There are plenty of powerful new drugs to help prevent and treat chronic health problems. But we also know that certain nutrients may help, as well. Take arginine, for example. Arginine has gotten lots of attention lately for its potential heart benefits. That's important because, today, about 85.6 million Americans have some form of cardiovascular disease.
Deficiencies of arginine are rare. It's abundant in many different types of foods, and your body can also make it. Arginine-rich foods include red meat, fish, poultry, wheat germ, grains, nuts and seeds, and dairy products. But what does arginine do for the heart, and are there potential side effects?
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Since arginine may help arteries relax and improve blood flow, it may also help with erectile dysfunction.
There are other potential health benefits with arginine, such as possible reduction of blood pressure in some people and improved walking distance in patients with intermittent leg cramping and weakness known as intermittent claudication. However, the scientific studies are not conclusive enough for experts to make any firm recommendations.
Not all studies on arginine have been positive. A 2006 study showed that arginine was not helpful -- and may have been harmful -- for treating heart attacks in combination with standard treatment.