L-arginine has been found to yield a whole host of benefits for men. From helping to improve erectile function to easing the symptoms of angina, it is an amino acid that is beneficial for the body's normal functioning. In this article, we look at what L-arginine is and the science behind how and why it works.
What is L-Arginine?
L-Arginine is an amino acid that is naturally produced in the body. It can also be found in protein-dense foods like red meat, fish, whole grains, and soy.
It usually comes in the form of tablets, powders, and capsules, but it can also come in the form of creams and gels.
Possible Benefits of L-Arginine for Men
- Erectile dysfunction: L-arginine helps to produce nitric oxide (NO) - a vital molecule involved in getting and maintaining erections.
NO widens the blood vessels in the penis. This is important because erections are essentially the result of increased blood flow to the penis. By widening these blood vessels, NO allows more blood to flow into the penis - resulting in stronger, firmer erections.
One small study found that 31% of men reported an improvement in sexual function after being given 5g of L-arginine orally for 6 weeks. What's more, a review by Douglas J. MacKay, ND, found that "the majority of studies using L-Arginine to treat ED show positive treatment results".
- Blood pressure: there is some evidence to suggest L-Arginine can help reduce blood pressure. In 2015, the prevalence of high blood pressure among men in the UK was higher than that of women (31% versus 26% respectively).
L-Arginine has been shown to improve resting blood pressure in people with hypertension (high blood pressure).
Coincidentally, well-controlled blood pressure also happens to be good news for erections, as high blood pressure can lead to cardiovascular diseases that make it harder to achieve a strong erection (you can read more about this in our article “The Heart and the Penis").
- Angina: angina is a type of chest pain caused by restricted blood flow to the heart. Chronic angina affects more men than women in the UK (2 million versus 900,000 respectively). It is most commonly caused by atherosclerosis - a cardiovascular disease that clogs the arteries with fatty substances.
L-Arginine has been found to ease the symptoms of angina in those with mild to severe forms of the condition. However, larger and longer-term studies are needed to corroborate these findings.
Side-effects of L-Arginine
- Abdominal pain
- Allergic response
- Airway inflammation or worsening of asthma symptoms
- Increased risk of death if taken after a heart attack
- Re-triggering of herpes virus (if you have had cold sores or genital herpes)
L-Arginine may also adversely interact with some types of medication, such as:
- High blood pressure medication
- Erectile dysfunction medication
- Anticoagulants and anti-platelet drugs
- Diabetes drugs
Consult your doctor before attempting to take L-arginine to ensure it is safe for you to take and does not interact with any medication you are on.
The Bottom Line
L-arginine has multiple benefits for men. It can help to improve erectile function, lower blood pressure, and alleviate the symptoms of angina. Due to the limited number of studies on L-arginine, larger and longer-term studies will certainly help to corroborate the findings made about its efficacy in the future.
Feature Image: iStock/Rawpixel