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Citrulline: An Amino Acid Supplement

Citrulline is a non-essential amino acid naturally produced in the body. It is also available as a dietary supplement, often in the form of citrulline pills or powder, which may offer potential health benefits such as improved exercise performance and lower blood pressure.

Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins in our bodies. While most amino acids are used to create these vital proteins, some have other significant functions. Citrulline falls into this category.

What is Citrulline?

Citrulline is classified as a non-essential amino acid. This means that while it plays a role in our health, our bodies can produce sufficient amounts, making it unnecessary to obtain from dietary sources.

Citrulline is named after the Latin word for watermelon, “citrullus”, as this fruit serves as one of the few natural food sources of the amino acid. In the body, citrulline is produced as a byproduct of the urea cycle, a process that eliminates toxic ammonia by converting it into urea for excretion.

Interestingly, citrulline also plays a role in the production of another amino acid called arginine, as well as nitric oxide, a compound that dilates blood vessels and improves blood flow. These conversions are at the heart of many of citrulline’s purported health benefits.

Potential Benefits of Citrulline Supplements

Citrulline supplements, whether in pill or powder form, are often touted for their potential health benefits. While research is ongoing and more studies are needed, some possible advantages of citrulline supplementation include:

Enhanced Exercise Performance: By increasing nitric oxide production, citrulline may improve blood flow and oxygen delivery to muscles during exercise. Some studies suggest this could lead to better endurance and reduced fatigue. However, the evidence is mixed, and more research is needed to confirm these effects.

Lowered Blood Pressure: The nitric oxide-boosting properties of citrulline may also help dilate blood vessels, leading to lower blood pressure. Some studies have found that citrulline supplements can indeed reduce blood pressure, particularly in people with hypertension. However, the long-term safety and efficacy of citrulline for blood pressure management is still unclear.

Improved Erectile Function: Because of its ability to improve blood flow, citrulline has been studied as a potential natural treatment for erectile dysfunction (ED). Some compact studies have found that citrulline supplementation may improve erection hardness and satisfaction. However, it appears to be less effective than common ED medications like Viagra.

Safety and Side Effects

Citrulline supplements are generally considered safe when taken in appropriate doses. The most common side effects reported are mild digestive issues like nausea, diarrhea, and stomach discomfort.

However, because citrulline can affect blood pressure, it may interact with certain medications, particularly those used to treat high blood pressure or heart disease. It’s crucial to speak with a healthcare provider before starting citrulline or any new supplement, especially if you have a medical condition or take medications.

Additionally, the safety of citrulline supplements in pregnant or breastfeeding women is unknown due to a lack of research. It’s best to avoid use in these populations unless under the guidance of a healthcare professional.

Dosage and Forms of Citrulline

Citrulline supplements are available in two main forms: L-citrulline and citrulline malate. L-citrulline is the pure form of the amino acid, while citrulline malate is a combination of citrulline and malic acid, a compound involved in energy production.

There is no official recommended dosage for citrulline supplements. However, studies have typically used doses ranging from 3–6 grams per day for general health purposes and up to 8 grams per day for exercise performance.

It’s best to start with a lower dose and gradually increase as tolerated. Follow the instructions on the product label and consult with a healthcare provider if you have any concerns.

The bottom line

Citrulline is a non-essential amino acid with intriguing potential health benefits. While it shows promise for improving exercise performance, blood pressure, and erectile function, more research is needed to fully understand its effects and determine appropriate dosages.

If you’re considering trying a citrulline supplement, it’s significant to speak with a healthcare professional first, especially if you have any underlying health conditions or take medications.

As with any supplement, individual results may vary. While citrulline pills or powders may offer some benefits, they’re not a magic bullet for health and should be used in conjunction with a balanced diet and healthy lifestyle.