Two nutritional supplements. One is well-known in the sports and bodybuilding circles. The other one, not so much. Both are amino acids. But according to recent research, arginine and proline may be helpful in promoting healing of chronic wounds such as foot ulcers, a common cause for lower leg amputations in diabetes patients.
Arginine, the better known of the two, has been used in bodybuilding and sports supplements to help increase blood flow, thereby improving muscle “pumps” in and out of the gym. It is also known as l-arginine, AKG (arginine alpha-ketoglutarate) or Arg. Popular bodybuilding supplement, nitric oxide, is arginine based.
Some would say arginine is a non-essential amino acid, though it may be more accurate to say that it is “conditionally essential”. This is because certain conditions, including intense exercise, increase demand for it in the body.
Proline, the lesser known amino acid, is also considered non-essential. Some even say it is not an amino acid but an imino acid.
French researcher recently found that the two supplements may help improve wound healing in diabetic patients. They found that diabetic rats on high protein and high arginine and proline showed better wound healing than those on high protein alone.
Researchers divided 18 rats into three groups that were either fed a standard diet, a high-protein diet, or a high protein diet supplemented with arginine and proline (ARG+PRO). On the first day of the experiment, each rat was given an incision, under which a sponge was placed in order to collect wound-healing fluid. To assess skin regrowth and healing, researchers also removed two full-thickness sections of skin from the rats’ backs each day from day 1 until day 5, when the experiment ended.
At the end of the experiment, the rats’ blood was analyzed for blood sugar, insulin, and amino acid concentrations. The wounds on their backs were examined for skin regrowth and development of new blood vessels. And, finally, macrophages were collected from the sponges and analyzed for indications of cytokine stimulation and pro-inflammatory activity.
Rats on both high protein diets had better nitrogen balance than those on the standard diet. However, the wounds of the rats on the ARG+PRO diet showed more new blood vessel growth on day 5. New blood vessel growth is an essential part of wound healing as the blood vessels supply nutrition and oxygen to growing tissue. (Read more at the Science Blog)
Of course, there is no guarantee that results on rats will translate to humans. But hope, especially with basis, is always a good thing. And, if it works well with diabetics chances are it may work for people other conditions, or even better for people without health problems. Amino acid arginine has been used to boost immune system with certain conditions including HIV.