L-Arginine Benefits, Uses, Side Effects, and Food Sources

What is L-Arginine?

L-arginine is a type of amino acid that is produced naturally in the body. It is also found in certain foods and is commonly used as a dietary supplement.

L-arginine plays a key role in the production of nitric oxide, a compound that relaxes blood vessels and improves blood flow. It also stimulates the release of growth hormones and insulin, which are important for muscle growth and repair.

Although the human body can produce L-Arginine on its own, it may not be enough during times of stress or illness. The daily requirement of L-Arginine for the human body is 117 mg/kg. For a person weighing 60 kilograms, this would be 7.02 grams per day.

Studies have shown that the average person’s diet contains only 5.4 grams of L-Arginine per day, which is not enough to meet the daily requirement. Therefore, it is necessary to consume foods or supplements that are rich in L-arginine.


Benefits of L-Arginine?

  1. Improves Cardiovascular Health

    L-arginine has been shown to improve cardiovascular health by relaxing blood vessels, reducing inflammation, and lowering blood pressure. It may also help to reduce the risk of heart diseases and strokes.

    In comparative studies, patients with coronary artery diseases have been found to have lower levels of L-arginine than healthy control groups.

    The study found that the metabolic pathways of arginine were disrupted in these patients. Therefore, supplementation with L-arginine may help restore normal levels of L-arginine and increase nitric oxide production, which may help reduce the risk of developing heart diseases. [1]


  2. Improves diabetes

    L-Arginine is believed to help with glucose metabolism and improve insulin sensitivity, which may be beneficial in the management of diabetes. [2] [3]

    Controlled studies in rats have shown that L-arginine can stimulate the growth of pancreatic cells, which increases insulin production and lowers blood glucose levels in diabetic rats. [4]

    A controlled study in rats found that L-arginine supplementation increased the breakdown of fatty acids in diabetic rats, reduced fat mass, and lowered triglycerides in the rats. [5] Therefore, L-arginine may be used to treat diabetes and help reduce complications associated with diabetes.


  3. Boosts Immune System Health

    L-Arginine optimizes the functions of the immune system by facilitating the production of nitric oxide.

    L-Arginine can regulate the immune response of white blood cells, T cells and mast cells, [6] [7]  reducing the risk of infection and helping to prevent cancer. [8] It may even help control allergic reactions and asthma attacks.  [9] [10]


  4. Increases athletic performance and endurance

    L-Arginine is involved in protein synthesis, the breakdown of ammonia, and the production of energy through metabolic processes.

    Athletes use L-arginine primarily for its involvement in growth hormone secretion, participation in creatine synthesis, and its ability to increase nitric oxide production. [11]

    L-Arginine can reduce the amount of oxygen required by muscles during exercise, increase the amount of time muscles can work before fatigue sets in, and increase endurance.[12]

    As a result, L-arginine is one of the most popular supplements used by athletes and is considered a performance-enhancing substance. [13]

  5. Improves wound healing

    L-Arginine has been shown to accelerate wound healing because it helps synthesize another amino acid called L-proline, which is a step in collagen synthesis. Collagen can help repair wounds and maintain skin health.


  6. Memory preservation in the elderly

    Maintaining nitric oxide levels in the body is crucial for memory function.

    L-Arginine is involved in several physiological and pathological processes in the human body, including neurotransmission, neurodevelopment, neuroplasticity, cellular redox metabolism, oxidative stress, inflammation, and regulation of cerebral blood flow. Increasing evidence suggests that L-arginine is involved in the pathogenesis of several age-related diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease.[17]


  7. Improves fertility

    A study on infertile women found that when taken with other supplements, L-arginine may increase the ovaries’ response to hormones and improve the chances of pregnancy.[18]

    Male infertility is often caused by a lack of L-arginine, resulting in decreased sperm motility and sperm count. Studies have shown that supplementation with L-Arginine can increase the production of nitric oxide, which protects sperm from oxidative damage. This protection may increase sperm vitality and sperm count.[19]

  8. Anti-aging

    Research has shown that a decrease in nitric oxide can lead to conditions such as heart disease and diabetes. Supplementation with L-Arginine may help maintain normal levels of nitric oxide in the body[20].


  9. Improvement of erectile dysfunction

    For patients with mild erectile dysfunction, the effect of 2500 mg of arginine is comparable to 5 mg of the drug tadalafil (used to treat male sexual dysfunction, including impotence or erectile dysfunction), and it is also effective in treating patients with moderate erectile dysfunction.

    In addition, the incidence of side effects from arginine supplementation is low, making it more recommended for patients with mild to moderate erectile dysfunction[21].


Uses of L-Arginine

  1. Athletic Performance

    L-arginine is commonly used by athletes to improve performance and reduce fatigue during exercise.


  2. Sexual Function Support

    L-arginine may be useful for men with erectile dysfunction, as it helps improve blood flow to the penis.


  3. Cardiovascular Disease

    L-arginine may be beneficial for individuals with cardiovascular diseases, as it helps to lower blood pressure and improve blood flow.


  4. Other Conditions and Symptoms

    L-arginine may also be helpful for individuals with diabetes and other conditions.


Dosage of Arginine

It is recommended to supplement with at least 1500mg of arginine per day to achieve the desired effect, as taking less than this amount may not be effective. [22][23]


Food Sources of L-Arginine

  1. Meat and Poultry

    Meat and poultry are excellent sources of L-arginine, with turkey and chicken containing particularly high amounts.


  2. Beans and Nuts

    Beans and nuts are also good sources of L-arginine, with almonds, peanuts, and kidney beans being particularly high in this amino acid.


  3. Other Food Sources

    Other food sources of L-arginine include dairy products, seafood, and soy products.


Side Effects of L-Arginine

  1. Gastrointestinal Distress

    Some individuals may experience gastrointestinal distress, such as nausea and diarrhea, when taking L-arginine supplements.


  2. Allergic Reactions

    L-arginine supplements may cause allergic reactions in some individuals.


  3. Low Blood Pressure

    L-arginine may cause blood pressure to drop too low in individuals with already low blood pressure.


  4. Other Side Effects

    Other side effects may include headaches, dizziness, and bloating.


Who should not consume L-Arginine?

  • Pregnant women and women who are breast-feeding: Avoid if pregnant or nursing.
  • Children: Premature infants may be supplemented with appropriate doses of L-arginine under the guidance of a physician. However, children should avoid high oral doses of L-arginine to avoid health risks.
  • People with allergies or asthma: Should be used with caution after consulting a physician.
  • People with liver cirrhosis: Patients with cirrhosis of the liver should use L-arginine with caution.
  • People with herpes: L-arginine may worsen herpes outbreaks.
  • Low blood pressure patients: L-arginine may lower blood pressure, and people with low blood pressure should avoid using it.
  • Kidney disease patients: L-arginine use in patients with kidney disease can lead to high potassium levels, which in some cases can cause life-threatening irregular heartbeats.
  • People who had surgery: L-arginine can affect blood pressure and may interfere with blood pressure control during and after surgery. Therefore, stop taking L-arginine at least 2 weeks before surgery.

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