • Painful bladder syndrome (interstitial cystitis) -l-arginine seems to reduce pain and symptoms of bladder inflammation, although it may take three months for improvement. 
  • In Migraine, taking l-arginine in combination with painkiller Ibuprofen might effectively treat migraine headache. However, more studies are required to study if the effect is due to ibuprofen or l-arginine, or both. 
  • Obesity - Early research shows that l- arginine may decrease weight and waist size in women. In diet-induced rats, it was found to reduce fat mass. So, it might be possible to fit in those old jeans, after all. 
  • Infection before or after surgery can be reduced significantly by taking l-arginine with other compounds. 
  • In Sickle Cell disease -Preliminary research shows that l-arginine might be useful for adults with Sickle Cell disease who have high blood pressure in the lungs. L-arginine might help to reduce the number of pain medications that would be needed to control pain in children who are in hospital because of Sickle Cell attacks. 

L-arginine is considered Safe in both adults and children when taken in an appropriate dosage for a short period. However, L-arginine causes potential side effects at a high concentration that need to be kept in mind. These include – 

  • L-arginine when given i.v results in illness or death in infants and children.
  • There might be some difficulty in controlling blood pressure during surgery. It is recommended to stop the intake of l-arginine two weeks before surgery. 
  • Increased risk of death after a heart attack in older people.
  • It can cause headache, indigestion, nausea diarrhoea, gout, allergy, worsening of asthma symptoms, and low blood pressure. People with asthma must use it with caution.
  • Higher doses of l-arginine may worsen ulcers as it promotes the secretion of stomach acid. Sometimes, it causes loss of consciousness, blood abnormalities, and blood in the urine in severe cases.
  • L arginine might make herpes worse. Some evidence suggests that l-arginine is a food source for the herpes virus to multiply. 

You must always consult a physician before taking any supplement, especially if you have any underlying medical condition. 

You can check out Alvizia’s L-Arginine 500mg supplement to achieve the above benefits. The bottle pack consists of 100 capsules that are 100% vegetarian, making it the best choice for both vegetarian and nonvegetarian consumers.   

Tagged: Amino-Acids, Capsules, L-Arginine, Weight-Management, Workout-Support


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