The Benefits of L-Arginine

by Dr. Stephen Sinatra
Filed Under: Heart Health, Food and Nutrition, Nutrients and Additives
Last Reviewed 02/14/2014

The Benefits of L-Arginine

I've got to tell you, this nutrient is right up there with my other favorite cardiac nutrients—coenzyme Q10 and L-carnitine.

The amazing benefits of l-arginine extend broadly for both cardiovascular and overall health, including:

  • Lowering blood pressure;
  • Reducing blood stickiness in patients with high cholesterol; 
  • Improving blood flow in those with significant coronary artery disease; 
  • Reducing symptoms associated with claudication (pain, usually in the extremities due to a lack of blood flow); 
  • Relieving congestive heart failure and improved stamina; 
  • Stabilizing angina;
  • Improving the painful condition known as Raynaud's phenomenon (fingers become pale, occasionally turn blue in cold temperatures); and
  • Reversing impotence.

And on the heart front, specifically, L-arginine seems to know where exactly it is needed most.

Benefits of L-Arginine: Knowing the Good Guys from the Bad

Research has shown that in intravenous or supplement form, L-arginine supports the production of one of the good guys—endothelium-derived nitric oxide (EDNO).

EDNO is a potent substance that dilates blood vessels and allows more blood to course through them. It can even retard the development of heart disease, including hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis), the most serious form of heart disease.

Atherosclerosis, of course, is caused by the bad guys:

  • High LDL "bad"cholesterol and blood pressure,
  • Cigarette smoking (makes blood thick and raises fibrinogen and homocysteine levels),
  • Elevated levels of homocysteine, LP(a), fibrinogen and insulin.

All of these bad boys—alone or together—cause endothelial vasodilator dysfunction.

Unfortunately, endothelial vasodilator dysfunction may be well established before symptoms like angina appear. Who's vulnerable to endothelial vasodilator dysfunction? All of us, but those with a history of heart disease are at greatest risk. Those folks must preserve vasodilator activity with L-arginine (by the way, there are no drugs that significantly raise EDNO activity).

Where Do You Find L-Arginine?

The typical American diet contains about 5 grams of L-arginine. That sounds good, but wait—most of it comes from red meat, which is full of saturated fat, petrochemicals, radiation and other harmful substances. Nuts, eggs, tofu, tuna and salmon are far better food sources.

Even then, you can't get what you need from your diet to prevent or reverse endothelial vasodilator dysfunction. To get the 6 to 9 grams daily, you'd have to eat an enormous amount of food each day—a half pound of tuna or 2.5 pounds of tofu.

Which means, if you have heart disease, you must consider taking supplements for the full benefits of L-arginine to help stop the disease’s progression and arrest its hold on you.

L-arginine comes in pill or tablet form. Again, aim for 6–9 grams a day.

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