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Amino Acids

WHAT ARE AMINO ACIDS

Aspartic Acid 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 their constituent amino acids by digestion and it is in this form that they are absorbed through the intestinal wall.

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. Scientists are only just beginning to understand how these chemical compounds work and whether or not amino acid supplements can be beneficial for certain conditions.

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 PROTEIN
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 PROTEIN
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. Another reason to avoid low carb diets like the Atkins Diet. Remember: The Atkins Diets is NOT a high protein diet - it's a low carb diet. See also 'High Protein Diets'.

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.

ESSENTIAL AMINO ACIDS
Histidine l Isoleucine l Leucine l Lysine l Methionine l Phenylelanine l Threonine l Tryptophan l Valine

Histidine:
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.

Isoleucine:
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.

Leucine:
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.

Lysine:
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 KIDS
Found in: Cheese, eggs, lima beans, potatoes, milk, meat and brewer's yeast.

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Methionine:
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

Phenylelanine:
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

Threonine:
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.

Tryptophan:
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.

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Valine:
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
Alanine l Arginine l Asparagine l Aspartic Acid l Cysteine l Glutamic Acid l Glutamine l Glycine l Proline l Serine l Tyrosine

Alanine:
Plays a major role in the transfer of nitrogen from peripheral tissue to the liver; aids in the metabolism of glucose, a simple carbohydrate that the body uses for energy; guards against the buildup of toxic substances that are released into muscle cells when muscle protein is broken down quickly to meet energy needs, such as what happens with aerobic exercise; strengthens the immune system by producing antibodies.
Found in: Meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and dairy products. Some protein-rich plant foods like avocado also supply alanine.

Arginine:
Considered ''The Natural Viagra" by increasing blood flow to the penis; retards the growth of tumors and cancer by enhancing the immune system; increases the size and activity of the thymus gland, which manufactures T cells, crucial components of the immune system; aids in liver detoxification by neutralizing ammonia; reduces the effects of chronic alcohol toxicity; used in treating sterility in men by increasing sperm count; aids in weight loss because it facilitates an increase in muscle mass and a reduction of body fat; assists the release of growth hormones, which is crucial for "optimal" muscle growth and tissue repair; is a major component of collagen which is good for arthritis and connective tissue disorders; aids in stimulating the pancreas to release insulin.
Found in: Whole-wheat, nuts, seeds, peanuts, brown rice, popcorn, soy, raisins, chocolate, carob.

Asparagine:
Involved in the transport of nitrogen; essential to all living cells for the production of many proteins; involved in the metabolic control of cell functions in nerve and brain tissue; helps maintain an equilibrium of the central nervous system; metabolic control of the brain and nervous system; active in converting one amino acid into another (amination and transamination) when the need arises - especially in the liver; important in the metabolism of toxic ammonia in the body.
Both asparagine and glutamine are made with high-energy ATP and can return this energy when they metabolize back to aspartic acid and glutamic acid respectively. Both require vitamin B6 and enzymes for their formation.
Found in: Dairy, beef, poultry and eggs

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Aspartic Acid:
Increases stamina and is good for chronic fatigue and depression; rejuvenates cellular activity, cell formation and metabolism, which gives you a younger looking appearance; protects the liver by aiding the expulsion of ammonia; combines with other amino acids to form molecules that absorb toxins and remove them from the bloodstream; helps facilitate the movement of certain minerals across the intestinal lining and into the blood and cells; aids the function of RNA and DNA, which are carriers of genetic information; helps with symptoms of drug withdrawal.
DO NOT TAKE WITH PROTEINS ie milk, cheese, meat etc. Best taken of empty stomach.
Found in: Dairy, beef, poultry, sprouting seeds

Cysteine:
Functions as a powerful anti-oxidant in detoxifying harmful toxins; protects the body against X-ray and radiation damage; protects the liver and brain from damage due to alcohol, drugs, and toxic compounds found in cigarette smoke; may reverse damages done by smoking and alcohol; has been used to treat rheumatoid arthritis and hardening of the arteries; promotes the recovery from severe burns and surgery; promotes the burning of fat and the building of muscle; repairs DNA therefore slows down the aging process. Skin and hair is made up of 10-14% Cystine.
*Best absorbed in the form of N-acetyl-L-cysteine.
The body can synthesize cysteine from the amino acid methionine but is also found in high protein foods such as poultry, wheat, broccoli, eggs as well as garlic, onions and red peppers.

Glutamic Acid:
Is an excitatory neurotransmitter for the central nervous system, the brain and spinal cord; important in the metabolism of sugars and fats; aids in the transportation of potassium into the spinal fluid; acts as fuel for the brain; helps correct personality disorders, and is used in the treatment of epilepsy, mental retardation, muscular dystrophy, and ulcers.
Found in: Meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and dairy products, as well as some protein-rich plant foods.

Glutamine:
The most abundant amino acid found in muscles; helps build and maintain muscle tissue; helps prevent muscle wasting that can accompany prolonged bed rest or diseases such as cancer and AIDS; a "brain fuel" that increases brain function and mental activity; assists in maintaining the proper acid/alkaline balance in the body; promotes a healthy digestive tract; helps heal peptic ulcers; shortens the healing time of ulcers and alleviates fatigue, depression and impotence; decreases sugar cravings and the desire for alcohol; recently used in the treatment of schizophrenia and senility.
Found in: Fish, meat, beans, and dairy as well as in vegetables such as raw parsley and spinach.

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Glycine:
Stimulates pituitary gland function; helps treat muscular dystrophy; improves glycogen storage, thus freeing up glucose for energy needs; promotes a healthy prostate, central nervous system, and immune system; useful for repairing damaged tissue and promotes healing.
Found in: Fish, meat, beans, and dairy products.

Proline:
Improves skin texture by aiding the production of collagen and reducing the loss of collagen through the aging process; helps in the healing of cartilage and the strengthening of joints, tendons, and heart muscle; works with Vitamin C to promote healthy connective tissues.
Found in: Meat sources.

Serine:
Needed for the proper metabolism of fats and fatty acids, the growth of muscle, and the maintenance of a healthy immune system; is a component of the protective myelin sheaths that cover nerve fibers; is important in RNA & DNA function and cell formation; aids in the production of immunoglobulins and antibodies.
Found in: Meats and dairy products, wheat gluten, peanuts as well as soy products.

Tyrosine:
Is important to overall metabolism; is a precursor of adrenaline, nor epinephrine, and dopamine, which regulate mood and stimulates metabolism and the nervous system; acts as a mood elevator, suppresses the appetite, and helps reduce body fat; aids in the production of melanin (the pigment responsible for hair and skin color) and in the functions of the adrenal, thyroid, and pituitary glands; has been used to help chronic fatigue, narcolepsy, anxiety, depression, low sex drive, allergies and headaches; reduces emotional PMS; helps in treatment of addiction & withdrawals from cocaine and other addictive drugs.
Found in: Meat, dairy, eggs as well as almonds, avocados and bananas are good sources of this nutrient.

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Disclaimer: Information on this site is provided for informative purposes only and is not meant to substitute for the advice provided by your own physician or dietitian.
Information here is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
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