Arginine is one of the 20 amino acids that act as the building blocks of all the proteins in your body. You can obtain arginine from meat, seafood, eggs, nuts, whole grains and tofu. To a limited extent, your own body can also manufacture arginine on its own. Like most other amino acids and proteins, arginine plays a number of vital functions in your body. Notably, arginine is a raw material in the synthesis of nitric oxide in blood vessels. Nitric oxide is a potent substance that relaxes blood vessels to improve blood flow to vital organs such as the heart. It is produced with the help of an enzyme called nitric oxide synthase. Arginine is also heavily involved in the removal of nitrogenous wastes from the body. It is a key component of the urea cycle, an important metabolic pathway that converts very toxic molecules of ammonia into relatively non-toxic molecules of urea. Furthermore, this amino acid is said to play a role in promoting good wound healing and in stimulating the immune system.
Some studies suggest that arginine supplementation can improve symptoms of chest pain and angina by markedly improving blood flow in the coronary arteries. Another potential cardiovascular benefit of arginine includes its role in lowering blood pressure. If your leg arteries are already clogged by atherosclerosis, it is recommended to have a regular consumption of foods rich in arginine, because this amino acid reduces claudication and leg cramping. It is likely that the cardiovascular benefits of arginine are due to its ability to promote synthesis of nitric oxide.
Sexual Function Benefits
If you are part of the estimated 40 percent of women or 30 percent of men who suffer from sexual dysfunction, you can derive some improvements in your sexual function with regular arginine supplementation. Scientists believe that nitric oxide is not only essential in promoting good blood circulation, but is also important in maintaining normal sexual function in both men and women.
Since nitric oxide generally relaxes arteries, it can improve blood flow to the genital area to help the penis enlarge to its full capacity to improve the size, hardness and frequency of erections. Good blood flow also makes the clitoris and vagina more sensitive to sexual stimulation, and this could help reach orgasm. A study among postmenopausal women showed that takers of arginine supplements had better sexual satisfaction and reduced vaginal dryness.
Weight Loss Benefits
Researchers who conducted a study in rats were able to show that arginine supplementation prevented significant weight gain among rats fed with high-calorie diets. It appears that arginine enhances the muscles’ ability to use calories more efficiently, so that excess calories do not become stored as fats. Arginine supplementation was found to be effective in lowering levels of triglycerides in blood.
Arginine was also found to increase the uptake of branched chain amino acids (valine, leucine and isoleucine) in muscles. These amino acids play important roles in increasing weight loss, and in improving the bulk and strength of developing muscles.