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What Is the Relationship between Arginine and Diabetes?

By Maggie J. Hall
Updated May 17, 2024
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Diabetics use a greater amount of the amino acid arginine, also known as L-arginine, than most people. One of the primary relationships between arginine and diabetes concerns vascular health. Chemical reactions involving this amino acid regulate vascular relaxation. Inhibiting the development of atherosclerosis is another role the amino acid plays. As diabetic patients often experience vascular irregularities, some physicians believe that arginine helps to maintain healthy tissue.

Arginine must be present for the conversion of nitric oxide synthase into nitric oxide and citrulline. These substances act as vasodilators, which decrease vascular resistance and improve blood flow. Due to vascular insufficiency, diabetic patients frequently experience reduced circulation, particularly in the hands and feet. The action of arginine helps to correct this problem.

Another relationship between arginine and diabetes is the amino acid's ability to stimulate insulin release, in addition to initiating the release of growth hormone and other body chemicals. Some research suggests that the relationship between arginine and diabetes is more apparent in patients diagnosed with the type 1 condition. Some physicians recommend that patients with type 2 diabetes take a tetrahydrobiopterin, or BH4, supplement. They believe that this cofactor must be present and bind to arginine before nitric oxide synthase conversion occurs. Certain studies also indicate that diabetic patients with vascular insufficiency due to viral damage or increased homocysteine levels, also require folic acid and B vitamin supplementation.

Physicians recommend also recommend arginine for patients diagnosed with chest pain associated with angina, heart failure, and hypertension. Other uses of arginine include combination with ibuprofen for migraines, with fish oil for chronic infections, and with chemotherapy in breast cancer patients. Some patients experience improvement in erectile dysfunction while taking the amino acid, and pediatricians sometimes administer arginine to newborns with gastric inflammation.

Certain studies suggest that the risks of taking arginine include possible vasoconstriction and decreased blood flow in patients with coronary artery disease or in individuals who have recently experienced a heart attack. Other physicians disagree with these findings. The common side effects of arginine include abdominal discomfort, bloating and diarrhea. Some patients develop blood abnormalities. Allergic reactions may occur with individuals experiencing upper airway inflammation and obstruction. Patients taking antihypertensive or diuretic medications in combination with the amino acid may suffer arginine interactions, producing dangerously low blood pressure.

Dairy products, fish, poultry, and red meat all contain arginine. Patients may take oral supplements or physicians may administer the amino acid intravenously. The arginine dose for diabetic patients ranges from 5 to 9 grams, taken once a day. Dosages may increase in the presence of existing cardiac or vascular conditions.

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Discussion Comments

By anon993637 — On Nov 30, 2015

I am a diabetic patient and having the problem of rashes on my penis foreskin. I searched a lot and found Arginine helped reduce the rashes and nourished the penis skin. Please suggest any medicine name or gel which I can found in India. Also, please confirm if this is a true fact.

By serenesurface — On Aug 25, 2014

@bear78-- I agree with you. Someone with a balanced and healthy diet already gets a good amount of arginine. I try to eat salmon at least once a week. I also eat nuts, especially almonds and walnuts. I eat milk, cheese, eggs and yogurt too. I think I'm getting plenty of arginine.

By bear78 — On Aug 25, 2014

@fBoyle-- There is a lot of information out there. I understand how you feel. It's frustrating and also confusing.

I do believe that many herbs and amino acids already found in foods can help us with our fight against diabetes. I saw a study sometime back about arginine and diabetes. Scientists found that arginine helps the body use glucose, so it lowers blood sugar.

But the study made use of natural arginine found in foods. So they basically gave the mice lots of nuts because nuts are rich in arginine.

So using arginine for diabetes doesn't mean buying arginine supplements. It just means incorporating more nuts into the diet like almonds.

By fBoyle — On Aug 24, 2014

I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes recently. Since my diagnosis, I've been reading about how I could help treat my condition. I've come across at least a dozen herbs and compounds that are supposed to help treat diabetes and lower blood sugar.

I'm willing to give them a try but I'm also skeptical about some of them, including arginine. If there are so many beneficial ingredients in nature that can help control and treat diabetes, then why are we still reliant on medications?

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