Ornithine Health Benefits, Role and Side Effects

What is ornithine?

It is a non essential amino acid and is produced by the body.

Arginine is metabolized during urea production and is needed by the body as it acts as a precursor of citrulline, glutamic acid and proline.

Another primary role of this non essential amio acid is being an intermediate in amino acid arginine biosynthesis, although this is due to its role in the urea cycle (responsible for the production of urea).

Also, this non essential amino acid is not directly incorporated into proteins and enzymes and does not have a codon in the genetic code.

Health benefits

In clinical researches on people hospitalized for surgery, generalized infections, burns, cancer or trauma, supplementation with OKG (ornithine alpha-ketoglutarate) has been reported to produce several health beneficial effects.

A double-blind trial evaluated the beneficial effects of OKG supplementation in elderly people recovering from acute illnesses. The individuals who took 10 grams of OKG per day for 2 months had marked improvement in weight gain, stamina, appetite and quality of life in comparison with those taking the placebo. They also had faster recovery periods and required fewer home visits by doctors and nurses and needed fewer medications.

Research suggests that consuming this amino acid can help promote physical strength and endurance. For instance, a study published in 2008 issue of „Nutrition Research” established that healthy individuals who took extra L-ornithine experienced less exercise-induced fatigue than a placebo group.

The authors of the study, concluded that this amino acid promotes more efficient energy usage by cells, and they suggest it as an nutritional supplement to counteract fatigue.

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Food sources

It is predominantly found in meat, dairy, eggs, peanuts, soybeans and sesame seeds.

Ornithine side effects

No side effects have been recorded with the use of this amino acid, except for gastrointestinal distress with intakes over ten grams/day.

The presence of the amino acid arginine is needed to produce it in the body, so higher levels of arginine should increase ornithine production.

There is not enough reliable studies about the safety of taking this non essential amino acid if you are pregnant or breast-feeding.


Therapeutic dosages of it range from 10 to 30 grams per day. These higher dosages are usually used for accelerated healing of burns, wounds and recovering from infection.

Before taking nutritional supplements of L-ornithine, consult your doctor before using.


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