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A Summary of Arginine

We take a look at dietary supplement Arginine


Arginine was first isolated from the extract of lupin seedlings by the German chemist Ernst Schultze in 1886.

Arginine in nature

Arginine is found naturally in a variety of foods, including turkey, pork, chicken, pumpkin seeds, soybeans, peanuts, spirulina, chickpeas, and lentils.

Potential health benefits

Arginine (also known as L-Arginine) is an important amino acid found in food and is one of three compounds that create creatine, a molecule involved in the cellular energy system that produces adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the molecule that provides the energy used by our cells. In both humans and mammals, approximately 80% of the nitrogen excreted is in the form of urea, which is produced via a series of reactions occurring in the liver. These reactions are collectively called the urea cycle or the Krebs-Henseleit cycle. Arginine is an intermediary in the urea cycle with L-ornithine, L-citrulline, and argininosuccinate [1]. Ammonia is produced as part of nitrogen metabolism and is toxic, so it is removed from our bodies. The urea cycle converts ammonia into urea in the liver; it then enters the bloodstream, is filtered by the kidneys, and then excreted as urine.

Arginine plays an essential role in this chain of events, facilitating the removal of ammonia from the body. Arginine is also a popular sports supplement used by athletes, as it directly produces nitric oxide via the nitric oxide synthase enzymes. However, this effect seems to be inconsistent; while there have indeed been studies that have shown an increase of nitric oxide, other studies have shown no effect whatsoever [2-3]. This inconsistency may result from the poor absorption of arginine by the intestines. L-Citrulline is a possible alternative that has superior absorption and increases levels of arginine at a higher level and a longer duration than L-Arginine supplementation.

However, despite the unreliable results, arginine persists as a favorite for sports and athletics enthusiasts. Arginine helps to produce the byproduct agmatine, a signaling molecule shown to regulate multiple molecular targets, including neurotransmitters and ion channels. Agmatine also plays a role in nitric oxide (NO) synthesis in combination with ornithine and argininosuccinate, which widens and relaxes the blood vessels, improving blood flow.

In a research study, a combination of arginine and citrulline in patients with hypertension reduced systolic and diastolic blood pressure in both ankle and brachial measurements [4]. Another study looked at patients with peripheral artery disease, and it showed that an infusion of arginine was able to double blood flow to extremities [5]. Impressively, it performed on par with prostaglandin E1, a commercial drug designed to induce vasodilation (widening of the blood vessels). A significant increase of nitric oxide was also noted during the study. In a follow-up study, these benefits were observed with oral supplementation of arginine as well [6].

There is some suggestion that nitric oxide signaling might also have a role in aging, mainly due to inflammation. Inflammation increases levels of inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS), resulting in increased oxidative byproducts, such as peroxynitrite, which causes neurotoxicity [7]. More research is needed in this area before we have a complete picture of its role in the aging process, but it is likely a downstream effect of the primary aging processes.


This article is only a very brief summary, is not intended as an exhaustive guide, and is based on the interpretation of research data, which is speculative by nature. This article is not a substitute for consulting your physician about which supplements may or may not be right for you. We do not endorse supplement use or any product or supplement vendor, and all discussion here is for scientific interest.


[1] Guoyao, W. U., & Morris, S. M. (1998). Arginine metabolism: nitric oxide and beyond. Biochemical Journal, 336(1), 1-17.

[2] Liu, T. H., Wu, C. L., Chiang, C. W., Lo, Y. W., Tseng, H. F., & Chang, C. K. (2009). No effect of short-term arginine supplementation on nitric oxide production, metabolism and performance in intermittent exercise in athletes. The Journal of nutritional biochemistry, 20(6), 462-468.

[3] Bailey, S. J., Winyard, P. G., Vanhatalo, A., Blackwell, J. R., DiMenna, F. J., Wilkerson, D. P., & Jones, A. M. (2010). Acute L-arginine supplementation reduces the O2 cost of moderate-intensity exercise and enhances high-intensity exercise tolerance. Journal of Applied Physiology, 109(5), 1394-1403.

[4] Figueroa, A., Sanchez-Gonzalez, M. A., Wong, A., & Arjmandi, B. H. (2012). Watermelon extract supplementation reduces ankle blood pressure and carotid augmentation index in obese adults with prehypertension or hypertension. American journal of hypertension, 25(6), 640-643.

[5] Bode-Böger, S. M., Böger, R. H., Alfke, H., Heinzel, D., Tsikas, D., Creutzig, A., … & Frölich, J. C. (1996). L-Arginine induces nitric oxide–dependent vasodilation in patients with critical limb ischemia. Circulation, 93(1), 85-90.

[6] Böger, R. H., Bode-Böger, S. M., Thiele, W., Creutzig, A., Alexander, K., & Frölich, J. C. (1998). Restoring vascular nitric oxide formation by L-arginine improves the symptoms of intermittent claudication in patients with peripheral arterial occlusive disease. Journal of the American College of Cardiology, 32(5), 1336-1344.

[7] Calabrese, V., Mancuso, C., Calvani, M., Rizzarelli, E., Butterfield, D. A., & Stella, A. M. G. (2007). Nitric oxide in the central nervous system: neuroprotection versus neurotoxicity. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 8(10), 766-775.

CategoryNews, Supplements
About the author

Steve Hill

Steve serves on the LEAF Board of Directors and is the Editor in Chief, coordinating the daily news articles and social media content of the organization. He is an active journalist in the aging research and biotechnology field and has to date written over 600 articles on the topic, interviewed over 100 of the leading researchers in the field, hosted livestream events focused on aging, as well as attending various medical industry conferences. His work has been featured in H+ magazine, Psychology Today, Singularity Weblog, Standpoint Magazine, Swiss Monthly, Keep me Prime, and New Economy Magazine. Steve is one of three recipients of the 2020 H+ Innovator Award and shares this honour with Mirko Ranieri – Google AR and Dinorah Delfin – Immortalists Magazine. The H+ Innovator Award looks into our community and acknowledges ideas and projects that encourage social change, achieve scientific accomplishments, technological advances, philosophical and intellectual visions, author unique narratives, build fascinating artistic ventures, and develop products that bridge gaps and help us to achieve transhumanist goals. Steve has a background in project management and administration which has helped him to build a united team for effective fundraising and content creation, while his additional knowledge of biology and statistical data analysis allows him to carefully assess and coordinate the scientific groups involved in the project.
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