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L-arginine vs Arginine

When it comes to the products you buy at your health food shop, arginine and L-arginine are basically the same substance. If you are discussing either product with your friends at the gym or looking it up on the Internet, you can usually expect to find very little difference between the two. For science however, there is a distinction.

There are twenty different types of amino acids which the human body requires. Some of these are essential which means they need to be eaten in our diet every day and some are non-essential.

Arginine is considered to be one which is semi-essential. This means that, while the body produces enough arginine from the foods that we eat, it is possible to require extra which can come from supplements or from eating particular protein rich foods. Arginine, as with all amino acids, cannot be stored in the body for later use. Despite this, it is very rare to become deficient in arginine.

Amino acids are important when it comes to our metabolism and how proteins are made in our bodies. In fact they are so important that 75% of our body is made up of chains of amino acids. Every chemical reaction which occurs in the body relies on one or more of the twenty amino acids we have in our bodies. Amino acids and in particular arginine are found in protein rich foods such as meat, dairy, nuts, beans and some grains.

Amino acids are the building blocks of protein in the body and as such, arginine is important for those who are interested in body building. Two amino acids are required to build a protein molecule and often supplements will contain different groupings to facilitate this.

Arginine in particular has a central carbon with four groups attached. As with all amino acids, the first three groups are hydrogen, the amine NH2 and a carboxylic acid called COOH. However arginine has one extra chain which is a group made up of carbon, hydrogen and nitrogen.

When an "L" is placed in front of an amino acid (as it can be for any of the twenty in our bodies) it indicates that the amino acid can exist in two possible forms: L or D. D-arginine is often made for research by scientists but is not used commercially. D-arginine is not found in nature and is considered to be the mirror image of L-arginine in terms of its chemical structure.

L-arginine is the commercial preparation and is available in the food we eat. The human body only requires L-arginine.

If you ever see arginine for sale as a supplement, it will always be the same as L-arginine. The arginine in your body and your food is also the same as L-arginine. Scientists, however recognise that the word arginine could be taken to mean either L-arginine or D-arginine or even a mixture of the two. For most of us, arginine is exactly the same as L-arginine.

So essentially, there is no real difference between L-arginine and arginine, unless you are a scientist!





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