L-arginine is an amino acid, one of the several chemical substances that your body relies on to keep its vital processes running normally. It is semi-essential, meaning that your body is usually capable of producing sufficient amounts of L-arginine on its own, but may occasionally need supplementation. L-arginine plays a role in lowering the risk of several diseases that men are particularly prone to developing. It also helps boost certain aspects of physical performance, which can be a boon for athletes and fitness enthusiasts.
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L-arginine is used in a number of important functions within your body, MayoClinic.com explains. It helps in the injury healing process, helps the kidneys eliminate waste products from your system and supports your immune and hormonal functions. L-arginine is converted into nitric oxide within your body, a neurotransmitter that causes blood vessel relaxation or vasodilation. This effect can help treat a number of heart-related conditions. Symptoms of arginine deficiency include hair loss, delayed wound healing, constipation, skin rash and fatty liver.
Angina pectoris, also known as angina, denotes chest pains behind the breastbone. Though not a disease itself, it is the primary symptom of coronary heart disease. Angina develops when the heart’s blood vessels fail to get an adequate blood supply, and it is more common and intense in men than in women. Taking L-arginine supplements can help dilate the blood vessels, thereby decreasing the chest pain associated with angina and improving patients’ tolerance for exercise, MedlinePlus Supplements notes. However, this only treats the symptoms of the disease, not the root cause of the disorder itself.
Men with low nitrate levels in their blood or urine and who suffer from erectile dysfunction may benefit from treatment with L-arginine supplements, the Mayo Clinic reports. Preliminary studies have shown that regularly taking a combination of three drugs – L-arginine, yohimbine hydrochloride and glutamate – have a positive effect on patients with erectile dysfunction. Yohimbine is a known, FDA-approved treatment for this condition; therefore, the effects of L-arginine on its own are currently unclear, and more research on the subject is required.
A medical study done by Stephen Bailey et al. of Exeter University revealed a link between L-arginine and an improved capability in subjects to undergo prolonged exercise. Male volunteers between the ages of 19 and 38 years, after consuming a supplement containing L-arginine, experienced a significant boost in their stamina during high-intensity workouts in comparison to volunteers given a placebo beverage. The researchers concluded that the nitric oxide produced by L-arginine reduced the oxygen cost of exercise and led to a marked improvement in stamina.