by Dr. Leo Galland
Statin drugs can be effective in reducing blood levels of cholesterol but have limited effectiveness in reducing blood levels of other types of fat, especially triglycerides. High levels of triglycerides in blood are considered to be an important risk factor for heart disease. Their levels are often not reduced by statin drugs or by low fat, cholesterol-reducing diets.
L-arginine is an amino acid with potential benefits for blood vessels and circulation. A research team in Germany administered L-arginine 1500 milligrams twice a day along with simvastatin (Zocor) to a group of patients with high cholesterol and high triglycerides. Arginine not only helped simvastatin reduce triglycerides levels by 250% compared to simvastatin alone, it also reduced signs of statin-induced liver damage.
The researchers note that “L-arginine enhances the effects of simvastatin on lipid metabolism, but it has no triglyceride-lowering effects when given alone.”
Other statin drugs include Lipitor (atorvastatin), Crestor (rosuvastatin), Leschol (fluvastatin), Pravachol (pravastatin) and Mevacor (lovastatin). The dietary supplement red yeast rice is a natural source of lovastatin. Vytorin, Caduet and Advicor are combination drugs with a statin as one component.
Reference and Abstracts:
Nutr Res. 2009 May;29(5):291-7.L-Arginine enhances the triglyceride-lowering effect of simvastatin in patients with elevated plasma triglycerides.Schulze F, Glos S, Petruschka D, Altenburg C, Maas R, Benndorf R, Schwedhelm E, Beil U, Böger RH.Center for Experimental Medicine, Institute for Experimental and Clinical Pharmacology, University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf, Hamburg 20246, Germany.
We recently noticed a possible triglyceride-lowering effect during dietary supplementation with L-arginine. The major limitation of prior studies on L-arginine, however, was that triglyceride levels were not the primary end point, and patients were not necessarily hypertriglyceridemic. Therefore, we conducted a 2-arm, randomized, double-blind study in 33 hypertriglyceridemic patients to investigate the hypothesis that oral L-arginine may lower serum triglyceride levels in hypertriglyceridemic patients on and off statins. The study consisted of a 6-week run-in phase, 6 weeks of treatment with L-arginine (n = 22, 1.5 g bid) or placebo (n = 11), and a 6-week extension period where simvastatin (20 mg qd) was added. All patients received dietary advice during each study visit. Routine and lipid laboratory parameters were determined in the local routine clinical laboratory. Treatment with L-arginine alone had no effects on serum lipids compared to placebo. The combination of L-arginine with simvastatin led to a significantly stronger reduction in triglycerides compared to placebo plus simvastatin (-140.5 +/- 149.2 mg/dL vs -56.1 +/- 85.0 mg/dL; P = .048). In addition, we found simvastatin-induced increases in aspartate transaminase and fibrinogen to be attenuated by L-arginine as compared to placebo. We conclude from our data that L-arginine enhances the effects of simvastatin on lipid metabolism, but it has no triglyceride-lowering effects when given alone.