Ask the Doctor – April 2008Dr. Zoltan P. Rona, MD, M.Sc. April 1, 2008
Does L-arginine cause heart attacks?
Dear Dr. Rona,
I read your excellent article in Vitality this month where you recommend L-arginine as a supplement for testosterone supplements. However the bottle of capsules 500MG prohibits use if a patient has had a heart attack. I had one in 1988 and have since had a bypass. Would you still recommend L-arginine? – M
L-arginine is a precursor of nitric oxide, a substance that improves circulation by dilating the arteries. By doing so, it reduces the risk of heart disease, lowers blood pressure and improves insulin sensitivity. It’s vasodilatation effects makes L-arginine a good alternative to the erectile dysfunction drug, Viagra.
L-arginine also is known for its ability to raise growth hormone levels thus providing anti-aging benefits such as the reduction of adipose tissue and the increase of muscle mass. L-arginine improves immune function and reduces the healing time for injuries. It also improves sperm counts and sperm mobility, thereby alleviating male infertility problems.
The issue of L-arginine causing deaths in previous heart attack victims was brought up in the Jan. 4, 2008 issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association. This was a surprising finding given that L-arginine helps enhance circulation, improving coronary artery blood flow. Viagra, the prescription drug that mimics L-arginine, probably causes heart attacks by a similar mechanism.
In this study, all of the subjects were elderly heart attack patients and were using various prescription drugs. While the addition of L-arginine to the treatment protocols may have led to the sudden deaths, there is nothing in this study that would indicate that L-arginine used alone without prescription cardiac drugs poses any danger for healthy individuals without heart disease.
If you have had a heart attack in the past, I would not risk using L-arginine at this time. Further study of this supplement is indeed warranted to establish safety guidelines for those who are in your situation.
Zoltan P. Rona, MD, MSc, offers consultations on nutrition and natural remedies in Thornhill. He has recently retired from medical practice as a Complementary and Alternative medical practitioner and now strictly offers nutritional consultations. He is the medical editor of The Encyclopedia of Natural Healing and has also published several Canadian bestselling books, including Vitamin D, The Sunshine Vitamin. To see more of Dr. Rona’s articles, visit: www.highlevelwellness.ca and for appointments, please call (905) 764-8700; office located at: 390 Steeles Ave. W., Unit 19, Thornhill, Ontario