Which Amino Acids Help Clean Arteries?

Atherosclerosis is the development of plaque along the arterial walls; plaque can narrow and stiffen the arteries, creating resistance to blood flow and affecting the transport of oxygen and other nutrients throughout the body. This can increase the risk of heart disease, heart attack and stroke. A diet high in fat and cholesterol can increase the level of cholesterol in the blood, which can accumulate within the blood vessels and develop into plaque. Dietary changes can improve atherosclerosis, and a few amino acids have shown promise in helping to reduce arterial plaque. Check with your health care provider before taking supplements.

A doctor is talking to a female patient. Credit: Wavebreakmedia Ltd/Wavebreak Media/Getty Images


A study published by the "American Journal of Clinical Nutrition" indicates a potential benefit in taking the amino acid L-carnitine to improve high-density lipoproteins and reduce triglycerides in the bloodstream. High-density lipoproteins, or HDL, are a "good" form of cholesterol. Not only do these lipids remove "bad" cholesterol from your blood, but they may also help to reduce plaque along the arterial walls. Triglycerides, meanwhile, are a form of fat that's also damaging to the arteries; high levels of triglycerides can result in a hardening of the arteries, which can restrict blood flow. Taking a supplement of L-carnitine may help to improve the health of your arteries, reducing the risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, heart attack and stroke.


A study, published in the "Proceedings in the National Academy of Sciences" in 2005 found that arginine might help clean your arteries. The study, conducted on rabbits, shows L-arginine can reverse the progression of atherosclerosis when taken in combination with L-citrulline and antioxidants. It appears that the combination of nutrients encourages relaxation of the blood vessels, which helps to improve blood flow. Further studies are necessary to determine whether the same benefit operates in humans, but results are promising.


The amino acid L-citrulline also appeared in the "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences" study. When L-citrulline was taken in combination with L-arginine and antioxidants, it generated the vasorelaxation response, thereby improving blood flow. Again, further study is necessary to determine whether the same effect proves valid in humans.

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