L-arginine as dietary supplement for improving microvascular function

Clin Hemorheol Microcirc. 2017;65(3):205-217. doi: 10.3233/CH-16159.


Background: Reduced availability of nitric oxide leads to dysfunction of endothelium which plays an important role in the development of cardiovascular diseases.

Objective: The aim of the present study was to determine whether the dietary supplement L-arginine improves the endothelial function of microvessels by increasing nitric oxide production.

Methods: We undertook experiments on 51 healthy male volunteers, divided into 4 groups based on their age and physical activity since regular physical activity itself increases endothelium-dependent vasodilation. The skin laser Doppler flux was measured in the microvessels before and after the ingestion of L-arginine (0.9 g). The endothelium-dependent vasodilation was assessed by acetylcholine iontophoresis and the endothelium-independent vasodilation by sodium nitroprusside iontophoresis. In addition, we measured endothelium-dependent and endothelium-independent vasodilation in 81 healthy subjects divided into four age groups.

Results: After the ingestion of L-arginine, the endothelium-dependent vasodilation in the young trained subjects increased (paired t-test, p < 0.05), while in the other groups it remained the same. There were no differences in the endothelium-independent vasodilation after ingestion of L-arginine. With aging endothelium-independent vasodilation decreased while endothelium-dependent vasodilation remained mainly unchanged.

Conclusion: Obtained results demonstrated that a single dose of L-arginine influences endothelium-dependent vasodilation predominantly in young, trained individuals.

Keywords: L-arginine; aging; endothelium-dependent vasodilation; endothelium-independent vasodilation; laser Doppler flux; nitric oxide; physical activity; skin microcirculation.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Arginine / administration & dosage
  • Arginine / therapeutic use*
  • Dietary Supplements / analysis*
  • Endothelium, Vascular / physiopathology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nitric Oxide / metabolism*
  • Skin / blood supply*
  • Young Adult


  • Nitric Oxide
  • Arginine