The commonly known amino acids are combined in various ways to create the hundreds of different types of proteins present in all living things. In the human body, the human liver
produces about 80 percent of the amino acids needed. The remaining 20 percent must be obtained from human nutrition. These are called the essential amino acids.
The essential amino acids that must enter the body through diet are:
The fact that they are termed "nonessential" does not mean that they are not necessary, only that they need not be obtained through the diet because the body can manufacture them as needed.
Even though Carnitine and Glutathione are not considered an amino acid in the strictest sense, because of the chemical structure similar to that of amino acids, it is usually considered together with them.
Amino acids also enable vitamins and minerals to perform their jobs properly. Even if vitamins and minerals are absorbed and assimilated by the body, they cannot be effective unless the necessary amino acids are present. For example, low levels of the amino acid tyrosine
my lead to iron deficiency
. Deficiency and/or impaired metabolism of the amino acids methionine
has been linked to allergies and autoimmune disorders.
Proteins are a necessary part of every living cell in the body. Next to water, protein makes up the greatest portion of our body weight. In the human body, protein substances make up muscle, ligaments, tendons, organs, glands, nails, hair, and many vital body fluids, and are essential for the growth of bones.
Breaking Down Amino Acids A Continuous Process
The process of assembling amino acids to make proteins, and breaking down proteins into individual amino acids for the body's use, are continuous one.
When we need more enzyme
proteins, the body produces more enzyme proteins, when we need more cells, the body produces more proteins for cells. These different types of proteins are produced as the need arises. Would the body become depleted of its reserves of any of the essential amino acids, it would not be able to produce the proteins that require those amino acids. If one amino acid is missing, the body cannot continue proper protein synthesis. This can lead to lack of vital proteins in the body, which can cause problems ranging from indigestion to depression to stunted growth.
Many factors can contribute to deficiencies of essential amino acids, even if you eat a well-balanced diet that contains enough protein. Impaired absorption, infection, trauma, stress, drug use, age, and imbalances of other nutrients can all affect the availability of essential amino acids in the body. If your diet is not properly balanced-that is, if it fails to supply adequate amounts of the essential amino acids-sooner or later, this will become apparent as some type of physical disorder.
Caution: This does not mean, however, that eating a diet containing enormous amounts of protein is the answer. In fact, it's unhealthy! Excess protein puts undue stress on the kidneys and the liver
, which are faced with processing the waste products of protein metabolism. Nearly half of the amino acids in dietary protein are transformed into glucose by the liver and utilized to provide needed energy to the cells. The process results in a waste product, ammonia. Ammonia is toxic to the body, so the body protects itself by having the liver turn the ammonia into the much less toxic compound urea, which is then carried through the bloodstream, filtered out by the kidneys, and excreted.
As long as protein intake is not too great and the liver is working properly, ammonia is neutralized almost as soon as it is produced, so it does no harm. However, if there is too much ammonia for the liver to cope with-as a result of too much protein consumption, poor digestion, and a defect in liver function---toxic levels may accumulate.
Important: Strenuous exercise also tends to promote the accumulation of excess ammonia. This may put a person at risk for serious health problems, including enxephalopathy (brain disease) or hepatic coma. Abnormally high levels of urea can also cause problems, including inflamed kidneys and back pain. Therefore, it is not the quantity but the quality of protein in the diet that is important.
Benefits of Amino Acids and Understanding Supplements
It's possible to take supplements containing amino acids, both essential and nonessential. For certain disorders, taking supplements of specific amino acids can be very beneficial. When you take a specific amino acids or amino acid combination, it supports the metabolic pathway involved in your particular illness.
Vegetarians, especially vegans, would be wise to take a formula containing all the essential amino acids to ensure that their protein requirements are met.
Supplemental amino acids can be purchased as capsules, tablets, liquids, and powders. Most supplements are derived from animal protein, yeast protein, or vegetable protein. Crystalline free-form amino acids are generally extracted from a variety of grain products. Brown rice bran is a prime source, although cold-pressed yeast and milk proteins are also used.
When choosing amino acid supplements, look for products that contain USP (U.S. Pharmacopoeia) pharmaceutical-grade L-crystalline amino acids. Most of the amino acids (except for glycine) can appear in two forms, the chemical structure of one being mirror image of the other. These are called the D- and L- forms-for example, D-cystine and L-cysteine. The "D" stand for dextro (Latin for "right) and the "L" for levo ) Latin for left"); these terms denote the direction of the rotation of the spiral that is the chemical structure of the molecule.
Proteins in animal and plant tissue are made from the L- forms of amino acids (with the exception of phenylalanine, which is also used in the forms of DL-phenylalnine, a mixture of D- and L- forms). Thus, with the respect to supplements of amino acids, products contains the L- forms of amino acids are considered to be more compatible with human biochemistry.
Free-form means the amino acid is in its purest form. Free-form amino acids need no digestion and are absorbed directly into the bloodstream. These white crystalline amino acids are stable at room temperature and decompose when heated to temperature of 350-660 degrees. They are rapidly absorbed and do not come from potentially allergenic food sources. For best results, choose encapsulated powders or powder.
Each amino acid has specific functions in the body. When taking amino acids individually for healing purposes, take them on an empty stomach to avoid making them compete for absorption with the amino acids, it is best to take them in the morning or between meals, with small amounts of Vitamin B6
and Vitamin C
to enhance absorption.
When taking an amino acid complex that includes all of the essential amino acids, it is best to take it one-half hour away from a meal, either before or after. If you are taking individual amino acids, it is wise also to take a full amino acid complex, including both essential and nonessential amino acids, at a different time. This is the best way to assure you have adequate amounts of all the necessary amino acids.
Individual amino acids should not be taken for long periods of time. A good rule to follow is to alternate the individual amino acids that fit your needs and back them up with an amino acid complex, taking the supplements for two months and then discontinuing them for two months.
Researchers warn against taking large doses of amino acids for extended periods of time. Moderation is the key. Some amino acids have potentially toxic effects when taken in high doses (over 6,000 milligrams per day) and may cause neurological damage. These include aspartic acid
, glutamic acid, homocysteine, serine, and tryptophan
can be toxic if taken in amounts over 1,000 milligrams per day.
Do not give supplemental amino acids to a child or take doses of any amino acid to excess of the amount recommended unless specifically direted to do so by your health care provider.
The statements made here have not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. These statements are not intended to diagnose, treat or cure or prevent any disease. This notice is required by the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act.