Arginine is one of the urea cycle amino acids. It plays an important role in the conversion of ammonia from protein breakdown, into urea which can be excreted via the kidneys, and it stimulates the activity of the enzyme which starts off the process. Arginine is also a component of antidiuretic hormone, a hormone which reduces the excretion of water by the kidneys.
Many people take arginine (together with another amino acid, ornithine) as a body-building supplement. There is some evidence that supplementation with these amino acids may stimulate the release of growth hormone, which is responsible for increasing muscle bulk, and also insulin. The suggested dose is 2 grams of arginine and 2 of ornithine on an empty stomach before retiring, and 2 grams on an empty stomach prior to vigorous exercise. 100 mcg of a chromium supplement may also be helpful. Arginine supplementation should be avoided in cases of schizophrenia and herpes virus.
Arginine-rich foods include nuts, peanuts, seeds, chocolate and grains (cereals). Weight for weight, peanuts, tofu, pumpkin seeds, almonds, sunflower seeds and brazil nuts are as rich in arginine as animal proteins.
Information compiled by Linda Lazarides
Naturopathic Nutritionist, Author, Educator