ARGININE (ALSO KNOWN AS L-ARGININE)
Arginine in Spectrum Needs
Arginine is added in order to provide a wide basis of nutrition, especially given the important role of arginine in the vasculature. The inclusion of arginine in Spectrum Needs is based on the clinical practice of Dr. Boles, in which arginine supplementation has been found to reduce episodes of pain, dizziness, and/or irritability in individuals with or without ASD, and that arginine dosages at least up to 10 grams a day are well tolerated in individuals with ASD. Side effects are unexpected with the dose of arginine (1.5 grams in adults) used in Spectrum Needs.
What Is Arginine? Arginine is a conditionally essential amino acid in that it can be made by our bodies but not in sufficient quantities for all situations.
What Does Arginine Do? Arginine is one of the 20 plus amino acids that comprise all proteins. In addition, arginine has important functions in cell division, growth, wound healing, ammonia excretion, immune function, and hormone release. Arginine is also required for the synthesis of nitric oxide (NO) and creatine.
What Does an Arginine Deficiency Appear as? Since our bodies can synthesize arginine and it is present in almost all dietary proteins, arginine deficiency is rare outside of specific situations such as in preterm infants, bowel or kidney disease, and specific genetic disorders.
What About Arginine’s Use in Autistic Spectrum Disorders (ASD)? The role of arginine in the treatment of ASD has not been studied.
What About Arginine’s Use in Other Conditions? Nitric oxide is a neurotransmitter that helps blood vessels relax, and therefore dilate, allowing for increased blood flow. As arginine increases nitric oxide production, it is thus often given as a supplement in order to improve circulation in certain health conditions related to restricted circulation, such as high blood pressure, angina, and peripheral arterial disease. Several studies have shown that arginine can help prevent and treat stroke, stroke-like episodes, and migraine in MELAS, an inherited mitochondrial disorder (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5519148/pdf/nihms876713.pdf). However, there is little data regarding the effects of arginine on migraine in general. Arginine is also frequently used to boost athletic performance, especially with alpha-ketoglutarate.
What Are the Common and/or Important Side Effects of Arginine? Arginine is generally recognized as safe (GRAS-status) at intakes of up to 20 grams per day (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18325648). In Dr. Boles’ experience, arginine in dosages at least up to 10 grams a day is well tolerated in individuals with ASD.
Is There Any Laboratory Testing for an Arginine Deficiency? Laboratory testing can reveal the presence of a deficiency of this nutrient, but is generally not likely to have clinically utility.