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L-Arginine is a conditionally essential amino acid found in the diet. It is a dietary supplement used mostly by athletic people because it is the amino acid that directly produces nitric oxide via the nitric oxide synthase enzymes.
It’s particularly important during periods of illness and chronic conditions like hypertension and type II diabetes, as these states tend to be characterized by an increase in the enzyme that degrades L-arginine (known as arginase) resulting in a transient deficiency; this precedes an increase in blood pressure in these states, and can be partially remedied by an increase in L-arginine intake or resolution of the illness/disease state.
Arginine favours metabolism of fats to form muscle mass and thereby prevents the accumulation of fat in fat tissues. A study that was carried out on the action of Arginine supplementation specifically modulates the activity of genes3 involved in lipid metabolism in skeletal muscles and WAT (White Adipose Tissue). Arginine was shown to promote muscle mass and development and reduced body fat accumulation in animals.
Most of you may not be aware of this, yet true there are two main varieties of fat – White fat and Brown fat. White fat is the one that accumulates fat while the Brown fat burns them.
Arginine modulates the expression of genes in a way to prevent White fat development and promote energy expenditure4. This boosts the metabolism which serves as the prime factor in treating obesity. Arginine not only reduces the growth of White fat but also stimulates the development of Brown fat by activating precursors that aid in its development.
The researchers found that l-arginine may be useful in treating central, or visceral obesity. Central obesity (also known as abdominal obesity, or belly fat) is linked to greater cardiometabolic risk than other types of obesity.
The pilot study measured the effects of three grams of L-arginine taken three times daily for 12 weeks on 20 nondiabetic obese women ages 18 to 40 years with BMI between 30 and 40.
The scientists found the amino acid’s weight-loss promoting powers promising. “L-Arginine may be effective at reducing central adiposity in obese patients,” wrote the study’s authors, after analyzing the results.
By improving blood flow in the body, some proponents claim that L-arginine may help heart conditions, such as chest pain (angina), high blood pressure, leg cramping and weakness due to obstructed arteries (a condition known as intermittent claudication), and erectile dysfunction (ED).
Some people use L-arginine to boost the immune system, improve athletic performance, shorten recovery time after surgery, and promote weight loss. L-arginine is also used for bodybuilding.
There’s also some evidence that L-arginine may help with interstitial cystitis and preeclampsia.
The same controlled human study found that Type 2 Diabetes patients consistently had lower levels of L-Arginine than healthy controls .
The patients once again had disrupted arginine metabolic pathways .
L-Arginine supplementation may be useful in restoring molecular imbalances in these patients.
Type 2 Diabetes causes oxidative stress and damage in patients.
What does L-arginine do sexually? A number of studies have shown that L-arginine is involved in the process of proper cell replication in addition to enhancing blood circulation.
This means that arginine benefits for men include improving both sperm production and motility.
Men who deal with cardiovascular problems tied to low levels of NO in the blood are more likely to suffer from erectile dysfunction and fertility issues, since an erection requires the relaxation of smooth muscles triggered by nitric oxide. While not effective for every man, research suggests that a significant percentage of male infertility cases (up to 92 percent, according to some studies) can be treated with L-arginine supplements combined with other dilators, antioxidants or anti-inflammatories.
L-arginine has some potential side effects to be aware of when taking it as a supplement. Some of the more common and benign side effects include:
- abdominal pain
- airway inflammation
- low blood pressure
- blood abnormalities
- worsening of asthma
However, L-arginine may result in some serious complications that must be considered.
L-arginine has some potentially serious risks for certain groups of people.
- serious illness or death in children and infants
- difficulty controlling blood pressure during surgery
- worsening of herpes flares
- increased risk of death after a heart attack
- negative interaction with certain medications, including Viagra and blood pressure medications
Although there are risks associated with L-arginine, most research indicates it is safe for people to take in small doses.
Moderation is the mother of good health and your body can take 3 to 6 grams at a time. Arginine could be taken up to 3 times in a day with a combined dose of 15-18 g. But taking more than 10 g of Arginine at a time could lead to gastrointestinal distress and diarrhea. L-Arginine could be found in red meat, dairy products, nuts, fish and poultry. It could also be taken as a supplement in the form of 500 mg capsules.