To understand the body, it is essential to appreciate the importance of amino acid structure ...
by Summer Banks, a prolific writer and certified medical assistant who has supervised customer support for multiple supplement companies.
Amino acids are the building blocks of protein in the body. There are twenty amino acids in the body. Some of these amino acids are naturally synthesized in the liver without need for supplementation through diet or other nutritional sources.
Eleven of the twenty amino acids in the body cannot be made by the liver. If the amino acid must be consumed, it is called an essential amino acid. Naturally occurring forms are called non-essential amino acids. Non-essential and essential amino acids have a different amino acid structure affecting the way they work in the body.
Non-essential amino acids, or those created in the body are:
Essential amino acids are:
Some amino acids could appear on both lists because production is
based on the consumption of other nutrients. Tyrosine, for instance, requires phenylalanine to be created in the body. Without phenylalanine, tyrosine becomes essential.
Amino acid structure works to form proteins in the body. Without these amino acids, proteins would not be able to work as enzymes, hormones and antibodies in a human.
Fluid balance and acid/base balance is also maintained by proteins. Proteins in the blood help to move vitamins, oxygen and minerals to cells for optimal health.
Structural proteins, on the other hand, work to bind the body together. Amino acid structure is the basic building block of collagen and keratin without which bones, teeth, hair, skin and blood vessels would not form correctly. Moreover, the function of amino acids in the body is directly related to glucose and insulin levels.
The most common sources of essential amino acids are animal and bean proteins. Foods like chicken, beef, pork, eggs and dairy products all contain essential amino acids. Dried beans, nuts and seeds are also good sources. For the vegetarian or vegan, consuming enough foods from non-animal sources to maintain healthy amino acid levels may be difficult and thus supplementation is not uncommon.
The weight loss and bodybuilding community have taken hold of the amino acid structure as their holy grail. If these acids are the cornerstones of protein function in the body and proteins are responsible for building new muscle, there is some understanding as to the purpose of adding more amino acids to the diet. However, research is not conclusive about the effect of supplementing the essential nutrients. Outside of the muscle building arena, amino acid supplementation is as commonly used to increase intelligence, alter mood, ease insomnia and increase energy.
Amino acid supplements have their beneficial uses and their harmful uses in the world of alternative therapy. For people who simply do not eat enough protein to ingest healthy amount of amino acids, supplementation may be necessary for health. On the other hand, some supplements are promoted as muscle mass builders and weight loss aids.
Amino acids can be harmful if consumed in large doses and some, like
tryptophan, have been taken off the market due to potential toxicity.
Before taking an amino acid supplement, it is important to research any
possible side effects to health.
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