Who Should Be Cautious About Using Arginine?

Q Why is there a caution regarding diabetes on your arginine formulations, and is there an alternative if one is a diabetic?

JAMES, Florham Park, NJ

A Our arginine formulations are of value for many reasons, one of which is that they protect against prolonged and unusually high levels of oxidative stress, such as is experienced by those who do hard physical work or exercise for extended periods. This protection is also of value for people who have high blood glucose levels owing to insulin resistance or diabetes, which induces a lot of oxidative stress.

For safety’s sake, however, Durk Pearson and Sandy Shaw point out that a small percentage of diabetics exhibit increased glucose levels with arginine supplements. So if you are a diabetic, be sure to check your glucose response when using arginine-containing supplements—and by all means, work with your physician.

Finally, it may be unwise for certain people to use an arginine formulation. Based on a new paper in the Journal of the American Medical Association,1 Durk and Sandy recommend that people who have had a heart attack in the last year not use arginine-containing supplements without the approval of their physician. A group of elderly patients who had suffered heart attacks were given arginine supplementation, and a small but significant number of them died, causing the study to be terminated. The mechanism involved is not known. Until this matter is resolved, it would be prudent not to use arginine if you have had a heart attack in the last year.

Unfortunately, there is no alternative for an arginine formulation at this time.

Reference

  1. Schulman SP, Becker LC, Kass DA, Champion HC, Terrin ML, Forman S, Ernst KV, Kelemen MD, Townsend SN, Capriotti A, Hare JM, Gerstenblith G. L-Arginine therapy in acute myocardial infarction: the Vascular Interaction with Age in Myocardial Infarction (VINTAGE MI) randomized clinical trial. JAMA 2006;295(1):58-64.

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