Arginine is an amino acid with basic side chain and positive charge. It is one of the non-essential amino acids, therefore, it is produced in our body with the help of other amino acids. In premature infants, it is essential amino acid as they cannot synthesize it. It is glucogenic amino acid and it gives rise to intermediates of the citric acid cycle by gluconeogenesis process. Its L-form is the common naturally occurring amino acid.
It is present in wide variety of foods. Its animal and plant sources are as follow.
Animal source: turkey, chicken, meat, milk, cottage, yogurt, cheese, pork, beef and in a variety of seafood.
Plant source: Granola, wheat, peanuts, pumpkin seeds, sesame seed, cashews, almond, walnut, flour, popcorn, brown rice, etc.
It is found in chocolate as well. In our body, it is present abundantly in histones and protamines.
It is manufactured from citrulline and the reaction is catalyzed by two cytosolic enzymes namely, arginosuccinate synthetase and arginosuccinate lyase.
- It forms following important products
Ornithine: Arginine takes part in the urea cycle and results in formations of urea and ornithine on hydrolysis. Ornithine not only plays role in urea cycle but also has a role in the formation of polyamine.
Creatine: Arginine also contributes to the formation of creatine which is very important for the muscles as it increases muscle mass and their strength.
Glutamic acid: This amino acid being glucogenic results in the formation of creatine.
Nitric Oxide: Arginine also gives rise to nitric oxide along with citrulline in the presence of enzyme nitric oxide synthase. This nitric oxide plays a very important physiological role. It causes relaxation of the smooth muscles of blood vessels and therefore causes vasodilation. Nitric oxide also inhibits platelet aggregation.
- It is essential in the good health of skin, liver, muscle, and liver.
- It also causes stimulation of our immune system and increases the amount of T lymphocytes which are necessary to combat different types of injuries infection and traumas.
- It has an important function in cell division and healing of a wound.
- It removes ammonia from the body by allowing the liver to detoxify it and releases hormones. For example, it stimulates the release of insulin from the pancreas.
- Arginine is also used in the toothpaste and provided relief from teeth hypersensitivity.
- In the form of supplements, it has been used to improve sexual functions especially erectile dysfunctions and also to regulate blood pressure.
- It is also helpful in lowering of cholesterol from the body.
- Arginine also plays a role in the metabolism of muscles and it also maintains the nitrogen balance and helps in weight control as it decreases the fats content from the body.
- Arginine is produced abundantly in case of any trauma, injury or surgery.
- Its salts called malate salt has found use in the treatment of alcoholic hepatitis as well as an advanced stage of cirrhosis of the liver.
- It also causes stimulation of growth hormones.
- Arginine supplements have also been found beneficial for female fertility and reproductive system.
In a nutshell, arginine is an important amino acid in our body. One important thing is that arginine supplements though have various positive effects but they should be avoided in case patient is suffering from schizophrenia or kidney diseases. They are also not recommended for long-term use as they can cause thickening and coarsening of the skin in the long run.
Amna Sheikh is a medical doctor with a Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS), Bachelors in Economics and Statistics. She is also a medical writer working as a freelancer for 10+ years and she is specialized in medical, health, and pharmaceutical writing, regulatory writing & clinical research. All her work is supported by a strong academic and professional experience.