Arginine is one of the amino acids produced in the human body by the digestion, or hydrolysis of proteins. Arginine can also be produced synthetically. Because it is produced in the body, it is referred to as "nonessential," meaning that no food or supplements are necessary for humans to ingest. Arginine compounds can be used in treating people with liver dysfunction due to its role in promoting liver regeneration.
In March 2000 in Newsweek magazine, Stephen Williams noted the newly discovered role arginine might play in treating people with chronic heart failure (CHF). The study, as reported in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology involved 40 patients who suffered from CHF. Rainer Hambrecht and colleagues from the University of Leipzig in Germany did the research by dividing the group into four sections. One group took 8 g of arginine daily for four weeks. A second took no supplement, but did daily forearm exercises. The third did both the exercises, and took the supplement daily. The fourth group was a control group and did nothing except taking their usual medication, as did the others. Because of the known fact that arginine is naturally converted into nitric oxide by the human body, the result of that chemical relaxing blood vessels was also known when the experiment began. The group that took the arginine alone showed an improvement in their blood-vessel dilation by four times, as did the group doing exercises alone. The third who did both, showed an increase six times better than the original blood-dilation factor. Promise in the future use of arginine in treating heart patients with this condition was indicated as researchers continued to perform further tests. According to an article by Liz Brown written in Better Nutrition in June 2000, also discussing the Leipzig study, "Numerous other studies have shown that arginine has a vadodilatory effect on people with high cholesterol levels, those with high blood pressure and others with compromised circulation associated with heart disease."
Other research in the use of arginine has indicated that arginine is crucial to the wound-healing process, particularly in the elderly for whom blood circulation is poor. Arginine is necessary for growth periods but not for body maintenance.
Benefits of the use of arginine as a supplement include:
Arginine is used as a supplement in the treatment of heart patients with arterial heart disease; as an intravenous supplement to patients with liver dysfunction; as a supplement for easing exercise-related pains due to the heart muscle not getting enough blood to circulate to the muscles in the calves. Supplements that combine arginine with other amino acids, such as ornithine and lysine, are purported to assist in muscle-building exercises by minimizing body fat and maximizing muscle tone. Results vary among those who have taken these supplements. Arginine is also present in "multi" amino acids capsules that are taken as a dietary supplement.
New information released in 2002 showed that treatment with arginine improved immune function in HIV patients and proved safe for these patients when used on a short-term patients. Other new research was finding that arginine supplements worked as an effective anticoagulant, but unlike aspirin and other anticoagulants, could prevent clotting without increasing stroke risk. New research also is showing arginine's effectivenss in fighting cancer and protecting and detoxifying the liver, improving male fertility, and promoting healing.
Jane Spehar, Teresa G. Odle, The Gale Group Inc., Gale, Detroit,