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Arginine is a non-essential amino acid, that is our body produces it from other molecules. However, it's been researched that it can become an essential amino acid in children. In some adults, there can be certain arginine deficiency like diabetic people, where arginine deterioration is higher. Arginine has become very popular among sportsmen as it is a nitric oxide precursor, one of the most vasodilating substances.

Unfortunately the requirements for this amino acid are not fully covered by the body itself. There are also specific situations such as growth phases, pregnancy, diseases or the requirements of athletes that neccesitate an increased supply of Arginine, given that this amino acid and its nitric oxide derivative have an essential role in so many metabolic processes.

Although this amino acid can be found in many plant foods and animals, its consumption as a supplement in powder or capsule form by athletes of all disciplines has increased in recent years due to the fact that it helps improve physical performance and promotes muscle development.

What is arginine and how is it used?

  • Arginine is a semi-essential amino acido produced by the body from food.
  • It is formed in the human body and detoxification of the body through urine.
  • Arginine is the only precursor of nitric oxide.
  • Arginine not only prevents thrombi in the blood vessels, but it also acts as a vasodilator, enhancing blood flow from the brain to the muscles of the male sexual organ.
  • Arginine is essential to the immune system, since it is involved in the release of norepinephrine, growth hormone and insulin.
  • It also helps in the development of tissue and muscle mass.
  • The deficiency occurs mainly in cases of high-performance sports, stress, smoking, growth phases or injury.
  • The main natural providers are dried fruit, vegetables, meat, fish, eggs and dairy products.

Effects of arginine

Without arginine the body cannot produce nitric oxide, which is a vital messenger for carrying out many functions of the body.

These essential functions include vasodilation, reduction of lumps in platelets and nerve cell transmission in the brain. This amino acid is also important for the immune system, since it stimulates the production of white blood cells in the blood and promotes the secretion of norepinephrine, insulin and growth hormone.

It also stimulates the synthesis of collagen and promotes quick healing of wounds. It plays an essential role in the detoxification of the body and ensures the elimination of excess ammonia in the urine.

Arginine is recommended for:

  • Arteriosclerosis
  • Dysfunction of blood vessels (endothelial dysfunction)
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Male fertility disorders
  • Diabetes
  • Glaucoma
  • High performance sports
  • Acidification of the body
  • Disorders of the immune system
  • Healing of wounds or injuries
  • Reducing the formation of nitric oxide
  • Maintain a healthy sexual function

The functions of arginine in the body

It is necessary in many physiological processes. These include the secretion of hormones (such as the production of the growth hormone) the body's toxic waste disposal and the functioning of the immune system.

Arginine is a raw chemical nitrogen (responsible for the dilation of the blood vessels) and is often used to promote a healthy sexual function.

The dietary supplements are very popular for their ability to eliminate free radicals, send signals to muscle cells to release growth hormone, help achieve healthy cholesterol levels and accelerate the metabolism of fats.

It also helps regulate the amount of salt in the body. For this reason it is of especial interest to bodybuilders, since the water stored under the skin gives a soft, turgid look to the muscles. Arginine is also essential due to its vasodilatory effect and its role in the synthesis of proteins, fundamental for muscle development.

What foods contain arginine?

It is present both in foodstuffs of animal origin and in protein-rich products of vegetable origin. The main foods containing arginine include peanuts, pine nuts, pumpkin seeds, legumes, eggs, dairy products, pork, chicken breast and fish.

How does an arginine deficiency show up?

  • Difficulty in wound healing 
  • Increased susceptibility to infections
  • Risk of atherosclerosis
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Decreased libido
  • Vascular function and blood circulation disorders

Arginine consumption and applications:

It can be generated in the body itself, but in limited quantities which are not sufficient to meet daily needs. The daily intake of arginine at a dose of 4-5 grammes is considered adequate to prevent a deficiency in the body and the onset of diseases.

With regard to pre-existing conditions such as circulatory disorders or atherosclerosis diseases, these amounts are insufficient. In addition, the body loses the ability to absorb adequate amounts of arginine at just the age when diseases begin to increase.

In these cases, experts recommend taking a dietary supplement of at least six grammes of arginine to fulfil the recommended daily dosage of this amino acid.

Who is arginine especially important for?

  • Athletes
  • Pregnant women
  • Adolescents and children in their developmental phase, as well as older people
  • For those undergoing surgery or suffering from serious injuries 
  • People with weakened immunological systems
  • Men with erectile dysfunction
  • Smokers
  • People with cardiovascular disease
  • People suffering from functional disorders of the blood vessels
  • People with an unbalanced diet
  • The chronically ill
  • Men seeking to improve their sexual function

According to experts on arginine:

1. Nobel Prize for Medicine

The scientists Robert F. Furchgott, Louis Ignarro and Ferid Murad, received the Nobel Prize in medicine for their study on the relationship between nitric oxide and a healthy cardiovascular system. Arginine is the only source of volatile nitric oxide in the body.

2. Effect on cardiac problems and cholestorol levels

According to Dr.Stefanie M. Bode-Boger of the Institute of clinical pharmacology of the University of Magdeburg, it has been shown in numerous studies that both larger doses and the use of small quantities of this amino acid improve vascular function on a long term basis. It can also be useful for patients suffering from vascular heart disorders (17 studies), patients with heart failure (39 tests), coronary heart disease (43 studies) and high cholesterol (20 studies).

Arginine side effects and interactions

Arginine dietary supplements taken in the recommended dosages are completely safe and have no side effects. Those suffering from herpes (herpes Labialis) should not take this amino acid as it may result in an outbreak. If you are taking any other medicines, are pregnant or suffering from low blood pressure, you should consult with your doctor before taking it.