Are arginine and diabetes inimical?

Q Why must a diabetic not use an arginine-containing product?

ELENO, Shawnee, KS

A If you are diabetic or borderline diabetic you may exhibit increased glucose levels with arginine supplements. That’s why there is a caution.

On the other hand, Arginine can have a wide variety of beneficial effects for diabetics.1–10 In large enough amounts, however, it can stimulate the release of growth hormone, and growth hormone can increase the level of a protein called insulin-like growth factor-I (IGF-I), which could interfere with insulin’s efficacy in the body. For those who have diabetes, borderline diabetes, or insulin resistance, it is useful to work with a qualified physician when using arginine.

On the other hand again, a new study has found that arginine (6.6 g) in the form of a biscuit enhanced endothelial function and improved glucose metabolism, insulin sensitivity, and insulin secretion in subjects with impaired glucose tolerance and metabolic syndrome.11


  1. Lucotti P, Setola E, Monti LD, Galluccio E, Costa S, Sandoli EP, Fermo I, Rabaiotti G, Gatti R, Piatti P. Beneficial effects of a long-term oral L-arginine treatment added to a hypocaloric diet and exercise training program in obese, insulin-resistant type 2 diabetic patients. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab 2006;291(5):E906-12.
  2. 2.Regensteiner JG, Popylisen S, Bauer TA, Lindenfeld J, Gill E, Smith S, Oliver-Pickett CK, Reusch JE, Weil JV. Oral L-arginine and vitamins E and C improve endothelial function in women with type 2 diabetes. Vasc Med 2003;8(3):169-75.
  3. Kawano T, Nomura M, Nisikado A, Nakaya Y, Ito S. Supplementation of L-arginine improves hypertension and lipid metabolism but not insulin resistance in diabetic rats. Life Sci 2003;73(23):3017-26.
  4. Huynh NT, Tayek JA. Oral arginine reduces systemic blood pressure in type 2 diabetes: its potential role in nitric oxide generation. J Am Coll Nutr 2002;21(5):422-7.
  5. Piatti PM, Monti LD, Valsecchi G, Magni F, Setola E, Marchesi F, Galli-Kienle M, Pozza G, Alberti KG. Long-term oral L-arginine administration improves peripheral and hepatic insulin sensitivity in type 2 diabetic patients. Diabetes Care 2001;24(5):875-80.
  6. Yildirim S, Ayan S, Sarioglu Y, Gultekin Y, Butuner C. The effects of long-term oral administration of L-arginine on the erectile response of rabbits with alloxan-induced diabetes. BJU Int 1999;83(6):679-85.
  7. Rakotoambinina B, Timsit J, Deschamps I, Laborde K, Gautier D, Jos J, Boitard C, Robert JJ. Insulin responses to intravenous glucose, intravenous arginine, and a hyperglycaemic clamp in ICA-positive subjects with different degrees of glucose tolerance. Diabetes Metab 1997;23(1):43-50.
  8. Pieper GM, Siebeneich W, Dondlinger LA. Short-term oral administration of L-arginine reverses defective endothelium-dependent relaxation and cGMP generation in diabetes. Eur J Pharmacol 1996;317(2-3):317-20.
  9. Sanders PW. L-Arginine and arginine analogs in progressive renal failure. Blood Purif 1995;13(3-4):219-27.
  10. Hayde M, Vierhapper H, Lubec B, Popow C, Weninger M, Xi Z, Lubec G. Low-dose dietary L-arginine increases plasma interleukin 1a but not interleukin 1β in patients with diabetes mellitus. Cytokine 1994;6(1):79-82.
  11. Monti LD, Casiraghi MC, Setola E, Galluccio E, Pagani MA, Quaglia L, Bosi E, Piatti P. L-Arginine enriched biscuits improve endothelial function and glucose metabolism: A pilot study in healthy subjects and a cross-over study in subjects with impaired glucose tolerance and metabolic syndrome. Metabolism 2012 Oct 3. pii: S0026-0495(12)00308-3. doi: 10.1016/j.metabol.2012.08.004. [Epub ahead of print]

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