Arginine is an amino acid. Deficiencies of arginine are pretty rare. It’s abundant in many different types of foods, and your body can also make it. Arginine-rich foods include red meat, fish, poultry, wheat germ, grains, nuts and seeds, and dairy products (all inflammatory foods). But what does arginine do for the heart, and are there potential side effects?
Why Do We Need Arginine?
Arginine, also known as L-arginine, is involved in a number of different functions in the body including:
- Wound healing
- Helping the kidneys remove waste products from the body
- Maintaining immune and hormone function
- Dilating and relaxing the arteries
As a natural dietary supplement arginine is commonly used for its possible heart benefits; In the body, the amino acid arginine changes into nitric oxide (NO). Nitric oxide is a powerful neurotransmitter that helps blood vessels relax and also improves circulation.
Some evidence shows that arginine may help improve blood flow in the arteries of the heart. That may improve symptoms of clogged arteries, chest pain or angina, and coronary artery disease. However, there currently is no data on how the long-term use of arginine affects cholesterol or heart health. Since arginine may help arteries relax and improve blood flow, it may also help with erectile dysfunction.
It’s antagonistic to the amino acid Lysine, so supplementing should be checked with a healthcare professional in case of unbalancing these amino acids; for example sufferers of cold sores (herpes simplex virus) should make sure to include higher lysine-rich foods and lower arginine foods. People with systemic inflammation are also advised to check before supplementing. Our arginine supplements can be found here.