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Amino Acids

What are Amino Acids

Alpha-amino acids are the building blocks of proteins. Each protein consists of a specific number of different amino acids arranged in a way which is characteristic of that protein. Proteins are broken down into amino acids by digestion and it is in this form that they are absorbed through the intestinal wall. Proteins make up our muscles, tendons, organs, glands, hair and nails. The growth, maintenence, and repair of ALL CELLS are dependent on proteins.

There are two types of amino acids, essential and non-essential. The essential amino acids are obtained from eating proteins in food, and the non-essential amino acids which can be manufactured by the body. A diet lacking in even one of these amino acids can be detrimental to one's health. Stress, infection, trauma, age and some medications may also put one's amino acids out of balance.

There are some 80 different amino acids but only 20 are found in protein. Humans can produce 10 of the 20 amino acids, the others must be supplied in the food. Failure to obtain enough of even 1 of the 10 essential amino acids (those that we cannot make) results in degradation of the body's proteins (muscle) to obtain the one amino acid that is needed. Unlike fat and starch, the human body does not store excess amino acids for later use—the amino acids must be in the food every day.

First class proteins

This is the name given to protein foods which contain all the essential amino acids in the correct proportions. They are derived almost entirely from animal sources and include: Meat, milk, fish, eggs and soya beans

Second class proteins

These do not contain all the amino acids in the correct proportions; they are mainly of vegetable origin and can be found in peas, beans and lentils, called Pulses. A variable proportion of protein is to be found in other vegetables and in some carbohydrate foods, such as bread and potatoes.

Functions of amino acids

1. Growth and repair of body cells and tissues
2. Synthesis of hormones, enzymes, plasma proteins and antibodies (immunoglobulins)
3. Provision of energy, normally a secondary function, but becomes important only when there is not enough carbohydrate in the diet and fat stores are depleted.

When protein is eaten in excess of the body's needs, the nitrogenous part is detached and excreted by the kidneys and the reminder is converted to fat for storage in the fat depots, eg in the fat cells of adipose tissue.

Amino acids in the body

Essential Amino Acids


Is found abundantly in hemoglobin; has been used in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, allergies, ulcers and anemia; is essential for the growth and repair of tissues; important for the maintenance of the myelin sheaths, which protect nerve cells; is needed for the production of both red and white blood cells; protects the body from radiation damage; increases activity of T cells - helpful in AIDS/HIV treatments; lowers blood pressure, aids in the removal of heavy metals from the body; aids in sexual arousal. *Essential only in children - non essential in adults.
Found in: Dairy, meat, poultry and fish are good sources of histidine as well as rice, wheat and rye.


Is needed for hemoglobin formation; stabilizes and regulates blood sugar and energy levels; is valuable to athletes because it aids in the healing and repair of muscle tissue, skin and bones; has been found to be deficient in people suffering from certain mental and physical disorders.
Found in: Almonds, cashews, chicken, eggs, fish, lentils, liver, meat etc.


Works with Isoleucine and Valine to promote the healing of muscle tissue, skin, and bones; is recommended for those recovering from surgery; lowers blood sugar levels; aids in increasing growth hormone production.
Found in: Protein foods, as well as brown rice, beans, nuts and whole wheat.


Needed for growth, tissue repair and production of antibodies, hormones & enzymes; ensures adequate calcium absorption and maintains a proper nitrogen balance in adults; helps form collagen (which makes up cartilage and connective tissue); aids in the production of antibodies which have the ability to fight cold sores and herpes outbreaks; lowers high serum triglyceride levels; assists in building muscle mass; increases concentration NOT SUITABLE FOR CHILDREN.
Found in: Cheese, eggs, lima beans, potatoes, milk, meat and brewer's yeast.


A powerful anti-oxidant and a good source of sulfur, which prevents disorders of the hair, skin, and nails; assists the breakdown of fats, thus helping to prevent a buildup of fat in the liver and arteries; helps to detoxify harmful agents such as lead and other heavy metals; helps diminish muscle weakness; protects against the affects of radiation; beneficial for women who take oral contraceptives because it promotes the excretion of estrogen; reduces the level of histamine in the body which can cause the brain to relay wrong messages; helpful to individuals suffering from schizophrenia; regulates nervous system; Prevents tumours when taken with CHOLINE & FOLIC ACID; Needed for biosynthesis of taurine & cysteine.
Found in: Meat, fish, beans, eggs, garlic, lentils, onions, yogurt and seeds


It is available in three different forms - L-, D- and DL-. The L- form is the most common and the type in which it is incorporated into the body's proteins. The D- form acts as a painkiller and the DL- a combination of the two. Used by the brain to produce norepinephrine, a chemical that transmits signals between nerve cells in the brain; promotes alertness and vitality; elevates mood; decreases pain; aids memory and learning; used to treat arthritis, depression, menstrual cramps, migraines, obesity, Parkinson's disease, and schizophrenia; controls appetite and addictions. Found in dairy products, almonds, avocados, lima beans, peanuts and seeds.
DL – Phenylelanine: Stimulates endorphin production - reduces pain; Anti–depressant; Natural painkiller - good for migraine, neuralgia & cramps. NOT THE SAME AS L – PHENYLALANINE


Helps maintain proper protein balance in the body; is important for the formation of collagen, elastin and tooth enamel; aids liver and Lipotropic function when combined with Aspartic Acid and Methionine; prevents the buildup of fat in the liver; assists metabolism and assimilation.
Found in: Meats, dairy and eggs, as well as in lower quantities in wheat germ, nuts, beans and some vegetables.


Helps make serotonin & melatonin - which affect mood and sleep; a natural relaxant, helps alleviate insomnia by inducing normal sleep; reduces anxiety and depression and stabilizes mood; helps in the treatment of migraine headaches helps the immune system function properly; aids in weight control by reducing appetite; enhances the release of growth hormones; helps control hyperactivity in children; reduces sensitivity to pain; reduces cravings for alcohol; * Insomnia - 500mg Tryptophan + Vit B6, B3 & Magnesium 1hr before bedtime * Try eating tryptophan-rich foods like turkey, milk or avocados next time you suffer from insomnia. 5-HTP is a form of tryptophan that may also help insomnia * Reduce anxiety and panic – take between meals (no protein) NOTE: People with kidney problems, diabetes or PKU need to be cautious about adding certain proteins and amino acids to their diets.
Found in: Cottage cheese, meat, soy protein and peanuts.


Is needed for muscle metabolism and co-ordination, tissue repair, and for the maintenance of proper nitrogen balance in the body; used as an energy source by muscle tissue; helpful in treating liver and gallbladder disease; promotes mental vigor and calm emotions.
Found in: Dairy, meat, grain, mushrooms, soy and peanuts.

Non-essential amino acids next

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