Volume11, Issue 17 February 26, 2014
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The amino acid arginine provides the raw material for a short-lived molecule that is absolutely critical for normal vascular function. That molecule is nitric oxide (NO). I've written about NO in the past, but let me tell you a little more about it. There's an enzyme in the inner lining of your arteries that makes NO. Your body produces NO to dilate your small arteries.

This is important for your arterial function. Doctors measure arterial function by its elasticity. That means flexibility. You want your arteries to be pliable. Hardened arteries lead to the need for greater pressure to move blood. A recent study evaluated patients for a number of risk factors, including lipids, glucose, insulin, and arterial elasticity.

The study found large artery elasticity was significantly greater in patients treated with arginine than with a placebo. Vascular resistance (resistance to blood flow) was significantly lower in the arginine-treated patients. These improvements went together with lower systolic blood pressure and lower aldosterone levels. (Aldosterone is an adrenal hormone that can lead to higher blood pressure by making your kidneys hold on to sodium and water. Aldosterone will go up if your body requires a higher pressure.)

Arginine also provides the nitrogen source for nitric oxide. A lack of readily available arginine can impair your ability to make NO. The amino acid citrulline is another source of NO.

Of course, dietary sources are always my first choice. Arginine is found in nuts (walnuts, hazelnuts, pecans, Brazil nuts, almonds, cashews, soy, and peanuts), sunflower and sesame seeds, raisins, coconut, dairy, meat, garlic, and some grains (oats, brown rice, buckwheat, barley).

I am rather liberal with arginine supplements. I often recommend 500-1,000 mg up to three times per day for high blood pressure and vascular disease. There's one caveat. Arginine can trigger herpes (all kinds). So, if you do have a problem with herpes outbreaks, stop arginine and start taking lysine (1,000 mg three times daily). This will help neutralize the assistance arginine gives the virus to grow.

Another caveat is that arginine won't work for everyone. In fact, many patients over the age of 40 find that it has no impact on their blood pressure. If you are in this group, your body may not be able to convert the arginine into NO. In these cases, you'll want to take a supplement like CircO2, which converts to NO much faster and easier than arginine.

Arginine is cheap and readily available online and in health food stores.

Source:

Journal of Cardiovascular Pharmacology, June 7, 2010.

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