Arginine Helps Weight Loss & Cardio Health

By: Byron J. Richards, Board Certified Clinical Nutritionist

A new study shows that the amino acid arginine1 (very high in the now infamous peanut butter) can prevent weight gain and improve cardiovascular relaxation and circulation.

In the experiment researchers intentionally overfed rats a high fat diet to make them obese.  Control rats experienced a 98% weight gain, arginine-supplemented rats only a 35% weight gain – even though both groups ate the same number of calories.

The researchers sought to identify how arginine was able to produce its benefits for metabolism.  Arginine did not improve insulin, adiponectin, stress hormones, growth hormone, or thyroid hormone.  Rather, arginine enhanced the function of muscle – helping muscles use calories more efficiently so that they did not end up as stored fat.  This was accompanied by lower leptin and triglyceride levels, meaning that arginine is another tool that can support healthy leptin balance. 

Arginine also improved friendly nitric oxide levels in the circulation, which is very helpful for general cardiovascular fitness, blood pressure, and circulation.

It also had the net effect of helping branch chain amino acids get into muscles.  I have reported recently and the general need for higher protein, and branch chain amino acids in particular, to boost weight loss and healthy insulin signaling.  This research clarifies that arginine may also be needed to help protein work properly in muscle.

One way to judge if arginine is a supplement you may want to take is by evaluating the strength of your muscles.  Of course, the first step is just increasing overall protein and exercise.  If you have done that and you are still struggling to lose weight, then adding arginine makes sense as it clearly helps protein work better in your muscles.  Arginine may also help your blood pressure and general circulation, adding these cardio concerns to the potential use or need for the supplement.

Foods high in arginine include peanuts, sesame and sunflower seeds, crustacean seafoods, tuna, turkey, chicken, and spinach.  Dietary supplements of arginine, as given in this study, can help.

Referenced Studies:
  1. ^ Arginine, Weight Loss, and Leptin  Journal of Nutrition.  Wenjuan Jobgen, Cynthia J. Meininger, Scott C. Jobgen, Peng Li, Mi-Jeong Lee, Stephen B. Smith, Thomas E. Spencer, Susan K. Fried, and Guoyao Wu.

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