L-Citrulline Side Effects, Dangers and Health Risks
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L-citrulline side effects are not typically experienced with the proper oral administration of this natural dietary non-essential alpha amino acid.
We can naturally synthesize L-citrulline endogenously or consume it from some common food sources.
L-citrulline is sold as a dietary supplement, and a separate pharmaceutical version is used to treat rare genetic disorders and may help with certain vascular problems and other medical conditions.
It is typically used by bodybuilders as a pre-workout supplement and by men who want to improve their sexual performance. L-citrulline is a safe and natural Nitric Oxide booster, which improve vasodilation, promoting increased circulation.
It has a well-established safety record, with no reported adverse effects in most research studies involving it.
However, there is a theoretical potential for interactions with certain drugs, particularly medications that reduce blood pressure.
L-citrulline is used to Treat Rare Genetic Disorders
L-citrulline is used to treat a group of genetic disorders called inborn errors of metabolism, which if left untreated, can result in developmental disabilities, brain damage, and death.
One of these conditions affects the urea cycle. The urea cycle is the body’s process of removing excess ammonia from the bloodstream.
The National Urea Cycle Disorders Foundation estimates that up to 20 percent of sudden-infant-death syndrome cases may be due to an undiagnosed inborn error of metabolism, such as a urea cycle disorder.
Urea cycle disorder is rare in the U.S., but as many as 75 % of those people may require L-citrulline supplements if they are to survive.
People with a urea cycle disorder, UCD, have a genetic mutation that prevents their bodies from making enough key enzymes for the cycle to work properly.
These enzymes in a healthy person create chemical reactions that extract nitrogen from the blood and convert it into urea, which is then expelled from the body through urine.
In people with urea cycle disorder, nitrogen accumulates as ammonia in the bloodstream, and when it peaks and reaches the brain, it can lead to brain damage, coma, and death.
Urea cycle disorders are treated through diet, drug treatment, and in some cases, liver transplant, with a transplant being the only cure for the disorder.
However, both L-citrulline and L-arginine are known to accelerate urea cycle enzymes, promoting proper ammonia removal.
Other Common L-Citrulline Uses
L-citrulline is used for muscle fatigue, muscle weakness, erectile dysfunction (ED), dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, and high blood pressure (hypertension).
It is also used for cardiovascular and vascular disease, diabetes mellitus, heart failure, ischemia-reperfusion injury, poor immunity responses, sickle cell anemia, Reye’s syndrome and more.
In children, L-citrulline is used intravenously for postoperative pulmonary hypertension, while bodybuilders and some other athletes use it to improve athletic performance, increase their energy levels and prolong endurance during both aerobic and anaerobic workout sessions.
L-citrulline might help reduce the high blood pressure that can occur after heart surgery in children and is usually given before and after the surgery. It might also improve some symptoms in people with sickle cell disease.
Because the body usually converts L-citrulline into nitric oxide (NO), it may benefit blood flow and other bodily functions in patients with certain medical conditions.
This is the reason why medical professionals may sometimes recommend it to help treat some diseases and disorders which include the following:
- Erectile dysfunction
- Alzheimer’s disease
- High blood pressure
- Cardiovascular disease
- Lysinuric protein intolerance- this is a rare disorder in which the body is unable to digest and use some amino acids
- Reye syndrome- this is a sudden, acute brain damage and liver function problems that have occurred in children given aspirin when sick with chickenpox or flu.
Other animal research suggests that L-citrulline might improve muscle protein levels and prevent malnourishment in the elderly.
The animal research also said that L-citrulline may help treat intestinal problems, including Short bowel syndrome, Celiac disease, and Radiation-caused small bowel damage.
Possible Side Effects and Interactions
Since L-citrulline occurs naturally in the body, it is believed there are no side effects or interactions that are significant.
However, since there has been little research on how it might affect pregnant or nursing women, medical professionals recommend that these group of people should not consume L-citrulline supplements.
Furthermore, because L-citrulline affects some of the same bodily functions as drugs for high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and erectile dysfunction, patients that are on any of those drugs should talk to their doctor before taking any prescription or over-the-counter L-citrulline product.