Arginine – Definition, Functions, Uses, Health Benefits, Top Foods, and Side Effects


It is a semi-essential amino acid for adults, but essential for infants, children, and adolescents in the period of growth as dietary intake and endogenous synthesis do not cover the daily requirement.

This is also true for people suffering from severe or recurrent infections, tumors, burns, or wounds difficult to heal, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, which justifies an additionally directed diet with this amino acid.

Important biological functions and uses:

  • As a precursor of the neurotransmitter nitric oxide (NO), under the action of NO-synthesis, arginine participates in the biosynthesis of NO, thereby assuming an important role play in the proper functioning of the endothelial vascular tone regulation, blood vessel dilatation, reduction of platelet aggregation, monocytes adherence to endothelial cells, the proliferation of smooth muscle cells (all involved in the development of atheroma);
  • With ornithine, citrulline and aspartic acid, it participates in the synthesis of urea in the liver, this way decreasing the ammonia concentration from the blood (detoxification);
  • Increases the immune competence of some immune cells (also the lymphocytes mitogenesis, the cytolytic capacity of macrophages and NK cells through the mediator molecule NO);
  • Contributes to the normal operating parameters within the central and peripheral nervous system (mediator molecule: NO);
  • Participating in the secretion of hormones (insulin, catecholamines, glucagon, prolactin, somatotropin, STH = growth hormone), it exhibits endogenous secretagogues action and improves hepatic and peripheral sensitivity to insulin receptors endogenous);
  • Participates in the synthesis of collagen, having a healing effect;
  • Contributes, via ornithine, to the synthesis of polyamines (spermine, a pliamin synthesized in the prostate acting stabilizing effect on sperm DNA);
  • Participates to the biosynthesis of creatine and ornithine;
  • Increases hepatic protein biosynthesis.

Contributes to:Arginine side effects

  • Liver regeneration and function;
  • Normalization of elevated ammonia;
  • The maintenance of vascular tone by normalizing the synthesis of nitric oxide;
  • The stimulating of endogenous insulin receptor sensitivity and glucose tolerance;
  • The maintenance of eye and cardiovascular health;
  • The improvement of erectile ability;
  • The improvement of spermatogenesis sperm counts and motility;
  • The improvement of fertility in men and women;
  • The improvement of athletic performance;
  • Removing ammonia from the body (waste) and stimulates the release of insulin;
  • Maintaining the health of children during growth.

Health Benefits of Arginine

Muscle growthmuscular man muscle

Many people lift weights to increase their muscle size and to amplify their strength. An exercise program of this kind is just the beginning of this process. There are many supplements that can help increase mass muscle, researchers confirming that this amino acid stimulates muscle growth.

Weight lossfat weight loss

Eating foods high in this amino acid helps to prioritize muscle-building over fat deposits. This will ultimately will lead to an overall weight loss, especially in a high-fat diet. In addition, recent studies support this idea.

The results of studies related to this amino acid

The study of the amino acid demonstrates that it may be effective in the management of bladder inflammation, relieves cramps and weakness in the legs caused by blockage of arteries (intermittent claudication), and improves kidney function in patients with kidney transplant and cyclosporine use.

In combination with ribonucleic acid and eicosapentaenoic acid (omega-3 fatty acid), it can decrease recovery time after illness, protects against infection and stimulates wound healing after surgery. However, there is still not sufficient evidence to evaluate the efficiency of the amino acid in the treatment of migraines, dementia, hypertension, and common colds.

It was confirmed that this amino acid can strengthen the immune system and improve athletic performance. On the other hand, this amino acid seems ineffective in preventing heart attack and treatment of preeclampsia.

Food Sourcesoat bran

The best sources are found in plants. They are also the most bio-available sources, from which assimilation reaches to the maximum percentage of this semi-essential amino acid.

Thereby, whole grains (such as – quinoa, oatmeal, oat bran, millet), cashew nuts, almond, Brazil nuts, coconut, seaweed, chickpeas, navy beans, red kidney beans, seeds of all kinds (such – chia seeds, flaxseeds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds), lentils, kale, and spinach are very good sources of it. But, the best of all is watermelon.

Scientists have discovered that when watermelon is consumed, citrulline is converted into arginine with the help of certain enzymes.

People begin to discover increasingly more encouraging things about goji berries, which is a very nutritious food. Goji also contains a high amount of amino acids, L-glutamine, and this amino acid, these two amino acids working together to stimulate the growth hormone, to revitalize the metabolism and to increase longevity.

Possible side effects of arginine

High doses of it can increase stomach acidity, favoring ulcers, or other disorders of the digestive system.

For safety reasons, it should be avoided by patients suffering from diabetes, people who have suffered a heart attack, pregnant or nursing women.

It is not to be used during treatment with nitrates, Vardenafil or Viagra.

The use of this amino acid may increase the rate of relapses in people infected with Herpes simplex virus type 1. They are liable to oral herpes recurrence, especially if the diet is rich in this amino acid and low in lysine.


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