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By Serge Kreutz (2002)
A number of amino acid supplements have been promoted for improving sexual function, primarily arginine, tyrosine, and phenylalanine. While their effects have not been claimed to be as dramatic as the effect of Viagra or tongkat ali, I seriously doubt that they have any use at all, at least for the purpose of sexual enhancement. I am meanwhile convinced that their promotion really is just quakery.
As I have a keen interest in sexual enhancement, and as amino acids would be a cheap solution if they were any good, I have tested them thoroughly. I do believe in the connection between arginine, nitric oxide, and ease of erection, but swallowing amino acid supplements is, based on my experience, not the way to go. I have never noticed any difference from any amino acid capsules or powders I have tried. Period.
Sure, the body synthesizes nitric oxide from arginine, and nitric oxide functions as neurotransmitter in causing erections. There are numerous studies, which have shown that blocking nitric oxide will result in a failure to have erections.
However, the fact that arginine is a precursor to nitric oxide, and that nitric oxide functions as neurotransmitter in causing erections does not mean that arginine capsules would cause better erections, or make sex any better than it were without. It may just be the case that so little arginine is used to synthesize the nitric oxide needed for causing erections that our normal diet already provides more than enough of it.
My careful self-observation suggests that arginine supplementation even in the amount of several gram simply has no effect whatsoever on erections or other sexual functions.
While arginine probably has no benefit when it comes to erections, there is sufficient reason to suspect that arginine supplementation actually interferes with sexual pleasure by having a role in the outbreak of herpes episodes.
And while we are not aware of scientific studies showing that arginine supplementation would cause better erections in healthy men, there is ample scientific evidence that tilting the arginie-lysine balance in favor of lysine will make herpes episodes less frequent and less severe.
Tilting the balance towards lysine does not necessarily mean that one has to swallow (and purchase) supplemental lysine in the form of capsules, powders, or designer foods. Physicians usually just recommend that one consumes foods rich in lysine, and avoids foods rich in arginine.
I guess that anyway, the "pure" amino acids in capsules and supplement powders and drinks are all inferior to the amino acids found in protein food. Apart from amino acids, wholesome food contains many co-factors, which may be important for the proper utilization of amino acids.
On the other hand, amino acids in capsule form are probably great for the placebo effect. Even though they are, in my opinion, useless, a lot of people believe in them, and those who do will likely experience a sexual boost. And, amino acids do have the clear advantage of not being drugs, so side effects are not much of an issue.
One can have a definite improvement of one's sex life with tongkat ali or yohimbe. While side effects on tongkat ali are usually mild (hot-headedness), one often does get more than what one has been bidding for with yohimbe. For many people who try yohimbe, there will be an interruption to normal sleep cycles. Heart palpitation and general nervousness are other common side effects. Even if one finds these side effects of yohimbe manageable, one will still feel that one has taken something.
This is unlikely to ever happen with any amino acid supplement. One may have great sex after having taken specific amino acid supplements, but in my opinion, this is just a placebo effect.
Apart from arginine, the amino acid histidine has also been touted for sexual enhancement. The body uses the amino acid histidine as building material for histamines; histamines are chemical substances, which are responsible for quite a number of physiological processes, such as inflammation in case of infections or allergies. They also play a part in ejaculation. Doctors typically prescribe anti-histamines for inflammations and allergies, usually without telling male patients that they can expect some interference with orgasms. They may be more difficult while on anti-histamines.
One man's side effect is another man's cure. Those suffering from premature ejaculations (an annoying condition, indeed) may find that they can withhold ejaculation easier when having ingested anti-histamines. On the other hand, older men, or those having general difficulties to reach orgasm, may find themselves no longer capable to finish off.
Unfortunately, while some people who sell amino acids have theorized that ingesting histidine may have a positive effect on achieving orgasm, I myself have never noticed any difference from ingesting histidine, nor have I seen any scientific study proving it useful in any way.
Those who have read through a number of my sexual enhancement articles are probably aware of the connection between dopamine and libido. The body uses phenylalanine to manufacture tyrosine, and tyrosine is the precursor to the neurotransmitter dopamine.
For physicians, dopamine is of interest primarily because its age-related depletion is the cause of Parkinson's Disease. And it has long been known that medications used to treat Parkinson's Disease, such as bromocriptine (Parlodel) can make patients become romantically agitated. Love affairs among the elderly treated for Parkinson's Disease have been recorded as an occasionally embarrassing side effect of these medications, though a more modern line of thought considers this a blessing rather than a disturbance.
Tyrosine and phenylalanine are not used as medications in the treatment of Parkinson's for dopamine enhancement. Why? Because there is no indication that they would raise dopamine levels in any way. As other amino acids, tyrosine and phenylalanine are constituents of any normal, protein-containing diet. In general, the human physiology is tuned in a manner that normal constituents in food do not affect brain function, including dopamine levels.
Bromocriptine, which is derived from the ergot fungus that befalls grains, is of course not a normal constituent of food, but a poison in more than very small amounts. The member area of the sexual function package gives guidelines for the use of bromocriptine and other Parkinson's Disease medication for sexual enhancement.
Better avoid spending any money on any amino acid supplement. If you feel that you should supply your body with more amino acids, eat a steak or a good slice of Gorgonzola. That's cheaper, and tastes better. (sac)
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Copyright Serge Kreutz