L’arginine and L’citrulline are amino acids, Nutritionist Gaye Godkin looks at the role they play in fertility and reproduction and where we can get them in our diet.
L’arginine and L’citrulline are amino acids which are the precursors for the production of nitric oxide in the body. Nitric oxide has many functions in the human body. It is a molecule that the body produces to help its 50 trillion cells communicate with each other by transmitting signals throughout the entire body.
In recent years nitric oxide (NO) has been recognised as a molecule that plays an important role in regulating the biology and physiology of the reproductive system. As an amino acid it’s involved in protein synthesis and stimulates the production of hormones. It is possibly best known for its role as a vasodilator and can help to prevent erectile dysfunction. It also affects human sperm functions, such as motility, viability and metabolism. At low concentrations it has a positive effect on cells, but a negative effect at very high concentrations. The trick is to take the correct dosage.
Viagra and other impotence medications work due to their action on the nitric oxide pathway. One cause of impotence is unhealthy and aged arteries that feed blood to the sexual organs. Viagra works by influencing enzymes in the nitric oxide pathway, causing more blood flow to flow.
Another way to increase nitric oxide is through diet, most notably by consuming foods which contain the amino acids L-arginine and L-citrulline. Both of these amino acids work hand in hand. Enzymes that convert arginine to citrulline, and citrulline to arginine need to function optimally for efficient nitric oxide production. It only lasts a few seconds in the body and needs the support of other antioxidants, such as vitamins C and E, Co-Q10, and alpha lipoic acid to maintain its stability.
Pulses, beans and lentils are a super source of these amino acids. Incorporating them into the diet confers enormous health benefits thanks to their fibre content. Pulses are also naturally high in vitamins and minerals such as iron, zinc, phosphorus, folate and other B-vitamins. They are also high in protein and low in calories and fat. Combined with grains or dairy, they make an excellent source of complete protein for vegetarians and vegans.
Nuts are also a super source of these amino acids. Aim to incorporate a couple of handfuls of nuts per day into your diet. Nuts and seeds that are particularly beneficial are: almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, pumpkin seeds and pine nuts.
A good fertility supplement should also contain the correct amount of L’arginine and L’citrulline.