Amino acid supplements are used to help people increase protein and hormone synthesis. Arginine and ornithine supplements can be used to boost your levels of these amino acids, but the metabolism of these amino acids can put strain on your kidneys. Talk to your doctor before taking arginine and ornithine supplements.
Arginine, Ornithine and Human Growth Hormone
Amino acids are the building blocks for proteins, but some of them are also needed to make hormones, including growth hormone. According to a 2005 article in the "International Journal of Sports Medicine," people may take ornithine and arginine supplements because these two amino acids are important for synthesizing human growth hormone. The theory is that taking supplements with these amino acids will cause the body to make more human growth hormone, though it has not been shown that increasing your intake of these amino acids actually affects the amount of human growth hormone in your body.
Amino Acid Metabolism
Some of the amino acids in your body are used to make proteins. However, when you have an excess of different amino acids, they are broken down. One chemical, known as urea, is produced as a byproduct of this reaction. Arginine and ornithine are notable for being important parts of a urea-generating set of reactions that also produce energy for the body. The increase in urea that occurs when amino acids are broken down is important for kidney disease.
Urea and Kidneys
When urea levels in your blood rise, your kidneys are responsible for removing this urea from your blood. Thus, consuming amino acid supplements can increase levels of urea in your blood, thus forcing your kidneys to work harder. Although the kidneys are normally able to adapt to this increased workload, if your kidneys are not functioning properly the added stress can actually speed up the progression of kidney disease.
In most cases, taking amino acid supplements will not damage your kidneys, the 2005 article in the "Journal of the International Society of Sports Medicine" notes. However, if you already have kidney problems such as kidney stones or renal tubular acidosis, you may want to avoid amino acid supplements. You should talk to your doctor before taking any sort of supplement, especially if you have health problems, such as high blood pressure or diabetes, that increase your risk of kidney disease.