Also indexed as: L-Arginine
The amino acid arginine has several roles in the body, such as assisting in wound healing, helping remove excess ammonia from the body, stimulating immune function, and promoting secretion of several hormones, including glucagon, insulin, and growth hormone.
Dairy, meat and poultry, and fish are good sources of arginine. Nuts and chocolate also contain significant amounts of this amino acid.
Arginine has been used in connection with the following conditions (refer to the individual health concern for complete information):
|Science Ratings||Health Concerns|
Congestive heart failure
HIV support (in combination with glutamine and HMB)
Intermittent claudication (I.V. only)
Pre- and post-surgery health
Sickle cell anemia (for pulmonary hypertension)
Athletic performance (for body composition and strength)
Female infertility (for in vitro fertilization)
High blood pressure
and relatively consistent scientific data showing a substantial health benefit.
Contradictory, insufficient, or preliminary studies suggesting a health benefit or minimal health benefit.
For an herb, supported by traditional use but minimal or no scientific evidence. For a supplement, little scientific support and/or minimal health benefit.
Normally, the body makes enough arginine, even when it is lacking in the diet. However, during times of unusual stress (including infection, burns, and injury), the body may not be able to keep up with increased requirements.
Most people do not need to take extra arginine. While some people with serious infections, burns, or other trauma should take arginine, appropriate amounts must be determined by a doctor. Levels used in research vary considerably (2–30 grams per day). Most research on cardiovascular disease has used between 6 and 20 grams per day. Optimal intakes remain unknown and are likely to vary depending upon the individual.
For most people, arginine has so far appeared to be free of obvious side effects. However, longer-term studies are needed to confirm its safety.
In a double-blind study, supplementation with 9 grams of arginine per day for six months, beginning within 3 to 21 days after a heart attack, resulted in an increase in the mortality rate.1 Therefore, people who have recently suffered a heart attack should probably not take large amounts of arginine. Arginine is beneficial for other manifestations of heart disease, such as heart failure and angina. However, because of the potential for arginine to cause adverse effects in heart patients, people with heart disease should consult a doctor before taking arginine.
There have been two case reports of severe allergic reactions following intravenous administration of L-arginine;2 however, allergic reactions have not been reported after oral administration.
People with kidney or liver disease should consult their doctor before supplementing with arginine. Some doctors believe that people with herpes (either cold sores or genital herpes) should not take arginine supplements, because of the possibility that arginine might stimulate replication of the virus.
Administration of large amounts of arginine to animals has been found both to promote3 and to interfere with cancer growth.4 In preliminary research, high intake (30 grams per day) of arginine has increased cancer cell growth in humans.5 On the other hand, in people with cancer, arginine has been found to stimulate the immune system.6 At this time it remains unclear whether arginine is dangerous or helpful for people with cancer.
Arginine works with ornithine in the synthesis of growth hormone.
At the time of writing, there were no well-known drug interactions with arginine.
1. Schulman SP, Becker LC, Kass DA, et al. L-arginine therapy in acute myocardial infarction: the Vascular Interaction With Age in Myocardial Infarction (VINTAGE MI) randomized clinical trial. JAMA 2006;295:58–64.
2. Resnick DJ, Softness B, Murphy AR, et al. Case report of an anaphylactoid reaction to arginine. Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol 2002;88:67–8.
3. Park KGM. The immunological and metabolic effects of L-arginine in human cancer. Proc Nutr Soc 1993;52:387–401.
4. Takeda Y, Tominga T, Tei N, et al. Inhibitory effect of L-arginine on growth of rat mammary tumors induced by 7,12-dimethlybenz(a)anthracine. Cancer Res 1975;35:2390–3.
5. Park KGM. The immunological and metabolic effects of L-arginine in human cancer. Proc Nutr Soc 1993;52:387–401.
6. Brittenden J, Park KGM, Heys SD, et al. L-arginine stimulates host defenses in patients with breast cancer. Surgery 1994;115:205–12.
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The information presented in Healthnotes is for informational purposes only. It is based on scientific studies (human, animal, or in vitro), clinical experience, or traditional usage as cited in each article. The results reported may not necessarily occur in all individuals. For many of the conditions discussed, treatment with prescription or over the counter medication is also available. Consult your doctor, practitioner, and/or pharmacist for any health problem and before using any supplements or before making any changes in prescribed medications. Information expires September 2008.