L-arginine is an amino acid that holds a key role in maintaining several bodily functions. Amino acids are the main building blocks of proteins and are categorized into essential and non-essential. Non-essential amino acids are made in the system, but essential amino acids have to be supplemented through diet.
L-arginine is considered a semi-essential or conditionally essential amino acid, which means that it becomes essential under certain situations and conditions such as pregnancy, infancy, critical illness, and trauma. It’s required to produce nitric oxide, a signalling molecule that assists the functioning of several processes including blood circulation, mitochondrial function, and cellular communication.
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Furthermore, it also acts as a precursor to other amino acids like glutamate, proline, and creatine which are essential for the health and functioning of the immune system. While L-arginine is necessary for the production of T-cells, white blood cells play a crucial role in the immune response. As this amino acid performs several important functions in the body, a deficiency of L-arginine can hinder cellular and organ function which results in severe health consequences.
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Sources Of L-arginine
L-arginine is made in several ways, such as synthesized from the amino acid citrulline via the breakdown of body proteins or it can be obtained through dietary intake.
Some of the foods that are good sources of L-arginine include meat, poultry, dairy, nuts, soy products, and fish. The recommended daily intake of L-arginine from natural food sources is 4-6 grams. In addition, it can also be taken in the form of supplements, which are widely available as a liquid, capsule, and tablet both at the store and online.
Dive into this article to get an overview of L-arginine supplement’s uses and health benefits.
Potential Health Benefits
Promote Athletic Performance
A few studies have revealed that L-arginine supplements may uplift exercise performance by increasing the nitric oxide level in the system, which supports enhancing blood circulation and steady flow of oxygen to muscles. A small study suggests athletes who had taken L-arginine supplements had remarkably improved blood levels of nitric oxide and were able to exercise for a longer duration.
Controls Blood Pressure
The L-arginine supplement is highly beneficial for those with uncontrolled blood pressure. Several studies have shown that taking L-arginine supplements may significantly reduce both systolic and diastolic blood pressure values. It works by promoting the production of nitric oxide, which is vital for relaxing the cells that make up blood vessels and also regulating blood pressure.
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Manage Critical Illness
L-arginine is an essential amino acid required when the body’s immune function is compromised due to infection and trauma, where the arginine needs increase tremendously due to physiological demands. During these situations, the body cannot meet the demand, and L-arginine has to be supplemented by external sources.
L-arginine depletion during serious illness or post-surgery results in severe side effects including impaired immune response and blood flow. Thus, supplementing with this essential amino acid may help in decreasing the negative impacts of trauma or critical illness.
Evidence reveals that L-arginine may be valuable for diabetes by promoting glucose metabolism and insulin sensitivity. As it helps in the production of nitric oxide, which plays a key role in cellular function and how the body responds to insulin, the hormone that helps the body to take blood sugar from the blood into cells, to be used for energy. Thus, a good supply of nitric oxide may help diabetic patients to regulate insulin secretion and prevent blood sugar spikes. Moreover, research also discloses that long-term supplementation with L-arginine may prevent diabetes among risk groups.
Treats Erectile Dysfunction: Taking L-arginine supplements has helped men with erectile dysfunction by improving the blood flow to the penis and alleviating the symptoms.
Promotes Blood Circulation: Several studies reveal that L-arginine supplements may promote blood vessel function and proper blood flow to vital organs.
Prevents Preeclampsia: Studies suggest that treatment with L-arginine during pregnancy may avert the risk of preeclampsia.
Research has shown that L-arginine is safe and well tolerated when taken in the form of a supplement regularly over a longer duration of 1 year or more. However, if taken in large doses it can cause some side effects like bloating, stomach pain, nausea, and diarrhoea.
Though it has a science-backed safety profile, L-arginine supplements should be avoided by those suffering from asthma, cirrhosis, kidney disease, low blood pressure, and an inherited disorder guanidinoacetate methyltransferase deficiency that affects the metabolism of this amino acid and may lead to adverse effects.