Metabolic syndrome, previously called Syndrome X, is a condition characterized by high insulin levels, hypertension, high cholesterol, cardiac disease and accumulation of fat, particularly in the abdominal area. It was originally considered to be somewhat exotic, what is becoming more and more common.
Most physicians believe that this increase is related to changes in diet and activity level. There are several animal models in which the syndrome can be re-created by feeding the animals a high sugar high-fat diet. In other words, a diet a lot like the typical American diet.
Arginine is an amino acid that has several interesting physiologic effects. An important one is that it is involved in the production of nitric oxide. Nitric oxide in turn tends to produce mild vasodilatation.
In a recent study, researchers fed rats a high sugar high-fat diet with 25% fructose in their drinking water over a four-month period. In addition, half the rats were fed 5% arginine in their food for the last two months of the study
Any diet containing a lot of highly processed foods or simple sugars is likely to cause obesity and the metabolic syndrome. Fructose in particular appears to be a bad actor in this regard.
The researchers found that the rats fed this diet showed all the symptoms of metabolic syndrome – obesity, high blood pressure and damage to both their hearts and livers.
However the rats also receiving the arginine for the last part of the study did better. They gained less weight, they had low blood pressure and there is less damage to the heart and liver.
This was an animal study done in rats so we can’t immediately generalize this to human beings. However, arginine is a safe, relatively inexpensive amino acid. It might be worth considering taking as a supplement.
Remember though, that it was the diet that got the rats in trouble in the first place. Don’t think that you can eat all the junk food you want and then take a couple of arginine capsules to prevent any problems. A healthy diet is always the foundation. Supplementation is secondary.