Some interesting facts about arginine:
- Arginine is a conditionally essential amino acid
While arginine is not an essential amino acid most of the time (essential amino acids are required in the diet as the body cannot manufacture them), there are certain special circumstances which makes it conditionally essential and these are: (a) babies and small toddlers are not equipped with the ability to make their own arginine so they need to get it in their diet, (b) certain people with diet deficiencies may not get enough of the essential amino acids to enable them to make their own arginine, so they also need to get it in their diet.
- Arginine functions as a building block of all proteins, increases fat metabolism and builds more muscles
Arginine, as an amino acid, is one of the building blocks of all proteins in the body, which not only include muscles, but also all the other proteins required for normal function of the body, some of which are - hormones, haemoglobin, white blood cells. As part of the building blocks of the body, Arginine is used to build muscle, which in turn helps to burn more fat, resulting in more muscle tone and some loss of fat tissue (weight loss).
While arginine is not an essential amino acid most of the time (essential amino acids are required in the diet as the body cannot manufacture them), there are certain special circumstances which makes it conditionally essential
- Stress and illness can increase the need for arginine
People who are under a great deal of stress (both acute and chronic, on-going) or are very ill seem to need more arginine, due to its role in maintaining a healthy immune system.
- Arginine is given to some post-operative cancer patients
Trials have been done to supplement patients with neck and throat cancer with arginine to determine if their T-cells (part of the white blood cells and immune system) become invigorated to fight off any potential infections or complications in these patients after they have had surgery and treatment. This is important because these patients have a suppressed immune system after the surgery for their cancer and these trials have shown that supplementations with arginine seems to reduce the infection rates (and complications) - they were lower than in the control group.
- Arginine has vasoconstrictive and antidiuretic properties
Arginine has vasoconstrictive properties - which means that it shrinks the blood vessels so that less blood is pumped through the body. Arginine also has anti-diuretic properties, which means that it helps the body to retain more fluid. Both of these properties have serious implications in heart health, but they need further study to understand the effect that arginine has on the cardiovascular system (as well as the other systems and tissues in the body).