Amino Acids

, Volume 39, Issue 2, pp 349–357 | Cite as

Beneficial effects of l-arginine on reducing obesity: potential mechanisms and important implications for human health

  • Jason R. McKnight
  • M. Carey Satterfield
  • Wenjuan S. Jobgen
  • Stephen B. Smith
  • Thomas E. Spencer
  • Cynthia J. Meininger
  • Catherine J. McNeal
  • Guoyao WuEmail author
Invited Review


Over the past 20 years, growing interest in the biochemistry, nutrition, and pharmacology of l-arginine has led to extensive studies to explore its nutritional and therapeutic roles in treating and preventing human metabolic disorders. Emerging evidence shows that dietary l-arginine supplementation reduces adiposity in genetically obese rats, diet-induced obese rats, finishing pigs, and obese human subjects with Type-2 diabetes mellitus. The mechanisms responsible for the beneficial effects of l-arginine are likely complex, but ultimately involve altering the balance of energy intake and expenditure in favor of fat loss or reduced growth of white adipose tissue. Recent studies indicate that l-arginine supplementation stimulates mitochondrial biogenesis and brown adipose tissue development possibly through the enhanced synthesis of cell-signaling molecules (e.g., nitric oxide, carbon monoxide, polyamines, cGMP, and cAMP) as well as the increased expression of genes that promote whole-body oxidation of energy substrates (e.g., glucose and fatty acids) Thus, l-arginine holds great promise as a safe and cost-effective nutrient to reduce adiposity, increase muscle mass, and improve the metabolic profile in animals and humans.


Arginine Fat metabolism Brown adipose tissue NO 



Acetyl-CoA carboxylase


AMP-activated protein kinase




Brown adipose tissue


Carnitine palmitoyl transferase-1


Diet-induced obese


Guanylyl cyclase


Long-chain fatty acid


Nitric oxide


Nitric oxide synthase


Peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor γ coactivator-1α


Uncoupling protein-1


White adipose tissue


Zucker diabetic fatty



We thank Frances Mutscher and Merrick Gearing for assistance in manuscript preparation. This work was supported, in part, by grants from National Institutes of Health (R21 HL094689), National Research Initiative Competitive Grants (2008-35206-18762, 2008-35206-18764, 2008-35203-19120 and 2009-35206-05211) from the USDA Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service, American Heart Association (0655109Y and 0755024Y), and Texas AgriLife Research (H-8200).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jason R. McKnight
    • 1
  • M. Carey Satterfield
    • 1
  • Wenjuan S. Jobgen
    • 1
  • Stephen B. Smith
    • 1
  • Thomas E. Spencer
    • 1
  • Cynthia J. Meininger
    • 2
  • Catherine J. McNeal
    • 3
    • 4
  • Guoyao Wu
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Animal Science, Faculty of NutritionTexas A&M UniversityCollege StationUSA
  2. 2.Department of Systems Biology and Translational MedicineTexas A&M Health Science CenterCollege StationUSA
  3. 3.Department of Internal MedicineScott & White HealthcareTempleUSA
  4. 4.Department of PediatricsScott & White HealthcareTempleUSA

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