Arginine is one of the amino acids essential for the biosynthesis of proteins. It can be synthesized from glutamine in the body through citrulline, and is present in protein foods. It is an important precursor to nitric oxide and plays the most important role in its synthesis. Nitric oxide is a powerful free radical and a signalling protein in many biological processes, especially cardiovascular processes and immune response.
Arginine is classified as a semi-essential amino acid depending on the age of the individual. It is essential for babies who cannot synthesise the amino acid and thus, gain it from breast milk. The amino acid is semi-essential in older people. Some people are present with arginine deficiencies even though it is very rare.
Sources of L-Arginine
L-arginine can be found in all sources of protein in low levels. Meat, fish, dairy (eggs, milk), nuts (cashew nuts, macadamia nuts, walnuts, groundnuts, and hazelnuts), seeds (flaxseed, watermelon, sunflower seeds) and plants like oats, wheat, and brown rice.
L-arginine supplements are available for those who cannot naturally synthesize it or who have a deficiency and need a boost of arginine. This is especially true with patients who are trying to find alternative means to treat infertility, heart disease and polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS).
Effects of L-Arginine
Arginine relaxes the blood vessels of the heart, providing relief in patients who have cardiovascular problems associated with circulation. Patients with angina and arterial heart disease can benefit from a supplement of this amino acid. It can help to regulate high blood pressure and relieve hypertension.
Nitric oxide is a free radical and it helps in the mopping up of harmful toxins that the body comes in contact with. This makes it a powerful antioxidant, essential in slowing down the aging of the cells of the body.
L-arginine facilitate easier circulation and can cause dilation of blood vessels. This might be why it can ease migraines. It can also stimulate sustained erections in men and better vaginal lubrication in women as part of the boost in circulation. Thus, it can be part of the treatment for infertility in couples who seek alternative ways of having a baby.
4. Kidney Function
Optimal kidney function can be helped along with the use of arginine. It can aid the kidney to recover after surgery and help reduce inflammation.
5. Immune Function
Nitric oxide can stimulate the formation of new white cells and boost immune system function.
6. Wound Healing
Studies have shown that administering L-arginine after surgery lessens recovery time. Nitric oxide helps in wound healing by stimulating the formation of new cells and immune cells and prevents infection of the wound.
With more research and regulation, l-arginine shows promise as part of the medication for so many ailments. In the meantime, people can gain benefits by eating arginine-rich foods and taking supplements.
Arginine should be taken with caution as it is not for a cure-all. Patients who have asthma or who have had a prior heart attack should not be taking arginine.
Even though arginine supplements are still at the experimental stage, it could make the difference with people who are in dire need of the supplement. They should always be taken under supervision from a doctor.