L-Arginine improves multiple physiological parameters in mice exposed to diet-induced metabolic disturbances

Amino Acids. 2012 Sep;43(3):1265-75. doi: 10.1007/s00726-011-1199-1. Epub 2011 Dec 27.


L-Arginine (L-Arg) is a conditionally essential amino acid and a natural constituent of dietary proteins. Studies in obese rats and type 2 diabetic humans have indicated that dietary supplementation with L-Arg can diminish gain in white adipose tissue (WAT) and improve insulin sensitivity. However, the effects of L-Arg on glucose homeostasis, body composition and energy metabolism remain unclear. In addition, no studies have, to our knowledge, examined whether L-Arg has beneficial effects as a dietary supplement in the mouse model. In the present study, we investigated the effects of L-Arg supplementation to male C57BL/6 mice on an array of physiological parameters. L-Arg supplemented mice were maintained on a low-protein diet and body composition, appetite regulation, glucose tolerance, insulin sensitivity and energy expenditure were evaluated. A significant reduction in epididymal WAT was observed in L-Arg supplemented mice compared with mice fed an isocaloric control diet. Surprisingly, the L-Arg supplemented animals were hyperphagic corresponding to a highly significant decrease in feed efficiency, as body weight developed in a similar pattern in both experimental groups. Glucose homeostasis experiments revealed a major effect of L-Arg supplementation on glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity, interestingly, independent of a parallel regulation in whole-body adiposity. Increased L-Arg ingestion also raised energy expenditure; however, no concurrent effect on locomotor activity, substrate metabolism or expression of uncoupling proteins (UCP1 and UCP2) in adipose tissues was displayed. In conclusion, dietary L-Arg supplementation substantially affects an array of metabolic-associated parameters including a reduction in WAT, hyperphagia, improved insulin sensitivity and increased energy expenditure in mice fed a low-protein diet.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue, White / drug effects
  • Adipose Tissue, White / pathology
  • Adiposity / drug effects
  • Animals
  • Arginine / administration & dosage*
  • Arginine / adverse effects
  • Blood Glucose
  • Diet, Protein-Restricted / adverse effects
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Energy Intake / drug effects
  • Energy Metabolism / drug effects
  • Gene Expression / drug effects
  • Genes, Mitochondrial
  • Glucose / metabolism
  • Homeostasis
  • Hyperphagia / chemically induced
  • Hypoglycemic Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Hypoglycemic Agents / adverse effects
  • Insulin / blood
  • Insulin Resistance
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mitochondria / drug effects
  • Motor Activity / drug effects
  • Oxygen Consumption / drug effects


  • Blood Glucose
  • Hypoglycemic Agents
  • Insulin
  • Arginine
  • Glucose