The heart is the most hard-working muscle in your entire body. Here is why:
If your heart beats 80 times per minute, your heart beats about 4,800 times per hour. That is incredibly 115,200 times per day. In a year, your heart would beat about 42,048,000 times! If you get to live until 80 years old, your heart would have beaten an amazing 3,363,840,000 times! Wow, that is over 3 billion heartbeats! Amazing muscle!
What makes it go? What makes it function smoothly?
Among many other factors, there is one that contributes much to the efficient pumping of our heart – the L-arginine.
So, what is L-arginine, really?
L-arginine, or commonly named arginine, is one of the 20 amino acids that are necessary for the growth, healing and efficient functionality of our body. Like all other amino acids, L-arginine is composed of nitrogen, carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. They are the building blocks of protein.
Of the 20 amino acids, only 9 are categorized as essential amino acids, all the rest, of which L-arginine belongs, are called conditionally essentials or semi-essential amino acids. They are called such because their functions are considered essential only under specific conditions like stress or illnesses.
L-arginine can be found in poultry, red meat, sea foods, and dairy products. They can also be obtained from nuts (like walnuts, hazelnuts, pecans, peanuts, almonds, cashews, and Brazil nuts), seeds (such as sesame and sunflower), oats, corn, cereals, buckwheat, brown rice and chocolates. So, basically, if you eat a well-balanced diet, you get all the L-arginine your body needs. But because of aging and the fast-paced life we are living in, wholesome food is quite hard to come by, so L-arginine can be obtained as supplements, but only under doctor’s prescription as L-arginine supplements may actually increase the risk of other health problems.
Having a healthy heart and cardiovascular system is really an understatement. Even without scientific research, anybody understands this fact. This is where the L-arginine connection comes in. L-arginine is the main compound that is needed by our body to produce another compound that helps synthesize nitric oxide. This compound, the nitric oxide (or NO), in turn, helps to relax and expand our blood vessels, making it essential to the regulation of blood flow.
Nearly every type of the human body cells produce nitric oxide (NO) and its primary importance, among its many functions, is for the health of the blood vessels. L-arginine is the key enzyme that makes the production of nitric oxides, especially in the endothelial cells of the heart muscle, possible. Since nitric oxides are vasodilators, they are essential to the over-all cardiovascular health of the body.
Other Health Benefits
While L-arginine is popularly linked to heart and cardiovascular health, it also has a wide range of other health benefits.
It is used to treat, control:
- High blood pressure during pregnancy
- Erectile dysfunction
- Peripheral arterial disease (PAD – this is the narrowing of blood vessels that supply blood to the limbs)
It also helps to promote:
- Healthy weight loss
- Exercise performance
- Blood glucose regulation
- Speeds up healing of wounds
- Boosts immune system
- Hair loss prevention
Can Animals Take It?
The use of L-arginine is not limited to humans but extends also to cats and dogs.
Drs. RA Burns, JA Milner, and JE Cordin stated that arginine is an indispensable amino acid for mature dogs. Their study shows that taking out L-arginine from the diet of adult dogs shows significant effect in their body weights. The dogs even experience severe emesis that is characterized by muscle tremors and frothing around their mouths. Their blood chemistry is altered also.
They concluded on their study that the mature dog does require a diet with 0.28% arginine to prevent the symptoms of arginine deficiency.
How much arginine should I give my dog?
Veterinarian Dr. Debra of PetPlace.com recommends a dose of 250 to 3000 mg per day, but according to the size of the pet. It is safe, however, to consult first your veterinarian before giving arginine supplements to your pets.
PitBulls.org stated that 1 in 10 dogs suffer from heart disease. Along with natural herbal heart supplements they also recommended other amino acid heart supplements, in which L-arginine is included. They advised not to wait for your pets to show symptoms or even be diagnosed with heart diseases before you feed them with amino acids. It is better to prevent sickness.
L-arginine is popular that it is widely marketed because of its effects on the body’s releasing of growth hormones and its increase in muscle mass. Owing to this popularity, continuous studies have been conducted. According to Dr. Sony Sherpa, in her article Multiple Studies Report Variable Effects of L-arginine published in the Gilmore Health News website, that a recent study reports L-arginine effects are more limited than previously thought.
Here is the summary of that study report:
- Study on the effects of L-arginine on serum insulin. They took blood samples from 15 participating well-trained runners. These samples were taken after giving randomly the 15 runners either L-arginine or placebo and had them run 15 kilometers two times. They found out that there is no significant difference observed in their insulin and IGF-1 levels between the two groups. Based on this study, the researchers have concluded that it should not be routinely recommended as a supplement to increase levels of these hormones.
- A different clinical trial was conducted on 14 marathon runners proved to have contrasting results to the above study. The 14 marathoners were randomly given either a placebo or arginine supplements two weeks prior to the run. Then blood samples were taken the day before and 2 hours after the 31 kilometer race. In this clinical trial, the researchers found significant difference between the two groups.
- Another study was conducted on 17 volunteers on the effect of L-arginine. They all received 7 grams of the amino acid orally for 1 week. In this trial, they saw minimal differences in growth hormone an IGF-1 levels between the two groups.
The researchers, however, noted that the limited size and time should be taken into consideration. They recommended that clinical be conducted on a larger group in a longer time span may be suitable to assess the true benefits of this semi-essential amino acid.