Arginine Improves Endothelial Function in Healthy Individuals Older Than 70 Years

The Durk Pearson & Sandy Shaw®
Life Extension NewsTM
Volume 8 No. 3 • July 2005

Arginine Improves Endothelial Function in Healthy Individuals Older Than 70 Years

As we explained in our last issue, mortality from cancer now exceeds mortality from heart disease except in those over 85.1 A new study2 found oral L-arginine to “partially correct severely depressed endothelial function in healthy individuals older than 70 years. This suggests a novel therapeutic strategy all the more because neither pravastatin nor vitamin E were [sic] effective in correcting endothelial function in asymptomatic men older than 70 years with moderate hypercholesterolaemia.”

The 12 subjects (eight men and four women) in the study were healthy, lifelong nonsmokers with no signs of cardiovascular disease and with a mean age of 73.8 years (70–78). The subjects were studied for the effects of oral arginine (8 grams twice daily) or placebo on endothelium-dependent, NO-mediated vasodilation, as indicated by flow-induced vasodilation in the brachial artery. “Flow-induced, NO-mediated vasodilation of the brachial artery was 2.65 ± 1.15% before L-arginine intake and 0.64 ± 0.89% before placebo intake [not significant] as compared with 11.00 ± 3.4% in healthy young subjects (p<0.01). Supplementation with oral L-arginine significantly enhanced endothelium-dependent vasodilation (to 5.73 ± 1.19%, p<0.05 versus baseline and p<0.0001 versus placebo); whereas placebo had no significant effect …” As the authors pointed out, the decline (from youthful levels) in endothelium-dependent vasodilation measured in this study is compatible with data from an earlier study3 showing a “gradual decline in FMD [flow-mediated vasodilation] with increasing age in 238 asymptomatic subjects aged 15–72 years without known atherosclerotic risk factors.”

The points to note are: (1) The endothelial function was severely depressed in these 12 healthy, nonsmoking subjects over 70 who were examined for and found to have no signs of cardiovascular disease. Hence “healthy” is a relative term, as the endothelial function (as explained in the previous paragraph) in the healthy 70+ year-olds would be considered seriously dysfunctional in the healthy young. (2) Oral L-arginine (8 grams twice a day) was effective in partially and significantly improving endothelial function.

We have been using an arginine + choline + vitamin B5 formulation for almost 30 years. We include choline and vitamin B5 in our formulation, though we haven’t seen these nutrients in other arginine formulations, because the vasodilatory response is mediated through acetylcholine as well as nitric oxide.4

In a separate paper,5 four weeks of oral supplemental L- arginine (7 grams three times a day) in 27 young hypercholesterolemic subjects aged 29 ± 5 years (19–40) significantly improved (compared to placebo) endothelium-dependent vasodilation (which improved from 1.7 ± 1.3 to 5.6 ± 3.0%).

  1. Twombly. News: cancer surpasses heart disease as leading cause of death for all but the very elderly. J Natl Cancer Inst 97(5):330-1 (2005).
  2. Bode-Boger et al. Oral L-arginine improves endothelial function in healthy individuals older than 70 years. Vasc Med 8:77-81 (2003).
  3. Celermajer et al. Aging is associated with endothelial dysfunction in healthy men years before the age-related decline in women. J Am Coll Cardiol 24:471-6 (1994).
  4. Ignarro et al. Endothelium-derived relaxing factor from pulmonary artery and vein possesses pharmacologic and chemical properties identical to those of nitric oxide radical. Circ Res 61:866-79 (1987).
  5. Clarkson et al. Oral L-arginine improves endothelium-dependent dilation in hypercholesterolemic young adults. J Clin Invest 97:1989-94 (1996).

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