Anti-Aging: Supplements With L-arginine Offer Many Benefits

istock_000005555683xsmall.jpgAnti-aging supplements containing the amino acid L-arginine may help stimulate important anti-aging hormones, improve immune function, and provide a host of other advantages.

Arginine is an alpha-amino acid, one of the 20 most common natural amino acids found in various foods, and usually synthesized by our bodies as well. Alpha-amino acids are molecules that are found in all forms of life, and are the building blocks of proteins.

In mammals, arginine is classified as a semi-essential or conditionally essential amino acid, depending on the developmental stage and health status of the individual. Because arginine can be manufactured by the human body and does not need to be obtained directly through the diet, it is called a nonessential amino acid. Adults are able to synthesize arginine, but infants cannot, making it nutritionally essential for them.

Arginine was first isolated from a lupin seedling extract in 1886 by the Swiss chemist Ernst Schulze. For a century, its role as an important anti-aging supplement was unknown. But in recent years, a form of arginine called L-arginine has become a popular anti-aging supplement, offering a host of health benefits:

  • Enables the synthesis of Nitric Oxide (NO), an important messenger molecule involved in many physiological and pathological processes
  • Stimulates the release of human growth hormone, the most important anti-aging hormone in the body
  • Increases muscle mass and reduces body fat
  • Improves immune function
  • Reduces risk of heart disease (but should not be taken after a heart attack — see note below)
  • Helps improve insulin sensitivity
  • Helps decrease blood pressure
  • Reduces healing time, particularly of bone, after injury or surgery
  • Can alleviate male infertility

Note: Although L-arginine has been shown to help prevent heart attacks, a clinical trial with patients who had already suffered a heart attack found that more patients taking L-arginine died than patients taking a placebo. The study was so definitive it was stopped early, with the recommendation that L-arginine should not be used by patients recovering from heart attacks.

Yohimbe is an herb derived from an African evergreen tree, consumed by warriors before battles and by young men as part of marriage rites. When yohimbe is combined with L-arginine, studies have shown it to be an effective treatment for erectile dysfunction.

Other amino acids, such as L-ornithine and L-lysine, are also important anti-aging supplements to consider, with their own range of benefits for people getting on in years. Supplements combining L-arginine with L-ornithine and L-lysine aminos are widely available.

Arginine is found in almost everything we eat, but in varying amounts. It’s important to vary meal menus to get the most out of our diets. Meat and dairy products are a good source of arginine, and vegetarian sources include grains, nuts, seeds and legumes.

Our natural synthesis of arginine occurs primarily in the functions of our bowels and kidneys. Any impairment of bowel or kidney function reduces our natural arginine synthesis, increasing the need for us to use L-arginine supplements. Such need can be greater as we age, too, making L-arginine one of the important anti-aging supplements we should take regularly.

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