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An Overview of Amino Acids and Proteins

Author: Disabled World : Contact:

Published: 2012-01-01 : (Rev. 2017-09-21)

Synopsis and Key Points:

Amino acids help the brain to send and receive messages to different parts of the body.

Main Digest

Most of us have good general knowledge about vitamins and fats and how they affect our health. The very mention of amino acids generates a kind-of apathetic attitude, since amino acids sound too technical and difficult to understand. Although you might have heard about amino acids, how they affect every area of your health may not have occurred to you.

Amino Acids are organic compounds that combine to form proteins. Amino acids and proteins are the building blocks of life. When proteins are digested or broken down, amino acids are left. The human body needs a number of amino acids to: Break down food, Grow and Repair body tissue, and Perform many other body functions. Amino acids are classified into three groups: Essential amino acids, Nonessential amino acids, and Conditional amino acids.

A deeper understanding of these indispensable chemical units can reveal how they affect every area of your life.

On the other hand, a deficiency of amino acids can cause an array of disorders that often go undiagnosed with traditional testing or screening methods. We will try to plug those screening loopholes in this article.

The Building Blocks

Amino Acids are chemical subunits of proteins.

They make up proteins and therefore are called the building blocks of proteins. They form shorter polymer chains called peptides, or longer chains called polypeptides or proteins. Amino acids also act as intermediates in metabolism.

If any amino acid is missing, the entire effectiveness of the other amino acids is reduced, just like one missing block affects the entire building.

The entire framework may be in danger of collapsing because of a single deficiency. A difficulty in handling proteins may affect the way in which they are catabolized (broken down) into amino acids, which further help in building the body tissues.

Importance of Proteins

After water, proteins are the second most abundant substances in the human body. They make up 80 percent of the body's dry mass.

Protein substances make up muscles, tendons, glands, organs, enzymes, nails and hair. They influence the growth and repair of all cells of the body.

Proteins act as catalysts for most of the reactions in living cells and virtually control all cellular processes.

Proteins help muscles to contract and hold water. They provide a protective coating to hair and a rigid framework to bones and teeth. Proteins also regulate the acid-base balance of the body and stimulate the defense mechanism to produce antibodies.

The Protein-Amino Acid Link

Since proteins are so important, amino acids that make up proteins are important.

Proteins cannot exist without amino acids in the correct combination.If any essential amino acid is missing or low in proportion, the functioning of the others will be reduced proportionally.

20 different amino acids are used to synthesize proteins. They are classified into essential and non-essential amino acids.

Essential amino acids must be obtained from diet whereas non-essential ones are produced by the body in the liver. The central nervous system cannot function properly without amino acids.

Amino Acids as Neurotransmitters

Amino acids help the brain to send and receive messages to different parts of the body.

Amino acids act as neurotransmitters and are abundantly available in the brain. Neurotransmitters are chemicals that pass on messages between neurons and cells.

Glutamic acid, gamma amino butyric acid (GABA), aspartic acid and glycine are the four amino acids that act as neurotransmitters.

Amino acids are released by neurons and act as inter-cellular messengers. Glutamic acid is the most common excitatory neurotransmitters and GABA is the most common inhibitory neurotransmitters.

Various Other Benefits

Amino acid supplements are a regular feature with athletes and body builders.

During protein catabolism, proteins are broken down into amino acids during digestion.

Athletes who take amino acid supplements follow the logic that supplements can directly provide the required amino acids by bypassing the process of digestion.

Amino acids are also said to raise the body's nitrogen level, facilitating muscle repair. Without total repair the body does not recover and build up tissues. Daily activity can wear out muscles which begin to be in a need for repair, leading to fatigue and soreness. Amino acids help repair these muscles before strengthening them.

Amino acids promote anabolism, which is the building up of cells using proteins and nucleic acids. In this way amino acids aid metabolism or the set of chemical reactions in the body necessary for life processes.

Sleep Apnea and Amino Acid Status

Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder characterized by snoring and pauses in breath.

Sleep apnea results in poor quality of sleep and is often an indication of some underlying condition.

In a person with sleep apnea, the amino acid function becomes weak resulting in various medical conditions. Amino acid status must therefore be assessed in order to implement the right treatment for sleep apnea.

Benefits of Glutamine

Glutamine, the most abundant free amino acid, is the nitrogen carrier that transports nitrogen in the body.

It is said to be a conditionally essential amino acid as it can be manufactured by the healthy body but generally has to be obtained from diet.

Glutamine is stored in muscles and can be manufactured in the lungs. Glutamine removes excess ammonia which is a waste product. It also helps the available ammonia to be used in an optimum way to make other amino acids, sugars and an antioxidant called glutathione.

Glutamine boosts the immune system and is also necessary for brain function and digestion.

Glutamine promotes the healing of wounds, stomach ulcers, and controls obesity.

Glutamine and Your Immune System

The benefits of Glutamine in protecting the gastrointestinal tract, or the mucosa, needs special mention. A healthy digestive system indicates a healthy immune system.

Since 70% of our immune system is concentrated in the digestive tract, glutamine is very helpful in boosting the immune system. It helps heal the cells of the mucosa in the small and large intestines and prevents symptoms of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). It also helps prevent peritonitis, the inflammation of the peritoneum (a thin membrane that lines the abdominal wall).

Glutamine is found in meat, poultry, milk, yogurt, cottage cheese and cabbage. Various supplements are also available in the market, making it very popular among athletes.

Looking into the benefits of glutamine, one can imagine how useful the other amino acids can be to the body.

Biochemical Screening

A proper balance of amino acids can build up your immune system, rejuvenate your skin, keep your digestive system in perfect working condition, enrich your bloodstream and give you a youthful vigor.

A difficulty in metabolizing proteins shows up in biochemical screening profiles. Therefore having your amino acid level assessed is very important. Biochemical screening searches for evidence of diseases or deficiencies or conditions that may precede these deficiencies.

The aim of screening is to try to limit ill health by preventing diseases or treating them in their early stages when they may go undetected, leading to serious health problems later. If protein status is not functioning properly you can be a victim to various inflammatory conditions and degenerative diseases such as arthritis, cancer, fibromyalgia.

Sleep apnea is also the likely result of an improper protein status.

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