For Patients & Caregivers
How It Works
Arginine has not been shown to prevent or treat cancer in humans.
Arginine is an amino acid that is produced by the body. It has been used for various conditions such as high blood pressure, heart conditions, migraines, and erectile dysfunction. Arginine has also been shown in some studies to enhance wound healing, immune function, and athletic performance.
Arginine supplementation has been studied in cancer patients. Some studies show that arginine-enriched nutritional formulas taken around the time of surgery may improve wound healing, enhance immune status, and reduce length of hospital stay.
- Angina Studies support the benefits of arginine for angina.
- Hardening of blood vessel walls A few studies have shown that arginine may be effective for atherosclerosis.
- Wound healing This use is supported by evidence from clinical trials.
- Immune stimulation Arginine given in high doses may improve immune function cancer patients.
- Erectile dysfunction Arginine has been shown in clinical trials to help improve sexual function in men.
- Migraine headache When taken with ibuprofen, arginine increased pain relief in patients with migraine headaches.
Do Not Take If
For Healthcare Professionals
Arginine is an amino acid that is synthesized in the body. Oral arginine has been used for various conditions such as hypertension, angina, atherosclerosis, migraine headache, and erectile dysfunction. Its vasodilatory properties are thought to be responsible for the beneficial effects. Arginine has also been used to enhance wound healing, immune function, and athletic performance.
Some studies support the use of arginine in coronary artery and peripheral artery diseases (PADs) (10) (11) (12) (13), but long-term supplementation worsened PAD (14). Arginine has also been studied for its effect on modifying or preventing the development of nitrate tolerance during continuous transdermal nitroglycerin therapy (18). Supplementation with arginine, glutamine, and HMB and may benefit vascular endothelial function in older adults (33), but arginine supplementation did not improve blood flow or muscle performance in older women (34).
Along with antioxidant vitamins, arginine reduced preeclampsia incidence in high-risk women (28), but arginine supplements did not improve blood pressure or kidney function in women with preeclampsia (15). Large doses of oral arginine improved subjective assessment of sexual function in men with erectile dysfunction (16). Arginine combined with ibuprofen may increase pain relief in patients with migraine headaches (17). Arginine supplementation by enteral feeding decreased shock in severely burned patients (4) and may be useful as adjunctive therapy in patients with active tuberculosis (29).
Arginine supplementation has been studied in cancer patients. Perioperative enteral formulas enhanced with arginine may improve wound healing (1), enhance immune status (27), and reduce length of hospital stay (30). Other results in surgical cancer patients have been mixed (35) (36). Interestingly, arginine deprivation-based treatments are also being pursued as potential cancer treatments (31) (32) (37).
Mechanism of Action
Arginine is unique among amino acids for its vasodilatory properties (11). Arginine acts as a precursor for the synthesis of endogenous nitric oxide (NO) via the action of nitric oxide synthase (NOS). NO functions as a paracrine-signaling molecule mediating vasodilation and inhibition of platelet activation, monocyte and leucocyte adhesion, and smooth muscle cell proliferation. NO also helps to control vascular oxidative stress and redox-regulated gene expression (22). Arginine is also needed for the synthesis of creatine which is important in muscle contraction (22). In colorectal adenoma cells, arginine reduces the expression of survivin, an inhibitor of apoptosis, and induces iNOS expression (23).