Fat Burning Via Arginine

Fat Burning Via Arginine
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The arginine content of nuts may explain their metabolism-boosting effects—though, in a list of the top food sources of arginine, nuts don’t even make the top ten.

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How do nuts boost fat burning within the body? A paper out of Texas A&M last year suggests that it may be the arginine content of nuts. How does arginine get the job done? They’re not sure: “The underlying mechanisms are likely complex at molecular, cellular, and whole-body levels.” In other words, they have no clue.

But, they do review the evidence that it may involve the stimulation of mitochondrial biogenesis (more power plants per cell), and brown adipose tissue development, which is what our body uses to generate body heat—so we’d be converting more of our fat into heat. Either way, they suspect arginine to play an important role in fighting the current global obesity epidemic.

Well then, where in the diet can we find arginine? I’ll give you a hint. According to the CDC, 78 million Americans aren’t getting enough. So, you know the top few sources have got to be in healthy foods, because no one’s getting any.

And, indeed, here’s the list for the top 15 food sources of arginine you’d likely find in a typical store: (1) soy protein isolate (6.7g/100g), which is what they make veggie burgers, and meat-free hot dogs, and the like out of; (2) pumpkin and squash seeds (5.4g/100g); (4) watermelon seeds (4.9g/100g). Isn’t that crazy? Not as crazy as (5) fried pork rinds (4.8g/100g)—I’m not kidding. Maybe Americans should be getting more than I think! (6) barbecue-flavored pork rinds (4.5g/100g)—it must just concentrate in the skin; (7) sesame seeds (3.3g/100g); (8) peanuts (3.25g/100g); (9) soybeans (3.15g/100g); (10) peanut butter (2.7g/100g); (11) tahini (2.68g/100g); (12) almonds (2.5g/100g); (13) pine nuts (2.4g/100g); (14)  fava beans (2.4g/100g); and (15) sunflower seeds (2.4g/100g).

So, basically, soy, seeds, nuts, and beans for arginine. Although dried beluga whale meat evidently has a lot, the first non-pork rind animal food you could actually find in a typical store clocks in the USDA database at 95th down the list—bacon.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Kerry Skinner.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

How do nuts boost fat burning within the body? A paper out of Texas A&M last year suggests that it may be the arginine content of nuts. How does arginine get the job done? They’re not sure: “The underlying mechanisms are likely complex at molecular, cellular, and whole-body levels.” In other words, they have no clue.

But, they do review the evidence that it may involve the stimulation of mitochondrial biogenesis (more power plants per cell), and brown adipose tissue development, which is what our body uses to generate body heat—so we’d be converting more of our fat into heat. Either way, they suspect arginine to play an important role in fighting the current global obesity epidemic.

Well then, where in the diet can we find arginine? I’ll give you a hint. According to the CDC, 78 million Americans aren’t getting enough. So, you know the top few sources have got to be in healthy foods, because no one’s getting any.

And, indeed, here’s the list for the top 15 food sources of arginine you’d likely find in a typical store: (1) soy protein isolate (6.7g/100g), which is what they make veggie burgers, and meat-free hot dogs, and the like out of; (2) pumpkin and squash seeds (5.4g/100g); (4) watermelon seeds (4.9g/100g). Isn’t that crazy? Not as crazy as (5) fried pork rinds (4.8g/100g)—I’m not kidding. Maybe Americans should be getting more than I think! (6) barbecue-flavored pork rinds (4.5g/100g)—it must just concentrate in the skin; (7) sesame seeds (3.3g/100g); (8) peanuts (3.25g/100g); (9) soybeans (3.15g/100g); (10) peanut butter (2.7g/100g); (11) tahini (2.68g/100g); (12) almonds (2.5g/100g); (13) pine nuts (2.4g/100g); (14)  fava beans (2.4g/100g); and (15) sunflower seeds (2.4g/100g).

So, basically, soy, seeds, nuts, and beans for arginine. Although dried beluga whale meat evidently has a lot, the first non-pork rind animal food you could actually find in a typical store clocks in the USDA database at 95th down the list—bacon.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Kerry Skinner.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Images thanks to David Kent, Glane23, Evan-Amos, Sanjay ach, PiccoloNamek, and Yuriy75 via Wikimedia Commons; Cat Sidh, Paul Goyette, and toconnor1 via Flickr; and Tuinboon_zaden_in_peul, IvanNedialkov Paparaka, Jack Dykinga, USDA ARS, gran, and Sanjay Acharya via flickr

Doctor's Note

This is the sixth video in my seven-part series on this fascinating phenomenon. I reviewed the balance of evidence as to why nuts don’t tend to contribute to weight gain in Nuts and Obesity: The Weight of Evidence. Next, I introduced two theories on Solving the Mystery of the Missing Calories, both of which were put to the test in a study on peanut butter (see Testing the Pistachio Principle). Then came an elegant study using walnut smoothies in Testing the Dietary Compensation Theory, followed by the big reveal in Testing the Fat-Burning Theory. Arginine may, indeed, explain the thermogenic effect of nuts, but it also might be the flavonoid phytonutrients, which I explore next in Fat Burning via Flavonoids. Should one avoid soy protein isolate, even though it’s such a concentrated source of arginine? Stay tuned—I’m going to address that when I cover IGF-1 and the cancer growth reversal studies. I offer a sneak peak in my full-length 2012 presentation, Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death

For further context, check out my associated blog posts: Nuts Don’t Cause Expected Weight GainBurning Fat With FlavonoidsWhat Is the Healthiest Meat?; and The Best Nutrition Bar.

If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

36 responses to “Fat Burning Via Arginine

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  1. This is video #6 in a seven-part series on the fascinating phenomenon of Solving the Mystery of the Missing Calories. I review the balance of evidence of why nuts don’t tend to contribute to weight gain in Nuts and Obesity: The Weight of Evidence, introduced two theories on Monday, both of which were put to the test in a study on peanut butter Testing the Pistachio Principle. Then came an elegant study using walnut smoothies, followed by the big reveal in yesterday’s video-of-the-day Testing the Fat Burning Theory. Arginine may indeed explain the thermogenic effect of nuts, but it also might be the flavonoid phytonutrients, which we’ll explore tomorrow. Should one avoid soy protein isolate even though it’s such a concentrated source of arginine? Stay tuned—I’m going to cover that when I cover IGF-1 and the cancer growth reversal studies I offer a sneak peak at in my full-length 2012 presentation Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death. If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

    1. I noticed in your above comments that you stated, “which we’ll explore tomorrow.”

      You’ve said this before but that would violate the first rule of Nutrtionodynamics:  Anticipation = The Greger Principle

      ;-}

  2. Well, I don’t think I’ll be indulging in any pork rinds or beluga whale meat (little problem of Jewish dietary laws there :) ) but the nuts and seeds are great! I’ve got sunflower seeds in my homemade oatmeal muffins, tahini in the tofu mushroom stew for Friday night dinner and homemade chickpea humus for lunch tomorrow. 
    I just hope this information from Texas A&M doesn’t get distilled down to a soundbite in some news source and people stampede to their local healthfood store hoping to buy l-arginine pills to pop with their fat burgers. Arg indeed!

      1.  Hi Hunniliz,
        I’d love to share it but I think the recipe is a bit too long to post here.
        The recipe can be found in the cookbook _Moosewood Restaurant Low-Fat Favorites_ on p.277.
         

        1. Thanks for the info.  I have that cookbook.  Do you go exactly by the recipe or have you made changes.  My chili recipe comes from  Moosewood Cooks at Home, but it now no longer resembles the original recipe.

          1.  Hmmm, good question, lemme look at the recipe.
            I used pure organic tahini and I left out the celery, I’m not fond of celery. In the future I’ll substitute the celery with water chestnuts, that will give a nice crunch to the stew.
            I also love to tinker with recipes, especially when I want to eliminate the fat/oil from the recipe.

    1. I just hope this information from Texas A&M doesn’t get distilled down to a soundbite in some news source and people stampede to their local healthfood store hoping to buy l-arginine pills to pop with their fat burgers. Arg indeed!

      Why?

    2.  re: “I just hope this information from Texas A&M doesn’t get distilled
      down to a soundbite in some news source and people stampede to their
      local healthfood store hoping to buy l-arginine pills to pop with their
      fat burgers.”

      Funny.  I was thinking: “I assume the media is going to distill this down to: eat fried pork rinds!”  Arg ditto.

        1. Now that’s a frightening thought!
          Another excuse to eat really bad food! They might have to change the name of the show to “Culinary Conflicts.”

  3. If you will accept possible topics, I sure would like to know about pH levels. My chiropractor (76 and extraordinarily healthy) tests himself with pH strips on the tongue several times/day, adjusting with cider vinegar if necessary. Swears by it. I know that ayurvedic medicine focuses on the pH level as well, so would like to know more…

  4. I realy appreciate the videos that you send me regularly… they are full of great informations helping me to eat better… and that means linving longer in a healty way!  Thanks to you  Dr. Michael Greger…  I missed your last lectures in Montréal but now  it is great to have you on de web!!! 

  5. It looks like the nuts & seeds in your comparison are all weighing 100 grams. If that is so–it is an extraordinary large quantity for anyone to eat. For example: To consume the 100 grams of pumpkin seeds in order to get 4033 mg of arginine–a person would also be consuming 540 calories, 46 grams of fat, & 9 grams of saturated. No one eats that much–nor would it be healthy to do so.

    A more typical serving of pumpkin seeds or nuts (a handful) would likely only be 28 grams–and 151 calories, 13 grams of fat, 2 grams sat fat, & now–only 1129 mg of arginine–not much different from the amount in a normal 3 ounce serving of wild salmon or a cup of black beans.

    The point is–you need to compare arginine content as it exists is NORMAL servings of food–not by a 100 gram measure.

    Note, also that arginine is not hard to come by at all! It’s plentiful in meat, poultry, dairy, & fish—along with beans. And we certainly now that a diet high in dairy & meat isn’t exactly heart-health.

    Look at the arginine content of 3 ounces of lean beef round. It has 1816 mg of arginine (beats out the pumpkin seeds!), along with 175 calories (similar to the pumpkin seeds), & only 6 grams of fat, 2 grams of sat fat.

    Yes, you can get enough arginine on a plant-based diet without even eating nuts or seeds, let alone 100 gram servings—and all that extra fat & calories. The nitric oxide production must clearly be working in such a diet, because blood pressure goes down, C-Reactive protein levels decrease, body weight is reduced & stable, & heart disease can often be prevented or reversed.

  6. The Lucky Irishman

    – 1 orange
    – 1 frozen banana
    – 1 handful organic* spinach
    – 1 zucchini
    – 1 organic* Granny Smith apple
    – ½ tbsp sunflower seeds
    – ½ tbsp pumpkin seeds
    – 4-7 ice cubes

    Place all ingredients in the blender and blend until smooth.

    *Apples rank 1st (most contaminated) for yet another year and spinach ranks #6 (up two from last year’s 8th) in the “dirty dozen: 12 foods to eat organic” so choose organic. http://www.ewg.org/foodnews/list.php

    Bookmark my new Plant-Based Emporium Facebook page for all my latest recipes. https://www.facebook.com/PlantBasedEmporium

    ~Complements of lovestobevegan

  7. So if a person consumed 1000 calories of fiber rich whole food, would some of the calories be prevented from absorption due to the fiber?
    In other words? what a calorie is made of and where it comes from determines where it is going and how it is metabolized?

    1. Yes, calories really don’t work, they’re a simplistic and archaic concept. If our bodies were simple machines, then calories could be applied, but we are intricate systems and the foods we eat are so complex than man doesn’t even understand but a fraction of what they’re made up of. 100 calories of broccoli vs. 100 calories of dairy are two VERY different things. This is why people on whole foods plant based diets tend not to worry about calories, they simply don’t need to.

  8. How about Sacha Inchi seeds? I am allergic to all tree nuts and peanuts, but I can eat these. Sacha Inchi are apparently just recently appearing in American markets. I’m hoping that Dr. Gregor will investigate them to determine if he thinks that the health benefit claims about them are true.

  9. O.K. I heard you say that bacon has arginine in it and that arginine will help me lose weight and that weight loss is good soooooooo
    I just need to eat enough bacon, and I’ll be good, right? If it is 95th on the list though I’ll need to eat a lot of it. I can probably find ways to sneak it into many of the dishes I already eat. This will take some planning, but I’ll do it for my health.
    La La La La La La La La La La La La La La La La La La La La La La La La La La La La La La La La La La La La La La La La La La La La La La La La

  10. Many seeds and nuts not only are high in arginine but also have a very high arginine to lysine ratio. That may be good for boosting metabolism, but there seems to be some concern that the herpes virus thrives on it. Lysine seems to keep the virus under control, but there are very few vegan sources. For anyone who has had shingles, this is not a matter to be taken lightly. Any thoughts?

    1. Hi JHM- I’m Dr Anderson, a volunteer with Dr Greger. While lysine is present in the cells of one of the important zoster (shingles) proteins, and this is involved in how the cells self regulate and whether they cause infection or not, there’s not clear understanding that the dietary levels of lysine, arginine, or eating foods with higher L:A ratio is beneficial as a treatment. Lysine has been marketed as a treatment for zoster, but there’s not evidence that it prevents zoster outbreaks. Here’s an article on what we know about the basic science of zoster and lysine. Unfortunately, we’re still far from fully understanding precisely why the virus reactivates in some people. For those who are not immune suppressed, the zoster vaccine is the most effective preventive therapy currently available.

      https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27795427

      1. Hi Dr. Anderson,

        Thank you for your reply. I am not sure why I was never notified that you had replied, just saw it now with a notification of someone else’s comment.

        I agree with your comment that we don’t know precisely why the virus reactivates in some people. However, we do have some fairly decent anecdotal evidence suggesting stress and an arginine overload might play a role. Among plant-based sources, seeds and nuts; including walnuts, almonds, sesame seeds, pine nuts, peanuts, etc.; despite their health-giving properties as healthy fats have very high amounts of arginine and relatively little lysine. You would need to eat a pound of walnuts to get as much lysine as you have in a small bowl of cottage cheese and even then you would be getting a whopping 13,000mg of arginine from the walnuts (obviously, no one eats a pound of walnuts at one sitting). Also, eating dairy obviously isn’t the solution either. However, if one is eating seeds and nuts with regularity I would be concerned about the higher levels of arginine to lysine.

        I know how terrible herpes zoster can be as my dad came down with a serious outbreak of it at the age of 83. Again, anecdotal, but my dad had been under a bit of stress. I inquired about his diet, which is generally a healthy WFPB diet (I had convinced him to change his diet at age 80), however he told me he had been eating tablespoons of peanut butter fairly regularly in the run-up to the outbreak. With a combination of acupuncture, essential oils used topically, and certain supplements, including lysine, he was out of pain within 3 weeks. He did also take an anti-viral early on which no doubt helped. From what I can tell, the jury is still out on the overall effectiveness of the zoster vaccine, and only last year a new vaccine has come out that remains somewhat untested.

        Anyway, thank you for your feedback.

    2. Very few vegan sources of lysine? A vegan diet is a very easy way to get all one’s amino acids. According the cronometer, it’s easy to far exceed any agreed upon lysine requirements by simply eating whole plant foods.

  11. Marty if you scroll down on the transcript to the 2nd to last paragraph, you see Dr. Greger mentions the USDA database (“Although dried beluga whale meat evidently has a lot, the first non-pork rind animal food you could actually find in a typical store clocks in the USDA database at 95th down the list—bacon.”) so it would be safe to assume he is indeed using the USDA Nutrition Database. I checked two foods and although the amounts of each food is not exactly 100 grams, when you do the math, the amounts come out the same as the amounts listed in the video, which is why I think you’re on solid ground thinking the Arg/food ratios cited are from the USDA Nutrition Database. I’m assuming you know how to get there if you wanted to check out other arginine amounts, but just in case that website would be: https://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/nutrients/report?nutrient1=511&nutrient2=&nutrient3=&&max=25&subset=0&offset=0&sort=c&totCount=5029&measureby=m/

    Hope that answers your question.

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