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Arginine - Benefits, Deficiency Symptoms And Food Sources

What is Arginine ?

Arginine is a non-essential amino acid and is abundant in protamines and histones - both proteins associated with nucleic acids and was first isolated in 1895 from animal horn. Newborns may produce this amino acid too slowly and for them arginine should be seen as an essential amino acid. Arginine is used by the body to make nitric oxide, a substance that relaxes blood vessels.

Arginine is required in muscle metabolism - maintaining the nitrogen balance, and helping with weight control since it facilitates the increase of muscle mass, while reducing body fat. This amino acid can be produced in the body; however, in newborn infants, production may not occur quickly enough to keep up with requirements. It is therefore deemed essential early in life.

Uses and Benefits of Arginine

Arginine retards the growth of tumors and cancer by enhancing immune function. It increases the size and activity of the thymus gland, which manufactures T lymphocytes (T cells), crucial components of the immune system. Arginine may therefore benefit those suffering from AIDS and malignant diseases that suppress the immune system. It is also good for liver disorders such as cirrhosis of the liver and fatty liver; it aids in liver detoxification by neutralizing ammonia. It may reduce the effects of chronic alcohol toxicity. Seminal fluid contains arginine. Studies suggest that sexual maturity may be delayed by arginine deficiency; conversely, arginine is useful in treating sterility in men. It is found in high concentrations in the skin and connective tissues, making it helpful for healing and repair of damaged tissue.

Arginine is important for muscle metabolism. It helps to maintain a proper nitrogen balance by acting as a vehicle for transportation and storage, and aiding in the excretion, of excess nitrogen. Studies have shown that it also reduces nitrogen losses in people who have undergone surgery, and improves the function of cells in lymphatic tissue. This amino acid aids in weight loss because it facilitates an increase in muscle mass and a reduction of body fat. It is also involved in a variety of enzymes and hormones. It aids in stimulating the pancreas to release insulin, is a component of the pituitary hormone vasopressin, and assists in the release of growth hormones. Because arginine is a component of collagen and aids in building new bone and tendon cells.

Recommended Dosage of Arginine

A typical dosage of arginine is 2 to 3 g of arginine per day. Higher dosages may cause thickening or coarsening of the skin, but this can be remedied by reducing the dose. Children should not take L-Arginine supplements (due to its influence on normal growth and development).

Deficiency Symptoms of Arginine

A variety of functions, including insulin production, glucose tolerance, and liver lipid metabolism, are impaired if the body is deficient in arginine.

Rich Food Sources of Arginine

Foods high in arginine include carob, chocolate, coconut, dairy products, gelatin, meat, oats, peanuts, soybeans, walnuts, white flour, wheat, and wheat germ.


People with viral infections such as herpes should not take supplemental arginine, and should avoid foods rich in arginine and low in the amino acid lysine (see below), as this appears to promote the growth of certain viruses. L -Arginine supplements should be avoided by pregnant and lactating women. Persons with schizophrenia should avoid amounts over 30 milligrams daily. Long-term use, especially of high doses, is not recommended. One study found that several weeks of large doses may result in thickening and coarsening of the skin.

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