Week 3 : The importance of non-essential amino acids in a diet

James LiddellAmino Acids, Articles, Health TipsLeave a Comment

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Amino acids are the building blocks for protein and a life necessity for humans and animals. Amino acids are bonded with nitrogen and form proteins and nitrogen is the end product of protein digestion. Amino acids are the primary building blocks of your muscles, bones, enzymes and many hormones. We cannot live without protein and as long as we get sufficient protein from animal and or plant based diets, it is fine.

There are 22 amino acids where eight is classified as essential. The essential amino acids cannot be manufactured by the body and must be supplemented by food and supplements. The non-essential amino acids can be synthesised by the body if all the essential ones are available. Histidine is only essential for infants and children.

Non-essential amino acids

1. Arginine

Arginine is essential for pituitary function. Ornithine, phenylalanine, arginine and other neuro chemicals are needed for the synthesis and release of growth hormone by the pituitary. Men need more because semen contains 80% protein and a deficiency can cause infertility.

Functions

  • Increase sperm count
  • Supports the immune system and general healing of wounds
  • Assist in metabolizing body fat and tone up muscle tissue

Best foods

  • Nuts
  • Popcorn
  • Carob
  • Gelatine
  • Chocolate
  • Brown rice
  • Oatmeal
  • Raisins
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Sesame seeds
  • Whole wheat bread
  • All protein rich foods

Comment

  • Do not administer to growing children (giantism) or schizophrenic conditions
  • Contraindicated for herpes patients
  • High doses can cause thickening of the skin
  • Physical trauma increases your need for arginine

2. Glutamine and Glutamic acid

Functions

  • Glutamic acid is basically brain fuel and can improve intelligence
  • Remove access ammonia which can inhibit brain function
  • Can assist in controlling alcoholism
  • Can be beneficial in healing ulcers
  • Can alleviate fatigue, depression and impotence
  • Treatment for schizophrenia and senility

3. Aspartic Acid

Functions

  • Can assist in removing harmful ammonia
  • Protect the central nervous system by removing ammonia
  • Improve stamina and endurance

4. Cystine and Cysteine

Cystine is the stable form of the sulphur-containing amino acid. The body often converts one into the other as needs be.

Functions

  • Assist in detoxification
  • Protects against copper toxicity and against other harmful metals
  • Protection from free radicals like those caused by smoking and drinking alcohol
  • Therapeutic dosages can protect against X-rays and nuclear radiation

Comment

Large dosages are contraindicated in patients with diabetes. These amino acids can have a negative impact on the effectiveness of insulin

5. Glycine

Glycine is often referred to as the simplest of the amino acids.

Functions

  • Assist in pituitary function
  • Can be used in muscular dystrophy
  • Can be used in hypoglycaemia (glycine stimulates glucagon)
  • Can be used for heartburn
  • Can be used for low blood pH
  • Can be used for bad body and breath odour when a leucine imbalance exists

6. Tyrosine

Tyrosine is a non-essential amino acid, but it is important in stimulating and modifying brain activity

Functions

  • Can be utilized as a mood elevator and appetite suppressant
  • Can be used in cocaine and amphetamine addicts by helping with depression, fatigue and irritability

7. Alanine

It is mostly synthesised by the muscle cells from lactic acid. It is considered the most important nutrient for the amino acid metabolism in the blood together with L-Glutamine. Once synthesised Alanine is absorbed via the liver and converted to a pyruvate and his compound is critical for the production of glucose and blood sugar management.

Alanine supplements are therefore often used in cases of hypoglycaemia to prevent low blood sugar or insulin highs. They enable quick energy delivery by stimulating the immediate release of glucose into the blood stream.

This amino acid can support the immune system and the prevention of kidney stones.

Poor nutrition, a low protein diet, as well as stress and environmental conditions can all cause an insufficiency of Alanine.

Foods with large amounts of Alanine

Alanine is easily washed away and lost in foods due to its strong water-soluble properties. Foods with large amounts of Alanine should not be cooked or soaked for too long. Protein rich sources from animals are well suited as sources like:

  • beef (approximately 3.9 g per 100g)
  • fish (approximately 2.6 g per 100g)

They can cover a large amount of the recommended minimum daily dose of Alanine. Yeast (approximately 2.3g per 100g) and partridge (approximately 2,2g per 100g) are also high in Alanine.

Athletes in particular have a much larger need to supplement amino acids in order to build muscle mass. They usually consume protein powder before and after training in order to make the protein rapidly available in the bloodstream to repair and grow its muscles. They should also include certain foods in their diet, which have high concentrations of Alanine to supplement the body’s needs. It is important to avoid consuming too much bad fat as part of a protein-rich diet, certain plant-based food may be consumed. For example

  • dried white mushrooms (approx. 1.9 g per 100g)
  • sunflower seeds (approx. 1.8 g per 100 g)
  • wheat germs (approx. 1.8 g per 100g)
  • soymeal (approx. 1.7 g per 100g)
  • parsley (approx. 1.5 g per 100g)

These foods may help increase physical fitness when consumed over longer periods.

Functions of Alanine in the body

  1. Promote muscle growth with Alanine
  2. Healthy immune system and kidneys
  3. Healthy prostate

The prostate fluid has a high concentration of Alanine and may therefore protect the prostate gland itself from an irregular enlargement.

4. Alanine can prevent illnesses

Alanine can stimulate the immune system, reduces inflammation and therefore helps to balance and stabilise the organism as a whole.

8. Asparagine

Asparagine is an α-amino acid that is used in the biosynthesis of proteins.

Best foods

Function

  • Needed for development and function of the brain
  • It plays an important role in the synthesis of ammonia.
  • It is important both for protein structure and protein function

9. Ornithine

Is an amino acid that plays a central role in the urea cycle? Ornithine can be changed to arginine through the production of urea where it assists in detoxification and contributes to liver health.

Ornithine is important in combination with arginine in the removal of ammonia, a performance-reducing end product of the protein metabolism. Ornithine also helps to accelerate wound healing, improve sleep patterns and increase erectile function.

Best foods

Example: fish, meat, dairy products, nuts, rice, soya and wheat.

10. Proline

Is manufactured mainly from ornithine, glutamine, and glutamate in the liver. Proline is an amino acid that is needed by the body to build collagen. This is a structural protein and is required to make elastic fibres found in the skin, bones, ligaments and tendons. Together with lysine and vitamin C, proline is converted into hydroxlysine and hydroxyproline to finally form collagen.

Proline and healthy skin

Proline has been proven to increase collagen synthesis in human fibroblast cells together with its precursors, glutamate and pyrroline-5-carboxylate. By increasing the availability of Proline, it is possible to slow down the aging process and enhance skin health.

Proline and tissue repair

During times of injury where there is soft tissue damage the body elevates proline production. This helps to heal the wound.

A deficiency in proline may be responsible for a higher susceptibility to tears or strains on soft tissues. A lack of this amino acid may lead to slower healing at times. It is often recommended to take a proline supplement following a soft tissue injury to enhance collagen production and enhance healing.

Proline and cardiovascular health

Hardening of the arteries is the leading cause of heart disease. The condition develops as the arteries thicken and become stiff following the accumulation of fat on the arterial walls.

This restricts the transport of nutrients and oxygen throughout the whole body. The reduced blood flow and pressure build-up can cause heart attacks.

It is beneficial to support the use of proline and other amino acids and vitamins to prevent arteriosclerosis.   This amino acid can help to strengthen the artery walls and protect the endothelium.

Proline deficiencies

People at risk of having low proline levels are normally on a low protein diet.

People who do prolonged exercise routines may have a greater requirement for this amino acid.

When glucose supply is low, the body will start to cannibalise its own muscle. Boosting proline supplies may help to prevent this occurring in serious athletes.

Traumatic skin injuries or severe burns will have a higher need for proline to support tissue repair. People experiencing joint pain from insufficient collagen or cartilage formation might benefit from additional proline.

Best foods for Proline

Dairy, meat, and soy products are enriched with proline. Proline should be taken together with vitamin C for collagen synthesis.

11. Serine

It is a non-essential amino acid and is formed from another amino acid called glycine.  Serine is essential for both mental and physical health. It ensures that the central nervous system and the brain are functioning correctly.

Serine is involved in the formation of phospholipids that is required for cell production. It also plays an important role in the function of DNA and RNA, muscle formation, and metabolism of fat and fatty acids.

A healthy immune system also requires serine.

Serine and cognitive function and mental health

The body’s nerves are protected in a layer called myelin sheaths. These sheaths require serine for formation and maintenance and without normal supply of this amino acid these sheaths can become damaged. This can reduce nerve efficiency and disrupts the signalling of messages between the nerve ending in the body and the brain. This can lead to lack of cognitive ability.

Serotonin is an important neurotransmitter that regulates mood. This brain chemical is produced from an amino acid called l-tryptophan. Without serine, the body cannot form tryptophan and this causes decline in the ability to synthesis serotonin. Low levels of tryptophan and serotonin have been linked to conditions like: insomnia, depression, anxiety, panic attacks and confusion.

Serine may be beneficial in the treatment of certain mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, Parkinson’s disease and depression.

Serine and fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia is characterised by diffuse tenderness, widespread pain, cognitive disturbance and fatigue. People suffering from this condition have lower levels of serine in their blood compared with healthy people. Serine supplementation might be beneficial in treating fibromyalgia.

Serine and chronic fatigue syndrome

Symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome include extreme tiredness, neurocognitive problems, nausea, weight and blood pressure change, and insomnia. Low levels of Serine have been recorded in people with chronic fatigue syndrome and may be beneficial in treatment.

Serine and muscle growth

Serine helps to improve the body’s ability to absorb creatine, which is widely used for muscle building.

Symptoms of a Serine deficiency

Symptoms of a deficiency in serine can include reduced cognitive and physical skills, seizures, and congenital microcephaly. These deficiencies stem from neuro-metabolic diseases and defects in the biosynthesis of serine. In most cases, these problems are identified at birth and or in young children.

Serine is not an essential amino acid and there are no guidelines for recommended daily intake.

Best foods

Soy-based products, meat, peanuts, and wheat gluten.

References

  1. aminoacidstudies.org
  2. wikipedia.org
  3. aminoacid-studies.com
  4. The Vitamin Bible. Earl Mindell
  5. https://draxe.com/protein-deficiency/
  6. http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/expert-answers/high-protein-diets/faq-20058207
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Dr James Liddell is an Integrated Healthcare Specialist (B.Pharm; M.Pharm; PhD; SAPC and PSSA registered) specialising in integrating different disciplines of healthcare to ensure holistic healthcare solutions. With 25 years experience as a Pharmacist, Dr of Nutrition and Complementary & Alternative Medicine Healthcare Practitioner, he believes lifestyle is ultimately the key to optimal health; a good nutritional foundation combined with sound emotional health are the fundamentals to what he calls ‘the optimal health zone’.

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