In recent years, arginine has been heavily promoted as a health supplement capable of enhancing sexual function in men. Specifically, it has been claimed that arginine supplementation may ameliorate erectile dysfunction, and may be capable to produce better erections in healthy men. On the Internet, corresponding information is primarily emanated on websites, which serve as storefronts of vitamin and supplement retailers.

We do NOT sell arginine or any other pills, vitamins, or minerals. Our aim is to provide qualified information, and to establish our sites as a competent source of information, regardless of whether the information, which we believe to be truthful, will support a decision to buy arginine or not.

Sure, my own experiments with arginine supplements (capsules and powder of pure arginine) are anecdotal in character, nothing like double-blind crossover scientific studies. But I have experimented in the same way with yohimbine and Viagra, and there could have been no doubt that both of these substances work.

There are scientific studies on arginine, and they indeed show clearly that arginine has something to do with erections. But I know of no study that would simply prove that arginine supplementation is a definite successful treatment for erectile dysfunction, or that it has the power to enhance sexual function in healthy men.

With scientific studies, one has to be careful not to jump to conclusions that are not specifically supported. For example, if a scientific study shows that arginine supplementation gives aging male rats better erections, one cannot just derive that it will do the same for aging male humans.

In fact, studies do exist that show that arginine supplementation does cause better erections in rats. One such study was done at the Department of Surgery, Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, Torrance, California and titled: “Effects of long-term oral administration of L-arginine on the rat erectile response.”

During the study, arginine-fed and controlled rats underwent electric field stimulation of the cavernosal nerve to induce erection and maximal intracavernosal pressure was measured. The corpus cavernosum is the part of the male sexual organ that fills with blood during sexual response, thus causing an erection. An increased intracavernosal pressure will manifest itself as increased rigidity, and, if it occurs in the human male, will subjectively be interpreted as a “better” erection. The above-cited study found that indeed, long-term arginine supplementation will cause a higher intracavernosal pressure in the rat.

The authors of the study came to the following conclusion: “Long-term oral administration of supra-physiologic doses of L-arginine improves the erectile response in the aging rat. We postulate that L-arginine in the penis may be a substrate-limiting factor for NOS activity [NOS = nitric oxide synthase, the enzyme responsible for metabolizing nitric oxide from L-arginine – ed.] and that L-arginine may up-regulate penile NOS activity but not its expression. The blockade of penile erection by EFS [electric field stimulation – ed.] with L NAME [N-omega-nitro-L-arginine methyl ester, a substance that blocks nitric oxide synthase metabolizing nitric oxide from L-arginine – ed.] suggests that if ancillary corporeal vasodilator mechanisms develop a basal level of NO synthesis is still required for activation and relaxation of the corporeal smooth muscle. These data support the possible use of dietary supplements for treatment of erectile dysfunction.”

Other studies have shown that L-NAME hinders erections in the human corpus cavernosum, and that without normal nitric oxide function, erections do not occur.

All of this is very interesting. But it’s premature to assume that taking a daily spoonful of L-arginine will significantly improve the sex life of patients suffering from erectile dysfunction, or of healthy subjects.

Sure, nitric oxide is needed for erections, and the enzyme nitric oxide synthase needs L-arginine to metabolize nitric oxide.

But there may be a good number of co-factors involved. It may just happen that humans need a vitamin or mineral or other catalyst in order to make use of arginine, and that a supplementation of plain arginine alone is ineffective.

All too often, a promise of “better” sex will, sadly enough, make men hand over their critical minds to the cloakroom attendant. Try to sell them some expensive remedy to make for healthier lungs or livers, and they will likely demand proper scientific proof before paying up. But when it comes to medications that promise power to go on for 30 minutes, and this three or four times a day, a large number of men are inclined to try it without demanding proper proof, even if it costs them a whole day’s salary.

Am I one of these men? As a matter of fact, I have tried almost everything.

I have been experimenting for years, and I will never stop experimenting. When I started experimenting some 5 or 6 years ago, my sex life was very down. I have learned several ways to improve it, and to get my kicks in a dimension I would have thought impossible to achieve at my age (pushing 50).

Five or six years ago, I did almost everything wrong. I may still be doing some things wrong, but the proportion between what I’m doing right and what I’m doing wrong has tilted much towards the right. The proof of the pudding is in eating it.

I am a scientifically minded person, and when I encounter claims that yet another substance enhances sexuality, I do first look for scientific support. But I do not only look for scientific studies; I do read anecdotal evidence, and I do not belittle traditional medicine.

We have to be aware that scientific studies are often contradictory. For example, one can find scientific studies that show both: that yohimbine has an effect, and that it has no effect on erectile function. And I’ve read abstracts claiming that testosterone causes prostate cancer, and abstracts claiming that testosterone actually protects from prostate cancer. Medical history is full of U-turns.

If it concerns sexual enhancement, I value anecdotal evidence from a credible source or the consensus of folkloric sources. If something works in many men, then there will be an increased likelihood, but no guarantee, that it will work with me. With yohimbe, the efficacy had been established in folk medicine long before the first scientific studies have been conducted.

The same goes for garlic supporting general health (but not sexual function), and for saw palmetto bringing relief to men suffering from prostate enlargement.

I believe that optimal sexual function is correlated to good general health. For this reason, I try to live a healthy lifestyle, including consuming healthy food and avoiding food recognized to be of little benefit to general health.

Nevertheless, we have to be aware that not everything that supports general health is also conducive to a satisfying sex life. And I wonder how many men do harm to their sexual function while trying to promote their general health.

Both saw palmetto and garlic are cases in point. Saw palmetto shrinks an enlarged prostate, largely by interfering with the conversion of testosterone by the enzyme 5-alpha-reductase into dihydrotestosterone. But for me, while I’d like to have a healthy prostate until old age, saw palmetto too heavily interferes with erections. It causes numbness and non-responsiveness of the male organ.

Garlic is healthy for many organs, including (!) the prostate. There is some evidence that it can be helpful even in the treatment of prostate cancer. Which is what made me suspicious.

And indeed, when I consume a bulb of garlic (my heart and blood vessels are probably grateful), erections don’t seem to happen easily for up to two days. Obviously, I cancelled garlic from my diet. (I care to live long only for as long as I can get my sexual kicks; I do not see much sense in other aspects of life, including literature.)

I have had better results from experimenting with other dietary factors. Nuts, for example.

Nuts, any kind of nuts, are, of course, a mainstay of macrobiotic nutrition, and few dietitians would contest that they are a valuable component of a healthy menu. Nuts provide unsaturated fats, vitamin E, and a fine selection of minerals (Brazil nuts are the best source one could think of for selenium). Folk medicine also attributes aphrodisiac properties to nuts in general.

I have read on more than one medical website that a) nuts are high in arginine, and that b) the high arginine content of nuts can cause more frequent outbreaks in patients who suffer from herpes.

But actually, the arginine content of nuts is not so high in comparison to the arginine content of other foods. Not high enough to make nuts by themselves responsible for herpes outbreaks.

The following data on arginine is from a publication of the US Department of Agriculture. According to this publication, the arginine content of 100 grams of selected foods is:

Almond nuts – 2.466 gram
Brazil nuts – 2.390 gram
Cashew nuts – 1.837 gram
Hazelnuts – 2.211 gram
Pistachios – 2.108 gram
Sunflower seeds – 2.403 gram
T-bone steak – 1.492 gram
Sardines – 1.473 gram
Fried chicken – 1.793 gram

The arginine content of nuts is a little bit higher than that of meat or fish. However, the above list does not take into consideration that the water content of meat and fish, even when fried, is around 50 percent, and that the water content of nuts is typically less than 5 percent. If dry mass is compared, the arginine content of fish and meat probably is higher than that of nuts.

But fish and meat do not have the reputation to supply excessive amounts of arginine, cause herpes outbreaks, or be useful as aphrodisiacs.

There must be something else that either supports the absorption of the arginine in nuts, or that helps its bioavailability. Foods, of course, are not just a mixture of a few amino acids, a few minerals, and a few vitamins, all of which can be synthesized in the laboratory. If I take nuts and extract some 20 amino acids, some 10 minerals, and some 15 vitamins, and then mix these extracts, what do I get: nuts? By no means. Foods are much more complicated chemical compounds.

I have started eating a diet rich in nuts primarily for reasons of general health. It was only after some time that I noticed that such a diet in me definitely supports sexual function.

I was wondering why.

Could it be the vitamin E or the zinc? Both have a reputation of supporting sexual function, and I have tried both in the form of encapsulated supplements. The vitamin E and zinc supplements had no effect, just as the “pure” arginine supplements I consumed.

And even though the arginine content in nuts is not that different from the arginine content in meat and fish, I do assume that the sexuality-enhancing effect of nuts is related to arginine. Why? Because not only do nuts enhance erectile response; a diet rich in nuts can provoke in me a herpes outbreak every three month, while without any or just a few nuts in my diet, it´s more like once a year.

There is, to the best of my knowledge, no association between vitamin E and zinc on the one side, and herpes on the other side. This indicates that what is active in nuts in improving erectile response, as well as provoking herpes outbreaks, probably is related to arginine. (I have herpes outbreaks only at times when I have reason to be proud of my erectile capacity; it´s sort of funny that usually, when I think, wow, I have great reproductive health, a herpes outbreak isn´t far away.)

Apart from what you read in my articles, you will find few sources on the Internet that attest to the sexuality-enhancing capabilities of a diet rich in nuts, and the reason is not that it wouldn’t work, but that little money can be made by promoting it. You’ll buy your nuts at a supermarket near you, and the retail profit margins in nuts are probably around ten percent, and not hundreds of percent as in capsulated supplements. (And just be sure that I have no stake in any supermarket, or nuts wholesale or retail business.)

With my recommendation to get your sexuality-enhancing arginine from nuts, I stand pretty much alone against hundreds or thousands of sites that promote the use of supplemental “pure” arginine to support sexual function. But it´s just that there is a massive commercial interest in promoting the consumption of supplemental arginine (as well as other supplemental amino acids, junk minerals, and junk vitamins).

And because readers tend to put a lot of trust into quoted scientific articles, even if they don´t fully understand them, websites that try to sell supplements go to great lengths in quoting scientific studies, not in order to educate the public, but in order to sell their wares.

3/4th death row convicts socio-economically backward: Report

India, May 8 ,2016 – Deccan Herald
More than three-fourths of death row convicts in the country belong to socially, economically and educationally backward section of the society, according to a report.
The report by Centre for Death Penalty of Delhi National Law University also states that more than 80 per cent of the death row inmates are subjected to ‘inhuman, degrading and extreme forms of physical and mental torture’ inside prisons.
The study which documents the socio-economic profile of prisoners sentenced to death in India identifies that almost three-fourth of the prisoners were economically vulnerable and a major chunk of them were either primary or sole earners in their family.
Seventy six per cent of convicts awaiting gallows belong to backward classes and religious minorities, as per the report which also indicates that all the 12 female death row convicts in the country belong to the above mentioned categories.
Two hundred and sixteen of 270 prisoners, (i.e, 80 per cent) in this study spoke about custodial torture faced by them which includes the most inhuman, degrading and extreme forms of physical and mental torture inside the dark walls.
Burning skin with cigarettes, inserting needles into fingernails, forced nudity, forced anal penetration with rods and glass bottles, forced to drink urine, made to urinate on heater, hung by wires, extreme beating etc are few forms of torture that have been revealed in the study.
The study also found that 23 per cent of prisoners sentenced to death had never attended school and 61.6 per cent had not completed their secondary education.
“If the accused is illiterate, it affects his defence,” Supreme Court judge Justice Madan B Lokur said during a panel discussion regarding the report.
The report identifies 385 death row convicts lodged in various prisons across different states among which Uttar Pradesh tops the list with 79 convicts in line to gallows.
Living on a death row with uncertainty is worsened with the harsh conditions which includes solitary confinement as the the apex court itself in 1978 had ruled that the prisoner sentenced to death could be kept in a cell away from other prisoners, the ‘Death Penalty India Report’ has said.
The report throws light into the life of death row convicts and is a critical analysis of the criminal justice system, which according to Justice Lokur, requires a major procedural and substantive reformation.
“While it is not possible to make any arguments regarding direct discrimination, the report certainly highlights the disparate impact of the death penalty in India on groups marginalised along the axis of caste, religion, economic vulnerability and educational status,” said Anup Surendranath, director of the Centre on the Death Penalty.
During the panel discussion, Justice Lokur also referred to shortcomings of the legal aid system in the country, saying that people have lost faith in legal aid lawyers.
The study supports this view as it states that 70.6 per cent of the death row prisoners represented by private lawyers were economically vulnerable and it shows that “their deep-seated fear of legal aid lawyers drove the families to hire private lawyers”.
The panel discussion also pointed out the fact that around three-fourth of the prisoners have not got a chance to interact with their lawyers outside court. This becomes worse when the matter comes to high court where most them have never interacted with or even met their high court lawyers.
Adding to the misery, families of convicts face a major challenge to visit the prison owing to the extremely vulnerable economic status.
“Its like caught between two blades of scissors, with no means to escape,” the report quoted Harikrishnan, a convict who had already spent nearly 12 years in prison for rape and murder.
He, with extreme anguish at his inability to prove his innocence, had slashed his genitals with a piece of floor tile after a television channel portrayed him as a monster and his entire village being terrified of him. His clemency plea was rejected by the President.
India, 04 August 2015 – Daily Pioneer
Perpetually threatened countries that don’t hang terrorists but are able to keep themselves secure, like Israel and the US, are able to do so because they carry out targeted assasinations instead. India’s anti-death penalty lobby should keep this in mind
Whatever the merits or demerits of 1993 Mumbai bombing convict Yakub Memon’s hanging, the one undeniable victim in the hullabaloo has been a fact-based approach to policy — confusing and conflating just about everything under the sun, other than the horticultural merits of growing mangoes, to the hanging.
One example of this appeared on this writer’s Twitter feed, demanding a more muscular ‘Israeli-style’ policy on everything from hostages to executions to targeted killings. What is curious about this is that Israel, in fact, exemplifies the many shortcomings of ‘muscularity’ and how legality is in fact an extension of ground-based facts rather than some esoteric morality.
For starters, Israel buys the ‘death penalty is not a deterrent’ argument lock stock and barrel. This is a factual case — because it is the fear, the surety of being caught rather than the punishment that follows, that deters. At the same time, while it is equally factual that study after study shows that death penalty does not deter, an application of the same methodology would also prove that punishments as a rule do not deter. This begs the question: Why have jails, fines or punishments of any sort?
This is the reality, though much like any polarised debate, the two parties will stick to dogma and refuse to accept that the truth lies somewhere in between. The reality is that the severity of the punishment adds significantly to the deterrent value to some kinds of crime, in much the same way that the threat of nuclear weapons usage deters certain but not all kinds of aggression.
It is precisely because both India and Israel have nuclear weapons that they have become the victims of, what it has become fashionable to call, severe ‘sub-conventional’ aggression, which is just jargon for good old fashioned terrorism. But this is where the similarities end.
Israel long ago decided that it would chose one side of the capital punishment debate — morality — and for all practical purposes effectively did away with the death penalty. The last time the death sentence was applied was in 1962 when notorious Nazi perpetrator Adolf Eichmann was executed. The reasons are complex. On one hand, Israel has an excellent investigative, forensic and judicial system with an excellent rate of solving crimes — a key constituent to the argument that “it is the fear of getting caught” that deters crime. Equally Israel’s self image as that of a moral and just state meant that it adopted the position that the state was an aspirational being that should set high standards — specifically not engage in murder.
This was an era when Israel faced significant conventional threats. The 1967 war and the 1973 Yom Kippur War were far more serious than the terrorist threats it faced at that time, and the rules of those conventional wars were as clear as night and day. But by the 1980s, Israel’s Arab neighbours, having accepted their conventional inferiority as fait accompli, came to much the same conclusion that the Pakistanis did vis-à-vis India at about the same time — that sub-conventional warfare, or terrorism, will succeed where tanks had failed.
From this point on, it took close to 20 years when ground reality, legality and technology intersected to necessitate the policy of targeted killings in a significantly ramped-up way. In many ways it is precisely because of Israel’s refusal to execute prisoners, and the propensity of Arab terrorist organisations to take Israelis captive to ransom these prisoners out, that Israel moved to targeted killings.
In the mid 1970s and 1980s, these killings were carried out by assassins; by 2000s, this was being done by drones. It is important to remember that most European Governments either actively colluded with Israel in assassinations on their soil or turned a blind eye to these. And yes, this was also an era in which most European Governments themselves carried out the death penalty.
Israel’s adoption of the no death penalty stance also carried, and continues to carry, a heavy price. Till date, Israel has had to release over 7,000 dangerous prisoners in return for the lives or remains of less than 25 Israelis — who had been captured for the specific purpose of ransoming. And the numbers have steadily escalated. In 2004, Israel had to hand over 430 hardened terrorists in return for the bodies of three Israeli soldiers; in 2011, it had to release 1,027 prisoners in exchange for the life of one soldier — Gilad Shalit.
This has meant that Israel has switched to the ‘Hannibal directive’, effectively allowing its soldiers to kill one of their own who has been captured and is in the process of egress. This has also meant that Israel’s cost benefit calculus has shifted decisively to targeted killings, as the costs of an excellent justice system are strategically and tactically unsustainable.
The US, another prime target of terrorism, has also since moved in this direction. The US retains the death penalty but its targeted killings are carried out under the legal rubric of both imminent threat and the impossibility or high expense of capturing a said target alive. Curiously enough, European protestations on targeted killings are minimal. While Europe is not a major target of terrorism, it silently acquiesces in and frequently provides targeting information for these killings.
What then are the lessons for India here? The lessons are both for the Government and those who have taken a moral — as opposed to operational — position on the hanging of Yakub Memon.  First, is that the death penalty certainly can’t deter acts of religious terrorism emanating from Pakistan. On the other hand it also presents the anti-death penalty lobby with a harsh reality that it chooses to ignore — that while justice system reforms in India are critical, they will not in any way deter terrorism of the 26/11 kind.
The lack of a single major terrorist episode in Israel and the US, since they made targeted killings their weapon of choice, means that the anti-death penalty activists will also have to become pro-targeted killings, if they are to prove their arguments are fact-based and not based on morality.