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Amino Acids

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Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins needed to build every cell in the body, from white and red blood cells to the cells in your skin, organs and bones.

Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins needed to build every cell in the body, from white and red blood cells to the cells in your skin, organs and bones.

Amino acids are a requirement and if one is missing, it hinders the building of cells. Balance is very important for the complete utilization of amino acids. Proteins are made up of twenty-two amino acids altogether, eight of which are essential. Essential amino acids can not be synthesized by the body, and must be consumed from food or supplements. Non-essential amino acids are formed by essential amino acids that convert to non-essential amino acids, either as a product of itself or in combination with other essential amino acids.

Amino acids are available as branch-chained, free-form and peptide-bonded amino acids. Branch-chained amino acids are the best form available for athletes wanting to increase endurance. Free-form amino acids are not connected together in a chain, whereas peptide-bonded are. Since chains of amino acids are the more balanced form, the peptide-bonded amino acids are often recommended. They are also more easily absorbed.

Amino acids usually come in two forms, L (left-handed) and D (right-handed). These two forms are identical in every respect except that they are mirror images of each other. And, just as left and right hands are made up of the same components but have completely different functions (i.e., a left glove will not fit on a right hand), so it is with L- and D- amino acids. The human body is almost entirely composed of L- aminos, but the D- aminos do occur in nature. Only a two have therapeutic value for the body.

Essential Amino Acids

L-arginine (L-ornithine)

Arginine is considered an essential amino acid for children because the body is incapable of manufacturing adequate amounts until the growth period is over. It enhances the immune system and is helpful in cases of male sterility due to a lack of sperm. It also cures impotence. Arginine can also turn into the amino acid ornithine (and urea), which is a key element in the liver's detoxification process. If arginine is chelated with manganese, it is more easily absorbed by the body.

L-histidine

Histidine is an essential amino acid during the early stages of growth in a human, and becomes non-essential as the adult body is capable of synthesizing its own. Removing the acid group from histidine will create the neurotransmitter histamine. Histidine will chelate with zinc and copper, and is therefore used in cases of arthritis and tissue overload of copper, iron and heavy metals. Histidine also maintains myelin sheaths, the insulation around the nerves. The Soviet space program included histidine in its preparations for cosmonauts to guard against the effects of radiation.

L-leucine and L-isoleucine

Leucine and isoleucine, together with valine, form branched-chain amino acids. A lack of leucine and isoleucine is usually noted in people with chronic physical and mental illness.

L-lysine

Lysine cannot be synthesized in the body, so it is important for the diet to provide adequate amounts. Malnutrition prevents lysine from forming carnitine, and lysine deficiency results in poor appetite, weight loss, anemia, fatigue, inability to concentrate, nausea and enzyme disorders. Its supplementation has been used to enhance growth in children. When lysine levels are low compared to arginine, the perpes virus will thrive. As a result, high dosages of lysine are used as a treatment for the herpes virus. Lysine is found in good supply in most fruits and vegetables, apart from peas. Ensuring adequate intake of vitamin C with bioflavonoids will protect lysine levels in the body.

L-methionine

Methionine contains sulfur and has the ability to donate part of itself to other molecules. It is essential in the formation of nucleic acid of genetic material (RNA and DNA) of every cell. It is the precursor to taurine, cysteine and cystine. Methionine helps produce choline, adrenaline, lecithin and vitamin B12. It is a powerful antioxidant, assists in gall-bladder function, and detoxifies heavy metals and excess histamine levels from the body. Methionine is helpful in cases of arthritis cataracts, rheumatic symptoms and Parkinson's disease.

L-phenylalanine

Phenylalanine is known for its remarkable therapeutic properties and supports many other amino acids which are vital for health. A lack of phenylalanine can lead to both physical and behavioral disturbances such as bloodshot eyes, cataracts, psychotic episodes in children and schizophrenic behavior in adults. As a supplement, it has been used as a natural appetite suppressant. It also causes feelings of greater alertness, sexual interest, memory enhancement and, one to two days later, alleviates depression.

L-phenylalanine is found in a protein diet, while d-phenylalanine is found in plants and bacterial cultures; in proper combination they form dl-phenylalanine, a powerful painkiller. It is believed that they inhibit the enzymes which break down endorphins, thus extending their pain-relieving action. The defense mechanism of the body is not compromised because the transmission of pain messages is not interfered with.

L-threonine

Threonine is necessary for digestive and intestinal tract function and prevents fat from accumulating in the liver. Irritability and personality disorders have been linked to its deficiency. Threonine is a carrier for phosphates in phosphoproteins.

L-tryptophan

Tryptophan is responsible for synthesizing nicotinic acid (vitamin B3) and is used therapeutically for insomnia, depression and obesity. When tryptophan converts to serotonin, it affects neurotransmitter function, stimulating nerve cells. It controls weight reduction by influencing the amount of protein chosen at meals. It stabilizes mood by calming agitation or stimulating depression, and has been used in cases of depression, menopause, migraines and restless leg syndrome. Vitamins B6 and C enhance the brain's use of tryptophan.

L-valine

Valine normalizes the balance of nitrogen in the body. It is vital for mental and neural function, and muscle coordination. Along with leucine and isoleucine, it forms a branched-chain amino acid. Valine is also useful for insomnia and nervousness.

Non-essential Amino Acids

L-carnitine

Carnitine has many uses including the metabolism of fat, the oxidation of triglycerides, the improvement of circulation and the lowering of blood acidity due to waste build-up. It is converted quickly from lysine and methionine, but adequate amounts of vitamin C must be present. Carnitine is found in muscle and organ meats, but not in vegetable sources of protein. It has been suggested that men may have a greater requirement for carnitine than women, as they tend to have high levels of it in the epididymis of the testes. Newborn infants are not able to synthesize carnitine efficiently and so it can be considered an essential amino acid for them.

L-cysteine

Cysteine is formed from methionine and elemental sulfur. It is used in the formation of many other essential compounds including coenzyme A, biotin, lipoic acid and glutathione. Cysteine is vital for the proper utilization of vitamin B6 and as a part of the glucose tolerance factor. Cysteine influences the texture and flexibility of the skin as it can slow abnormal cross-linkages of collagen. As part of the enzyme glutathione peroxidase, it detoxifies the body, alleviating the damaging effects of drinking and smoking.

It has been noted that in people with chronic diseases, the conversion of cysteine from methionine is prevented, so supplementation is recommended for those with degenerative diseases (diabetics should be under a practitioner's care).

L-glutamine

Glutamic acid combines with ammonia to become glutamine. Glutamine is synthesized in certain tissues for use in others, and is the dominant amino acid in blood and cerebrospinal fluid. It is the only amino to pass easily through the blood-brain barrier; this makes it a desirable supplement for athletes because it is important for muscle glycogen deposition, and can release extra growth hormone. When glutamine converts to glutamic acid, it is used as fuel for brain cells and detoxifies ammonia from the brain.

Supplementation with glutamine has been used to stop sugar and alcohol cravings, as well as in cases of depression, enhancing IQ in mentally-deficient children, peptic ulcers, epilepsy in children, schizophrenia and senility.

L-taurine

Taurine is manufactured in the body by methionine and cysteine, and is found in animal protein. It is not in vegetable protein, so strict vegetarians may have difficulty in synthesizing taurine and would benefit from supplements. Taurine corrects the composition of bile, maintains the solubility of cholesterol and influences blood-sugar levels similar to insulin.

Researchers have found that the developing brain has up to four times more taurine than an adult brain. Because it suppresses neural activity in a developing brain while other systems have not yet fully developed, it is thought that its deficiency lends to a predisposition of epilepsy. Taurine has been linked to zinc in eye function, and it is thought to help calcium and potassium with regards to keeping the heart muscle strong.

L-tyrosine

Tyrosine is derived from phenylalanine. Deficiencies can result in low body temperature, low blood pressure and restless legs. Tyrosine enhances brain function, relieving depression and helping some Parkinson's patients. Thera-peutic doses of tyrosine have been used to enhance the action of its derivatives, such as dopa, dopamine, epinephrine and norepinephrine. Melanin, the pigment in skin and hair, is also a derivative of tyrosine.

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