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What is L-Arginine?

L-Arginine is a form of arginine, and is counted amongst the 20 common amino acids. It is considered nonessential amino acid, since the body can produce it. However, it may be a conditionally essential amino acid, or a semiessential amino acid, based upon the individual patient. In the case of preterm infants, who are not capable of meeting the required amount, arginine is considered nutritionally essential. If a person has poor nutrition including a very low intake of L-Arginine, then the production by the body may not be sufficient to cover its needs.

This is the molecular structure of arginine
This is the molecular structure of arginine. Source

Natural Sources of L-Arginine

L-Arginine has many natural sources. Since the body may not produce ample amounts in all cases, individuals whose nutrition is poor may benefit from eating more foods containing L-Arginine. This may be the case for certain other groups as well. Natural sources of this amino acid include both animal and plant-based foods.

For more details and recipes, check out this article on foods high in arginine.

Animal Sources of L-Arginine
  • Dairy products
  • Beef
  • Pork
  • Poultry
  • Wild game
  • Seafood
Vegetarian Sources of L-Arginine
  • Wheat germ and flour
  • Buckwheat
  • Granola
  • Nuts
  • Oatmeal
  • Seeds
  • Chick peas (a.k.a. garbanzo beans)
  • Soybeans (cooked)
  • Chocolate

Health Benefits of L-Arginine

L-Arginine assists with a variety of biological functions including:

  • Cell division
  • Decreased blood pressure
  • Immune function improvement
  • Improved insulin sensitivity
  • Improved sperm production and movement
  • Increased circulation
  • Increased muscle mass
  • Precursor for nitric oxide synthesis
  • Removal of ammonia from body
  • Reduced body fat (adipose tissue)
  • Reduced heart disease risk
  • Reduced injury healing time (especially in bones)
  • Stimulation of release of growth hormone (anti-aging hormone)
  • Wound healing
Side Effects of L-Arginine

Although there are not many known side effects of L-Arginine, it is good to consider cautions that are based upon research, such as one known clinical trial. Patients may not want to take L-Arginine supplements after a heart attack, as a clinical trial noted that more patients taking the supplements died than those who took the placebo.

L-Arginine does not typically have known side effects when taken naturally. One presumed side effect to be cautious against was discovered during a clinical trial. An L-Arginine supplement was given to some patients following a heart attack, and in the end it did not improve vascular tone or the ability of the patients’ hearts to pump. On the other hand, more patients taking L-Arginine died than did those taking only a placebo. The study was halted, and a recommendation against the use of the supplement by heart attack victims was prescribed.