Stress generates free radicals that can cause damage to nucleic acids, proteins and cell membranes, resulting in stress related disease if the body is not able to handle the free radicals. Food supplements called adaptogens can help the body deal with stress, because adaptogens provide the micronutrients and macronutrients which the body needs to help it handle the extra needs resulting from stress.
Some amino acids are not essential in conditions of “normal” levels of stress, but become essential under conditions of excessive stress. They are called “conditionally essential” nutrients and include Arginine and glutamine. A known adaptogen, Panax ginseng, contains high levels of l-arginine. Blood levels of l-arginine are reduced under conditions of stress indicating that arginine is being used rapidly.
Gupta and co-authors study the adaptogenic and anti-stress effects of l-arginine. They studied the effects of different doses from 12.5 to 500.0 mg./kg. body weight in rats which were subjected to stress. The lowest effective dose was 100 mg./kg. per day and the dose of 200 mg./kg. did not show significant advantage over 100 mg.
The authors studied the effects of stress by testing blood levels of oxidation (lipid peroxidation), anti-oxidants, cell membrane permeability, and nitric oxide in animals with and without l-arginine treatment. Without l-arginine, stress resulted in signs of cellular damage, including increased levels of blood malondialdehyde (MDA), blood lactic dehydrogenase enzyme (LDH), a decrease in blood catalase enzyme (CAT) and low testosterone levels.
L-arginine treatment resulted in a decrease in blood MDA and an increase in beneficial blood enzyme, superoxide dismutase (SOD). L-arginine treated rats resulted in lower blood levels of LDH than in the control rats without l-arginine. These tests indicate that the l-arginine treated animals were better able to handle the stress with less oxidative damage. The l-arginine protected the animal’s cells from free radical oxidation.
CONCLUSION: The authors state that l-arginine has significant adaptogenic or anti-stress activity. The least effective dose of l-arginine as an adaptogen was 100 mg./kg. body weight per day for rats.