Arginine Helps Treat Cardiovascular Disease

L-arginine has been known for its effects on metabolic functions for many years, and since its role as the substrate for the synthesis of nitric oxide (NO) was discovered at the tail end of the 1980s, arginine has ascended in value. This is due in part to the recognition that NO is an internal signaling molecule with potential therapeutic implications for cardiovascular disease. While levels of NO are derived in part from dietary sources, supplementation with arginine has proven its mettle for humans, beginning with initial studies in rabbits showing that it reduced atherosclerosis, and through studies in rats showing that it lowered arterial pressure in hypertension.

In a new study, conducted at the National School for Biological Sciences in Mexico, researchers investigated the effect of arginine supplementation on two groups of rats, one with induced hypercholesterolemia and the other with spontaneous hypertension. The scientists measured the infarcted area—tissue damaged by the blockage of blood supply—in cardiac tissue of both groups following the response to myocardial infarction in the ischemia-reperfusion (blood blockage and restoration to tissue) model.

Hypercholesterolemic rats supplemented with 170 mg/kg* of arginine were found to have a significant reduction in total cholesterol (25.2%) and LDL (27.8%), and spontaneously hypertensive rats supplemented with arginine showed a significant reduction (20.3%) in mean blood pressure. The index of the infarcted tissue, as a percentage of the entire heart tissue, in both hypercholesterolemic and hypertensive rats given arginine, evidenced a 36% and 29% of cardioprotective effect, respectively. That is significant. In the researcher’s conclusion, dietary supplementation with arginine may represent a potentially novel nutritional strategy for the treatment of cardiovascular disease.

* The human equivalent is 2.34 g for a 187 lb human.

  • Piñeiro V, Ortiz-Moreno A, Mora-Escobedo R, Hernández-Navarro MD, Ceballos-Reyes G, Chamorro-Cevallos G. Effect of L-arginine oral supplementation on response to myocardial infarction in hypercholesterolemic and hypertensive rats. Plant Foods Hum Nutr 2010 Jan 20. [Epub ahead of print]

Arginine Improves Vascular Endothelial Function

As we age, peripheral conduit and resistance arteries tend to diminish in their ability to effectively dilate due to endothelial dysfunction. This type of senescence of our vasculature leads to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. It has been established that the amino acid L-arginine plays a role in many physiological processes including immunocompetence, growth hormone secretion, nitrogen detoxification, and insulin secretion, and recently, substantial attention has focused on arginine’s ability to enhance vascular endothelial function.

In a new review conducted at the USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging, Tufts University, Boston, MA, the use of arginine as a novel nutritional strategy to potentially stave progression of vascular dysfunction with aging and CVD was studied. Chief among the investigation’s findings is the ability of arginine to dampen the vascular inflammation and systemic hormonal fluctuations, both of which are viewed to have an enhancement effect on vascular endothelial function.

  • Heffernan KS, Fahs CA, Ranadive SM, Patvardhan EA. L-Arginine as a nutritional prophylaxis against vascular endothelial dysfunction with aging. J Cardiovasc Pharmacol Ther 2010 Jan 6. [Epub ahead of print]

Arginine Protects Against Cellular
Oxidative Stress and Inflammation

Researchers at the Agricultural Biotechnology Research Center, Academia Sinica, Taipei, Taiwan recently showed that L-arginine supplementation can reduce acute exercise-induced oxidative and inflammatory stress in aging rats. In a new study, the question of whether arginine can protect against cellular oxidative stress, inflammation, or the mitochondrial gene deletion in 14-week-old young rat’s tissues during exhaustive exercise was investigated.

The rats were randomly divided into four groups: 1) sedentary control; 2) sedentary control with arginine treatment; 3) exhaustive exercise; and 4) exhaustive exercise with arginine treatment. The amount of supplemental arginine was 2% of diet. The two exercise groups, one without arginine and one with the amino acid, performed an exhaustive running test on a treadmill. There were increases in xanthine oxidase, myeloperoxidase activities, and lipid peroxide levels of muscular, hepatic, and renal tissues in exercised rats as compared with sedentary rats. All to the bad.

In the rats supplemented with arginine, xanthine oxidase, myeloperoxidase activities, and lipid peroxide levels were significantly decreased in exercised rats. However, exhaustive exercise had no effect on gene deletions of muscular and hepatic tissues. Other plasma values, encompassing a wide array of functional measures, were significantly increased in the exercised rats compared with the sedentary rats, while some of these were significantly decreased in arginine-supplemented exercised rats. Altogether, these findings suggest that arginine supplementation reduces oxidative damage and inflammatory response in skeletal muscles, the liver, and kidneys caused by exhaustive exercise in young rats. It might do the same for humans, and that’s an exciting prospect.

  • Huang CC, Lin TJ, Lu YF, Chen CC, Huang CY, Lin WT. Protective effects of L-arginine supplementation against exhaustive exercise-induced oxidative stress in young rat tissues. Chin J Physiol 2009 Oct 31;52(5):306-15.

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