Arginine alpha-ketoglutarate (AKG) is a nutritional supplement formed by combining the amino acid arginine with the glutamine-type amino acid alpha-ketoglutarate. This supplement is primarily sold for use as a muscle builder and weight gain product. It is also marketed as a health supplement in the treatment of diabetes, erectile dysfunction and overall vascular conditioning.
Arginine is a chief component in the building of nitric oxide in the body. Nitric oxide is a core element associated with cardiovascular health and circulation. It is also thought to stimulate growth and strengthen the body’s immune system because of its signaling and vascular dilation properties within the body.
Alpha-ketoglutarate is derived from glutamic acid and is a precursor in the production of glutamate. Glutamate is an essential component in the transmission of sensory and nerve signals throughout the body. It is also a precursor in the development of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which is an inhibitory neurotransmitter that contributes to the relaxation and development of chemical responses in the central nervous system.
AKG is a combination of primary amino acid building blocks, so it is thought that its application will aid in the building of muscle and stamina. Another anticipated benefit of its application is the elasticity and dilation of blood vessels, which contribute to vascular health and blood flow. Some reports and studies have shown this to be the case.
Hard evidence of AKG’s effectiveness in overall health and bodybuilding improvement is lacking. Much of the difficulty lies with the body’s metabolic processes. It is still unknown how the human body breaks down and metabolizes certain chemicals and nutrients. Numerous studies have shown that the introduction of specific chemicals has had an undesired or even detrimental effect, because the human body failed to recognize the application that by-passed its own developmental processes.
Other unknown factors in the application of supplements such as AKG include side effects and reactions. One of the products created in the breakdown of glutamic acid is ammonia, which is extracted in the liver and excreted. Excessive amounts of ammonia can have damaging effects on the liver. Inordinate levels of glutamate and glutamic acid have been implicated in complications such as Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, mental retardation and seizures. People who have experienced a heart attack should not use L-arginine supplements.
The preferred method for increasing the amount of arginine and glutamate in the body is by eating foods rich in these building blocks. Foods such as dairy products, whey protein, seafood, oatmeal, granola, nuts and seeds have been found to be rich in arginine. Supplements should be used only when deemed necessary and in conjunction with these foods. Professional medical advice should always be sought before using dietary supplements.