Can supplements lower my blood pressure?

Patrika Tsai Health Guide
  • Question:  Through regular exercise (4xweek) I have cut my blood pressure medication in half.  My workouts, from the beginning in August, have been fairly intense.  I recently have started taking 3400mg of L-arginine before weight lifting and I've noticed that my blood pressure seems to be dropping again.  My body fat (water tank) is 15.6%.  I am 59 years old, 5'09", 183 lbs.  Is there a relationship between the L-arginine and my BP, or is it simply a coincidence due to the continued progression with my physical fitness regimen?  My routine is 7 minutes of cardio, weights for about 1 hr 30 minutes, and then 30 minutes of cardio - broken down into alternating days of upper and lower body.

    Dr. Tsai:  L-arginine is an amino acid.  It is a precursor for the compound nitric oxide which your body needs for proper functioning of the blood vessels.  Nitric oxide allows your blood vessels to relax which will reduce your blood pressure.  Some studies suggest that arginine supplementation may reduce blood pressure, particularly in rodents.  Studies are being conducted in humans, but the data is still limited.   

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    Most people do not require additional supplementation of arginine.  Exceptions include people with severe burns, trauma, or genetic disorders affecting amino acid synthesis.  Arginine deficiency can manifest as symptoms like rash, growth failure, and poor wound healing.  The body actually produces L-arginine, mainly in the kidneys.  L-arginine is also found in dietary plant and animal protein like dairy and meats.  Plant proteins like soy have more arginine than animal sources.

    L-arginine may interact with medications including several commonly used for the treatment of high blood pressure.  It is important to ensure that your physician is aware of all medications, supplements, vitamins, herbs, and teas that you may be taking to ensure that there are no potentially dangerous interactions.

    It is possible that the L-arginine may be contributing to your decrease in blood pressure, but it could be coincidental.  More research on L-arginine in humans is needed to answer this question definitely.  Exercise has been proven to improve blood pressure, and your reduction in blood pressure may be the well-earned reward of all your hard work.

Published On: April 12, 2007