HEART attack patients should avoid the dietary supplement L-arginine based on a study that was scuttled after six volunteers taking the over-the-counter supplement died, researchers said recently.
The study of 153 people who had had heart attacks and continued to have symptoms of heart disease found no benefit from taking the supplement sometimes advertised as having the potential to reduce vascular stiffness.
L-arginine is also sometimes touted as a treatment for hypertension, angina, heart failure and sexual dysfunction.
After six months of a planned two-year study, Dr. Steven Schulman of Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions in Baltimore concluded that the supplement did not reduce vascular stiffness, nor did it improve the heart's ability to pump blood.
"To the contrary, we noted a possible increased risk of death in older patients after (heart attack) while taking L-arginine compared with those taking a placebo, leading to the early termination of the study," Schulman wrote in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
The patients were also taking other medications. None of those taking a placebo died.