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A vital amino acid (or a so-called chemical building block) found in foods, L-arginine is necessary for protein building.

What are its health benefits?

L-arginine is converted into nitric oxide in your body. Nitric oxide ensures your blood vessels open wider, thus enabling better blood flow and heart function, and also stimulates the release of the growth hormone, insulin, amongst other important hormones. It also reportedly boosts wound healing and your immunity to illness.

L-arginine is sold as a health supplement and used as medicine and in bodybuilding as a growth stimulant to build muscle, and as a medicine.

It may help treat the following medical conditions:

Do you have a deficiency?

An L-arginine deficiency can lead to:

  • Skin problems, including a rash and hair loss
  • Poor wound healing
  • Liver function and blood vessel functioning problems – although rarely

Find it in these sources

This amino acid is necessary for the body to create proteins and is found in the following foods:

  • Red meat
  • Poultry
  • Fish
  • Dairy products
  • Nuts
  • Chocolate

Recommended dietary allowance (RDA)

It’s taken orally, administered in an injection or applied to the skin.

A daily dose varies depending on what you’re being treated for – typically, it’s 2 to 8g per day but can be higher. For example, for chest pain due to coronary artery disease, the dosage has been determined as 3 to 6g three times per day for one month.

Know the overdose risks

If you ingest too much, possible side effects could include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Bloating
  • Diarrhoea
  • Gout
  • Blood abnormalities
  • Allergies
  • Airway inflammation
  • Worsening of asthma
  • Low blood pressure

Be cautious with high doses as they may be dangerous.

Avoid the use of L-arginine during pregnancy and breast-feeding, unless you’re suffering from pre-eclampsia and your doctor has approved its usage.

If you suffer from allergies or asthma it’s best to use it cautiously. If you suffer from low blood pressure, be aware that L-arginine might lower it further and doctors caution that those who’ve had a heart attack or have a kidney disease should avoid it.

Ensure you discuss dietary supplementation with your Clicks pharmacist to avoid the potential for side effects and adverse interactions with medications.

The accuracy of this information was checked and approved by Clicks' pharmacist Waheed Abdurahman in February 2015