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Sunday, September 13, 2009

Cholesterol Supplement: Arginine

Arginine, or L-arginine, is eventually converted to nitric oxide in your body. Nitric oxide is produced mainly in the blood vessel walls. It keeps the endothelium, or artery lining, smooth and slick, helping to prevent the buildup of plaque. Dietary sources of arginine include oats, eggs, and soybeans.

What the research shows: When John P. Cooke, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of cardiovascular medicine at Stanford University, gave 43 volunteers large doses of L-arginine (6 to 21 grams a day), blood flow and artery flexibility improved significantly after one week. Cooke also found supplementing with arginine can reduce the stickiness of blood platelets, white blood cells, and even the artery walls in people with high cholesterol. Less stickiness means less likelihood of plaque and clots.

Who should take it: Anyone with impaired endothelium function would likely benefit from taking extra arginine. But since there's currently no easy way for you to tell if your endothelium function is impaired, consider taking arginine if you have existing heart disease or multiple risk factors for heart disease, and your diet is less than ideal. (If you eat plenty of oats, eggs, or soy, you probably don't need it.)

Recommended dose: 2 to 3 grams daily in divided doses.

Warnings/contraindications: Side effects may include stomach upset, diarrhea, headache, or shingles. Don't use it with Viagra since it may cause a dangerous drop in blood pressure. It's also not recommended for people with cancer or a history of cancer, serious infections, or inflammation.

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