Arginine is an essential amino acid that it is naturally manufactured by the body and does not have to be obtained through diet. However, certain normal body processes prevent the body from producing enough arginine, so it is still necessary to obtain it from the diet.
In mammals, however, arginine is considered conditionally essential depending on the individual's stage of development. Infants, for example, do not have the natural capacity to reach their maximum arginine production and therefore to obtain this amino acid through their diet.
Arginine is believed to speed up the healing of wounds. Clinical experiments show that oral supplementation of this amino acid greatly increased the amount of collagen deposited in a wound as demonstrated by the presence of hydroxyproline in the wound site.
An experiment conducted with diabetic rats showed that L-arginine greatly improved wound healing and increased wound hydroxyproline levels among the diabetic laboratory animals. The supplement also significantly increased the amount of wound fluid nitrate and nitrite levels.
Diabetes mellitus, which slows down wound healing causes a reduction in nitric oxide at the wound site. Since L-arginine is the only substrate or chemical base for nitric oxide production, it has become widely used to treat diabetic wounds and the result is the simultaneous production of nitric acid in the wound site.
L-arginine is also believed to remove ammonia from the body. Ammonia is an important source of nitrogen. It is produced by the body through normal acid metabolism and can be toxic when there is too much of it in the body. Cirrhosis, a kind of liver disease may cause an increased level of ammonia in the blood. If this happens, the patient can be given arginine supplementation to prevent ammonia toxicity.
L-arginine also participates in cell division. Experiments show that the rate of uptake and the break down of arginine doubled during the first half of the cell cycle accepted by an increased rate of amino acid biosynthesis and an accumulation of amino acids. Even if there was an increase in the amino acid pools, the use of arginine and other amino acids for macromolecular synthesis demonstrated a steady increase through the cell cycle.
It also plays an important role in strengthening the immune system by stimulating and enhancing the production of T-lymphocytes. T-lymphocytes or T-cells are white blood cells produced by the thymus glands that act as defense system of the body by directly attacking abnormal cells and regulating the response of other T-cells.
Arginine is also known to enhance the release of human growth hormone from the pituitary glands thus taking this oral supplement may result in a rapid increase in height in growing children.
It is also believed that this substance can reduce blood pressure. Nitric oxide, which is produced from arginine is a vasodilator responsible for the widening of blood vessels resulting to the relaxation of muscles in the arteries, arterioles and veins.
Arginine can be found in abundance in cottage cheese, ricotta, milk, yogurt, whey protein drinks, beef, bacon, ham, gelatin, chicken and turkey light meat, pheasant, quail, seafood, halibut, lobster, salmon, shrimp, snails, tuna, wheat germ and flour, buckwheat, granola, oatmeal, peanuts, coconut, pecans, cashews, walnuts, almonds, Brazil nuts, hazelnuts, pine nuts, pumpkin, sesame, sunflower seeds, chick peas, and cooked soy beans.
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