The formulator of Cardio For Life, Dr. Harry answers the following questions:
What is L-arginine?
L-arginine or arginine is among the 22 amino acids (nitrogen-containing molecules that form protein), which are the building blocks of the body. As well as being vital for growth and the repair of the body tissue, they are used to make hormones, enzymes, antibodies, and neurotransmitters, and help transport substances around the body. Arginine is classified as being a non-essential amino acid. This means your body should produce enough of its own arginine; however, it simply does not produce enough; thus we need to get more arginine from our diet. Arginine is found in meat, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy and nuts. Very little is found in fruits and vegetables, which may be detrimental to a vegetarian diet.
Why do I need to take an arginine supplement if I am getting it in my diet?
You simply are not getting enough in your diet. The average American diet will contain about 3.3 to 5.4 grams of arginine while the vegetarian diet will contain almost one full gram less. Individuals over the age of 50, who are on a strict ‘heart healthy’ diet, take in about 2.6 grams of daily arginine. Arginine derived nitric oxide (ADNO) is decreased by poor diets, lack of exercise, age, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes and smoking. Because high concentrations of arginine can overcome the negative risk factors associated with heart disease and the average American is not getting enough in their diet, arginine supplementation simply makes sense.
Can I take too much arginine?
Arginine has long been considered by nutritionists to be the least toxic of all the amino acids and its consumption, even in relatively huge quantities, seems to have very few adverse side effects. Clinical trials at hospitals in the U.S. and abroad have repeatedly administered 30 to 50 grams or arginine safely to patients without reported problems. Numerous body builders have long taken large doses of arginine with no reported ill effects.
What is the recommended daily dosage of an arginine supplement?
The benefits of arginine supplementation are clearly dose-dependent and can range from between 5 to 30 grams taken orally every day.
Five grams of arginine taken daily appears to be the recommended dosage for the benefit of increasing nitric oxide levels in the blood and preventing heart disease and stroke. However, if you already have a risk factor like diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol or scored a D or below on your DPA analysis, then I would recommend at least 10 to 15 grams per day until they are all brought under control. You should then take 5 grams in the morning and 5 grams right before bedtime. You should avoid eating protein (by an hour on either side) at the same time you take the supplement because the other amino acids found in the source of protein will block the absorption of the arginine. It is for this same reason you should avoid buying an arginine supplement, which might contain any of the other amino acids like lysine, carnitine, taurine, ornithine, or glutamine. Arginine is the most sensitive of the amino acids and the others will block out its absorption.
Stimulation of the growth hormone will require higher dosages of arginine to be taken at bedtime on a totally empty stomach or 30 minutes before a workout. Male body builders can take 9 to 21 grams depending on body weight, while women body builders can take 6 to 18 grams.
I can buy arginine supplements at the local health food in pill form and pay less. Why should I switch to a liquid formulation it costs more?
This is a valid question; however, remember this fact of life...You get what you pay for! Anytime you take a pill, it is 10-20% absorbed; a capsule fairs a little better, it is 20-30% absorbed. This is according to the Physicians Desk Reference 2002.
The reason a liquid or powder form of arginine is better, is because once it is mixed with a couple ounces of water, or taken straight, it is up to 98% absorbed. In fact, a liquid will bypass the digestive process and go directly into the blood steam into the cells within a matter of minutes. It does not have to worry about waiting until it arrives in your stomach where HCL (hydrochloric acid) must break it down and hope that it fully does before it enters your small intestine. According to the National Advisory Board, 100 mg consumed in a tablet form translates into a minute stabilized 8.3mg concentration in the blood.
A recent exit poll at a health food store revealed that people in general do not like swallowing pills and would prefer taking a liquid. Imagine trying to swallow twelve 500 mg arginine pills (often referred to a horse pills) in an effort to get what you believe is 6 grams of arginine. When actually you are only getting about 600 mg to 1000 mg of arginine at best and if you do the math that relates to actually taking about 60 arginine pills each day. Now the cost of your arginine supplementation just went up by five times.
Is it safe to take arginine with my medications?
First off, anyone who is taking any medications prescribed by your doctor should continue taking those medications and certainly consult with your physician before changing your daily routine of medication. Going cold turkey with your prescription drugs could send your body into a tailspin. In the clinical trials performed over the last twenty years with the use of arginine, there have been no contraindications with any of the medications associated with cardiovascular disease like cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes and other heart medications.
At this time (January-2011) there are no well-known drug interactions with arginine other than people taking nitrate drugs (i.e. nitroglycerine) or vasculogenic drugs (i.e. Viagra), should avoid arginine since blood pressure may drop too low; however, there have been no reports of this adverse event.
If you are monitoring your own sugar level, as in the case of diabetes, or blood pressure, keep a watchful eye as your levels begin to drop from taking arginine. When they remain at a lowered level, ask your doctor to adjust your medication dosage. My friend, if you are consistent with your daily dose of arginine, I am telling you there is great potential that one day your doctor will have you off all those toxic chemicals, which do nothing but cover-up the underlying problem—the lack of nitric oxide in your blood vessels.
As far as the cholesterol lowering statin drugs like Lipitor, Zocor, Crestor, Mevacor or Pravachol, if you read my book (Let’s STOP the #1 Killer in America TODAY), you would quickly discover I am not a big fan of these drugs. And it is my professional opinion that the moment you start to take arginine on a daily basis and commit to doing this for the rest of your now much extended life, you can throw away these toxic poisons forever. You must read my book to fully appreciate why I am so animate about this, but I will say that it is not the cholesterol number that is the issue. It is the oxidizing of the LDL cholesterol, which then becomes sticky and attaches to the vessel wall. Arginine prevents the oxidizing of the LDL cholesterol, thus no plaque build up and several studies actually attest to the plaque melting away.
How soon can I expect results?
Oral arginine does not work as quickly as injections of arginine, but it does appear to work as well. Increasing your oral intake by only 50 to 100 percent of what you’re already receiving from your food can begin to impact your health positively in a few short weeks. Many people have reported immediate changes in their energy levels. It is recommended that you keep a health journal so you can keep track of your changes as they happen. Some of the side effects one can expect are: increase in energy, improved memory, improved immune system, improved sleep, loss of weight, increase in muscle tone, decrease in pain, quicker wound healing, increase in sexual function and better athletic performance.
Can pregnant women take arginine?
There are studies that show that arginine derived nitric oxide may benefit a unique form of hypertension called preeclampsia and may prevent premature labor and preterm birth. I have had many women take arginine throughout their entire pregnancy without any side effects or complications.
Is there anyone who should not take arginine supplements?
Nutritionists have long considered arginine the least toxic of the amino acids, and its consumption, even in relatively huge quantities, seems to have very few adverse side effects. Numerous bodybuilders, for instance, have for years chronically consumed much greater quantities than my recommended dosage, and with no reported ill effects. Moreover, clinical trials at hospitals in the United States and abroad have repeatedly administered 30 to 50 grams of arginine safely to patients, again without reported problems.
Side effects are very rare but for 5% of people they may include, stomach upset or diarrhea (taking some carbohydrates with arginine will prevent this).
Is it true that arginine can cause an outbreak of the herpes virus?
Arginine cannot cause herpes outbreaks, but can exacerbate virus-replication during an outbreak if a low-grade arginine formula was consumed. The herpes virus (herpes virus hominis) typically lays dormant in humans until activated by stress, colds, lack of sleep, and nutritional factors. Low-grade arginine formulas can increase replication of the virus, so make sure you are using a pharmaceutical grade, quality form of arginine. Lysine is an amino acid that will prevent and help eliminate the herpes virus. I would recommend taking 500 mg of lysine everyday if you know you have herpes and start taking 1000 mg of lysine with 1000 mg of vitamin C at the first sign of an outbreak three times per day and make sure you separate taking arginine and lysine by at least two hours.
Can I give arginineto my children?
A recent study showed that 60% of five to ten year old children already have at least one risk factor for cardiovascular disease; such as, high cholesterol levels, high blood pressure or diabetes. In today’s fast food society, a single French fry we feed are children are more carcinogenic then giving them a cigarette. Both deplete the body of nitric oxide, which will lead to cardiovascular disease.
There is a concern that arginine used by a child may cause their body to decrease the output of the growth hormone and thus stunt their growth process.
However, it is my opinion that giving a child a small dose of arginine (1 to 2 grams depending on body weight) soon after eating, can overact the harmful effects of trans fatty acids found in their diet and not have any influence on the growth hormone, which requires an empty stomach and large doses.
However, if your child is eating quality meals, getting plenty of exercise and is taking a one-a-day multi-vitamin/mineral, then there is no reason for them to take an arginine supplement.