L-Arginine and Fatty Liver Disease

Fact Checked

iEvening_T/iStock/Getty Images

L-arginine is an amino acid that’s made in your body and found in foods such as soybeans, nuts and grains. Its main functions are to convert toxic ammonia to the waste product urea and provide immune system support. L-arginine shows promise in improving fatty liver disease, or hepatic steatosis, by increasing blood flow to the organ. However, further research is needed.

Fatty Liver Disease

Fatty liver disease refers to either alcoholic fatty liver disease or nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. Most cases of fatty liver disease are related to nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, which is the excess buildup of lipids in the liver. Although nonalcoholic fatty liver disease often produces no symptoms, a few symptoms have been reported, including fatigue and weight loss. Over time, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease can lead to inflammation and scarring of your liver, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Risk Factors

Several factors can increase your risk for nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, including obesity, hypertension, high cholesterol, metabolic syndrome, diabetes and high triglycerides. Since the disease is often asymptomatic, the best way to test for nonalcoholic fatty liver disease is by taking a blood test or liver tissue test, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Liver Blood Flow

People with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease normally have reductions in blood flow to the liver, which inhibits the organ from receiving enough nutrients and oxygen to reverse the condition. Scientists at the University College London in the United Kingdom observed that rats with hepatic steatosis taking L-arginine daily for 12 weeks experienced improvements in blood flow to the liver. Researchers stated that L-arginine increases the production of nitric oxide, a gas molecule that boosts blood flow. The findings were reported in the November 2005 issue of "Microvascular Research.” Although these findings are promising, human studies need to be performed.

Side Effects

Side effects such as gastrointestinal upset, diarrhea, nausea and increased blood sugar levels have been reported in those who take L-arginine supplements. Consult your health care provider before taking any supplements.