Ornithine is a non-essential and non-protein amino acid. It is considered as non-essential since it can be synthesized by the body from the amino acid arginine. Ornithine participates in detoxifying cells through its important role in the urea cycle (a bodily process that allows the elimination of toxic ammonia).
This non-essential amino acid enhances liver function and is a key substrate for the synthesis of proline (an essential component of collagen), citrulline, and polyamines (that are required for cell proliferation). Ornithine also plays a role in neurology, since it is converted into glutamate, which can be converted into the neurotransmitter GABA.
Ornithine has been studied for its potential positive effect on sleep. When administered orally, ornithine supplementation may help relieve stress and improve sleep quality related to fatigue. That being said, ornithine supplementation shouldn’t be taken without talking to a doctor or health care professional. Some ophthalmic researchers have reported retinol toxicity associated with high doses of ornithine. In vivo and in vitro experiments have shown that high concentrations of ornithine, or its metabolites, are toxic to the retinal pigment epithelial cells.
Even though ornithine can be synthesized by the body, it can also be provided by the diet. Ornithine is found in protein-rich foods such as meat, fish, seafood, eggs, cheese and quinoa.
Because ornithine can decrease ammonia concentrations in the blood, it theoretically should help decrease the accumulation of ammonia produced during exercise. Although it has been suggested that a supplementation of ornithine before the exercise may help with the ability to buffer ammonia, both during and after exercise, more studies are needed. Furthermore, although ornithine supplementation has shown to induce an acute increase in growth hormone secretion, results are not relevant and this topic requires more studies.
In conclusion, our ornithine levels impact many aspects of our mental and physical health. In order to make sure that your ornithine levels are balanced and steady, make sure to test your levels and to evaluate how you can make the right changes to rebalance your body and mind.