Arginine

Overview

Arginine is synthesized in the body from glutamic acid. Although it is not an essential amino acid, it is frequently referred to as a conditionally-essential amino acid because some individuals may have difficulty producing enough to meet their body’s demands. The body requires substantially greater amounts of arginine during times of trauma and wound healing.

Dosage Info

Dosage Range

From 500mg – 6 grams daily.

Most Common Dosage

3 grams, 2 times daily.

Dosage Forms

Capsules, tablets, and powder.

Adult RDI

None established

Adult ODA

None established

RDA

  • : None established

Interactions and Depletions

Interactions

Active Forms

L-arginine

Absorption

Arginine is absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract however, studies with arginine loading indicate that arginine is one of the more poorly absorbed amino acids.

Toxicities & Precautions

General

Arginine is generally quite safe.

Side Effects

Large doses may induce a watery diarrhea. (1)

Functions in the Body

Urea Cycle:

Arginine’s primary function is in the urea cycle, which is the biochemical pathway that metabolizes protein and nitrogen. (2) This pathway helps convert nitrogen-containing compounds into urea for excretion via the kidneys. (3)

Metabolism:

Arginine is necessary for the synthesis of DNA, polyamines, and creatine. (4)

Hormonal regulation:

Arginine reportedly facilitates the secretion of human growth hormone (HGH), glucagon, insulin, and prolactin. (5)

Blood Vessels and Circulation:

Arginine is also the precursor of nitric oxide, which is a substance that helps dilate blood vessels and improves circulation. (6)

Immunity:

Nitric oxide (NO), which is produced from arginine, has effects on regulating several aspects of immune function. Treatment with arginine increases the production of CD3 and CD4 and also increases the ration of CD4/CD8 T-cell subsets, which is an indication of increased immune system defense. (7)

Clinical Applications

Increase Endurance

A trial involving thirty-six stable outpatients with coronary artery disease and class II or III angina was designed to determine if supplementation with L-arginine may benefit patients with stable angina. L-arginine enriched medical food bars or placebo bars were consumed two times a day for two weeks. The arginine rich medical food used with traditional medical therapy improved blood vessel dilation, treadmill exercise time and scores measuring quality-of-life. (8) A randomised double-blind cross-over study involving 21 patients with stable congestive heart failure were supplemented with L-arginine. The results were that the arginine seemed to enable the patients to prolong exercise duration. (9)

Elevated Cholesterol

Individuals ingesting 17 grams of arginine daily for 17 days lowered elevated cholesterol and LDL levels, with no changes in HLD, which resulted in an overall improvement in the ratio of HDL to LDL cholesterol. (10)

Growth Hormone Stimulation

Arginine is a secretagogue that increases GH secretion from the hypothalamus. Arginine supplementation has been used successfully to counteract the inhibitory effect of both glucose (11) and immunosuppressive glucocorticoid drug therapy (12) on growth hormone secretion. In a study, researchers found that patients administered with arginine had increased growth hormone secretion. (13)

Increasing Lean Body Mass

In a 5-week double-blind trial, individuals engaged in a strength training program who ingested arginine and ornithine registered significant increases in total strength and lean body mass compared to placebo controls. (14)

Surgery And Wound Healing

Two weeks of arginine supplementation at doses ranging from 17 to 25 grams daily resulted in increased collagen synthesis, indicating that arginine may be clinically beneficial for increasing the rate of wound healing. (15) , (16) Postsurgical patients given arginine experienced improved healing rates and decreased length of stay in the hospital. (17)

Male Infertility

In males with normal sperm count but decreased sperm motility, oral arginine supplementation for 6 months significantly increased sperm motility without any side effects. (18)

Angina

Nitric oxide is a substance that helps dilate blood vessels and improves circulation. Arginine is a precursor of nitric oxide. (19) A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover trial involving thirty-six stable outpatients with coronary artery disease and class II or III angina was designed to determine if supplementation with L-arginine may benefit patients with stable angina. L-arginine enriched medical food bars or placebo bars were consumed two times a day with each period lasting two weeks. The arginine rich medical food in conjunction with traditional therapy improved flow-mediated vasodilation, treadmill exercise time and quality-of-life scores from two measures without affecting electrocardiographic manifestations of ischemia or angina onset time. (20)

Recurrent infections

L-arginine enhances the immune system in children with recurrent infections. A placebo-controlled trial was conducted in children ranging in age from 2 to 13 years old who suffered from recurrent infections. 15 of 20 children treated with arginine remained infection-free whereas only 5 of 20 placebo-treated children had cessation of infections. (21)

Symptoms and Causes of Deficiency

Most people are usually able to make adequate amounts of arginine, so supplementation is seldom necessary. However, conditions of extreme stress such as burns, infections, or other types of trauma greatly increase the body’s need for arginine. Symptoms of arginine deficiency include hair loss, poor wound healing, rash, constipation, and liver abnormalities.

Dietary Sources

The best dietary sources of arginine are meat, nuts, eggs, milk, and cheese.

References

  1. View Abstract: Langkamp-Henken B, et al. Arginine supplementation is well tolerated but does not enhance mitogen-induced lymphocyte proliferation in elderly nursing home residents with pressure ulcers. J Parenter Enteral Nutr. Sep2000;24(5):280-7.
  2. View Abstract: Arias A, Garcia-Villoria J, Ribes A. Guanidinoacetate and creatine/creatinine levels in controls and patients with urea cycle defects. Mol Genet Metab. Jul2004;82(3):220-3.
  3. Baynes J, Dominiczak MH. Medical Biochemistry. New York: Mosby; 1999:222-224.
  4. View Abstract: Visek WJ. Arginine needs, physiological state and usual diets. A reevaluation. J Nutr. Jan1986;116(1):36-46.
  5. View Abstract: Wu G, Meininger CJ. Arginine nutrition and cardiovascular function. J Nutr. Nov2000;130(11):2626-9.
  6. View Abstract: Cheng JW, Balwin SN. L-arginine in the management of cardiovascular diseases. Ann Pharmacother. Jun2001;35(6):755-64.
  7. View Abstract: Baligan M, Giardina A, Giovannini G, et al. L-arginine and immunity. Study of pediatric subjects. Minerva Pediatr. Nov1997;49(11):537-42.
  8. View Abstract: Maxwell AJ, Zapien MP, Pearce GL, MacCallum G, Stone PH. Randomized trial of a medical food for the dietary management of chronic, stable angina. J Am Coll Cardiol. Jan2002;39(1):37-45.
  9. View Abstract: Bednarz B, Jaxa-Chamiec T, Gebalska J, Herbaczynska-Cedro K, Ceremuzynski L. L-arginine supplementation prolongs duration of exercise in congestive heart failure. Kardiol Pol. Apr2004;60(4):348-53.
  10. View Abstract: Hurson M, et al. Metabolic Effects of Arginine in a Healthy Elderly Population. J Parenter Enteral Nutr. May1995;19(3):227-30.
  11. View Abstract: Ghigo E, et al. Arginine Abolishes the Inhibitory Effect of Glucose on the Growth Hormone Response to Growth Hormone-releasing Hormone in Man. Metabolism. Sep1992;41(9):1000-03.
  12. View Abstract: Giustina A, et al. Arginine Normalizes the Growth Hormone (GH) Response to GH-releasing Hormone in Adult Patients Receiving Chronic Daily Immunosuppressive Glucocorticoid Therapy. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. Jun1992;74(6):1301-05.
  13. View Abstract: Coiro V, Volpi R, Capretti L, et al. Inhibition of Growth Hormone Secretion in Mild Primary Hyperparathyroidism. Horm Res. Jul2004;62(2):88-91.
  14. View Abstract: Elam RP, et al. Effects of Arginine and Ornithine on Strength, Lean Body Mass and Urinary Hydroxyproline in Adult Males. J Sports Med Phys Fitness. Mar1989;29(1):52-56.
  15. View Abstract: Barbul A, et al. Arginine Enhances Wound Healing and Lymphocyte Immune Responses in Humans. Surgery. Aug1990;108(2):331-36.
  16. View Abstract: Williams JZ. Nutrition and wound healing. Surg Clin North Am. 2003 Jun;83(3):571-96.
  17. View Abstract: De Luis DA, Izaola O, Cuellar L, Terroba MC, Aller R. Randomized clinical trial with an enteral arginine-enhanced formula in early postsurgical head and neck cancer patients. Eur J Clin Nutr. May2004.
  18. View Abstract: Scibona M, et al. L-arginine and Male Infertility. Minerva Urol Nefrol. Dec1994;46(4):251-53.
  19. View Abstract: Cheng JW, Balwin SN. L-arginine in the management of cardiovascular diseases. Ann Pharmacother. Jun2001;35(6):755-64.
  20. View Abstract: Maxwell AJ, Zapien MP, Pearce GL, MacCallum G, Stone PH. Randomized trial of a medical food for the dietary management of chronic, stable angina. J Am Coll Cardiol. Jan2002;39(1):37-45.
  21. View Abstract: Baligan M, Giardina A, Giovannini G, et al. L-arginine and immunity. Study of pediatric subjects. Minerva Pediatr. Nov1997;49(11):537-42.