L-arginine and hypertension

J Nutr. 2004 Oct;134(10 Suppl):2807S-2811S; discussion 2818S-2819S. doi: 10.1093/jn/134.10.2807S.


Hypertension is a major healthcare problem afflicting nearly 50 million individuals in the United States. Despite its strong causal association with cardiovascular disease complications including myocardial infarction, heart failure, and stroke, the majority of patients with hypertension do not achieve optimal blood pressure control. The prevalence of hypertension is expected to increase with the aging population, growing obesity epidemic, and rising incidence of metabolic syndrome. Endothelial dysfunction and reduced nitric oxide (NO) bioactivity represent prominent pathophysiological abnormalities associated with hypertensive cardiovascular disease. Individuals with hypertension exhibit blunted epicardial and resistance vascular dilation to endothelium-derived nitric oxide (EDNO) agonists in the peripheral and coronary circulation that likely contributes to mechanisms of altered vascular tone in hypertension. The amino acid L-arginine serves as the principal substrate for vascular NO production. Numerous studies, though not uniformly, demonstrate a beneficial effect of acute and chronic L-arginine supplementation on EDNO production and endothelial function, and L-arginine has been shown to reduce systemic blood pressure in some forms of experimental hypertension. This brief review discusses the potential role of L-arginine in hypertension, and reviews possible mechanisms of L-arginine action including modulation of EDNO production, alteration of asymmetrical dimethylarginine (ADMA):L-arginine balance, and possible improvement of insulin sensitivity. In view of the rising prevalence of hypertension, randomized human clinical studies investigating the potential therapeutic role of L-arginine may be warranted.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Arginine / analogs & derivatives*
  • Arginine / metabolism
  • Arginine / therapeutic use*
  • Endothelium, Vascular / drug effects
  • Endothelium, Vascular / metabolism
  • Endothelium, Vascular / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Hypertension / drug therapy*
  • Hypertension / metabolism
  • Hypertension / physiopathology
  • Insulin / metabolism
  • Nitric Oxide / metabolism
  • Vasomotor System / drug effects
  • Vasomotor System / physiopathology


  • Insulin
  • dimethylarginine
  • Nitric Oxide
  • Arginine