A Cheap Way To Protect Ourselves from Radiation?

Basic Amino Acid May Help Provide Radiation Protection

We recently reported that a high-tech medicine could virtually render radiation harmless by boosting nitric oxide levels in our body. Indeed, high-level scientists were stunned to find that a treatment which boosts nitric oxide levels can virtually bullet-proof mice from high doses of radiation.

There may be a cheaper, lower-tech way to do the same thing.

Specifically, the basic amino acid L-Arginine – widely available at health food stores and on the web – is a precursor to nitric oxide.

L-Arginine boosts nitric oxide levels, and helps to protect us from radiation.

For example, a team of scientists from the University of Pittsburgh published a study concluding that:

L-arginine is shown to protect hematopoietic progenitor (32D cl 3) cells from death due to exposure to γ radiation ((137)Cs).

Let’s unpack this science-talk …

“Hematopoietic” means “blood cell formation”.  In other words, L-Arginine helps to protect our body’s ability to make blood cells.

This sounds boring … but is actually crucial to protecting ourselves from radiation.

Destruction of the hematopoietic system is one of the two primary ways that radiation can kill us.

As Dr. David Roberts – of the Laboratory of Pathology, Center for Cancer Research, National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health – told us:

Protection against the hematopoietic syndrome [i.e. destruction of the blood cell creation system by radiation] and the gastrointestinal syndrome … are responsible for most deaths caused by lethal total body irradiation.

This is also significant because the Pittsburgh study focused on cesium 137, the biggest danger from Fukushima. As the New York Times notes:

Over the long term, the big threat to human health is cesium-137, which has a half-life of 30 years.

At that rate of disintegration, John Emsley wrote in “Nature’s Building Blocks” (Oxford, 2001), “it takes over 200 years to reduce it to 1 percent of its former level.”

It is cesium-137 that still contaminates much of the land in Ukraine around the Chernobyl reactor.


Cesium-137 mixes easily with water and is chemically similar to potassium. It thus mimics how potassium gets metabolized in the body and can enter through many foods, including milk.


The Environmental Protection Agency says that … once dispersed in the environment … cesium-137 “is impossible to avoid.”

Moreover, a study published in the Journal of Surgical Research found that L-Arginine can help protect the intestines from radiation.

So what?

It’s vitally important because – as Dr. Roberts told us – radiation damage to the stomach and intestines is the other major cause of lethal radiation poisoning.

A study published in the journal Radiation Research also found that L-Arginine can reverse radiation-induced immune dysfunction.

A study published in the Journal of Environmental Pathology, Toxicology and Oncology concludes that L-Arginine helps to protect the lungs from radiation damage.

And a Russian study notes that L-Arginine “prevented an increase in chromosome aberration frequency in bone marrow cells of irradiated mice”.

Important notes:   While nitric oxide boosters such as L-Arginine may be exciting possibilities for protecting ourselves from radiation, further studies are needed.  And there are in fact many winning strategies for protecting ourselves from radiation.

Any supplement – even if very healthful – can be toxic at too high a dose. Even drinking too much water can kill.

You shouldn’t take any supplements without consulting your doctor or other qualified healthcare provider.

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  • Bev

    Please pass your articles about ways to protect ourselves against radiation from Fukushima along to Ralph Nader’s Public Citizen advisor on “Worst Pills, Best Pills,” Dr. Sidney Wolf to review. It would be worthwhile to join forces with Ralph Nader and Dr. Sidney Wolfe about how the public can protect itself from radiation. Thanks.

  • So are you trying to protect someone from quick death from acute radiation poisoning, or from the delayed effects of radiation exposure? It’s one or the other, my friend. Since most of us are never going to get an acutely lethal dose of radiation, it’s the chronic exposure, and cancer or organ dysfunction are the major concerns. Unfortunately, that renders the experiments useless to us, and possibly worse.

    The reason why cells die when exposed to high radiation levels is because the DNA damage triggers cell death, called apoptosis. It is a biological response to the DNA damage, and it’s there to protect you from cancer. If the cell’s DNA is so badly damaged that it can’t be repaired, then the best bet is for that cell to die. We weren’t designed for lethal doses, however, so the biological response is our undoing when irradiated to that level.

    But back to the low, chronic doses that we’ll face from Fukushima: They will usually not trigger cell death, only low levels of DNA damage. At best, the nitric oxide will be irrelevant. At worst, there will be some cells that really should die, but the nitric oxide will block the apoptosis, and they’ll survive with damaged DNA. That is where the elevated risk of cancer comes in.

  • Rothbardian

    I’ll have to check into the studies… but how many of them are focused on ORALLY ingested l-Arginine vs IV injected l-Arginine…

    You mentioned arginine increasing NO levels, but it really only does that when administered via IV, to get the same effects from orally ingested arginine you would need an insane amount, so it’d be interesting to see if the same thing is true with arginine/radiation.

    • Not true. There are tons of studies that measure NO levels from oral administration. Search pubmed.