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.
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.
Animal Sources of L-Arginine
- Dairy products
- Wild game
Vegetarian Sources of L-Arginine
- Wheat germ and flour
- Chick peas (a.k.a. garbanzo beans)
- Soybeans (cooked)
For more details and recipes, check out this article on foods high in arginine.
Health Benefits of L-Arginine
L-Arginine assists with a variety of biological functions inscluding:
- 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.