The vital bio-molecules called amino acids are required for the manufacture of proteins, thus each and every single cell in the human body uses amino acids and stores them as well. The protein component of the foods we consume is broken down into individual amino acids by the digestive action of enzymes in the small intestine and stomach. The freed amino acids can then be used to form any of the millions of specific proteins required for running the human body. Cellular organization in fact, enables each individual cell to manufacture the desired combination of proteins it requires for running day to day tasks. As a class of bio-molecules, the amino acids can be divided into two basic types as required in the diet: the non-essential amino acids and the essential amino acids. The non-essential class of amino acids can be synthesized in the human body and are not required in the diet, at the same time the essential amino acids need to be obtained from the diet. The following amino acids – namely cysteine, glutamic acid, glutamine alanine, arginine, asparagine, aspartic acid, glycine, proline, serine, taurine and tyrosine are non-essential as a part of the diet due to their ease of manufacture in the body. Diets must include proteins that are rich in lysine, methionine, phenylalanine histidine, valine, isoleucine, leucine, threonine and tryptophan, as these are not synthesized by the human body and must be sourced from the diet or supplements.
The cells and tissues require an abundant supply of amino acids to maintain, restore and repair damaged muscles, tendons, breaks in the skin structure, and all tissues like the ligaments, the tissues of the organ systems, the various glands, and keratin structure like hair and nails. The amino acids in the body also aid in the active synthesis various hormones like insulin, many types of proteinaceous neurotransmitters – which are the main messenger chemicals in the brain and nervous system. The amino acids are also required for the synthesis of various body fluids, and in the manufacture of enzymes needed to trigger all sorts of metabolic bodily functions inside the human being. Severe metabolic and medical problems eventually result if the levels of even one of these amino acid is lacking in the body of the person -such conditions need to be treated by careful supplementation of the amino acid in the diet of the affected individual.
The low levels of amino acids in the body may be effects of factors like long term infection, physiological trauma or stress, the use of certain classes of medications, due to age, or caused by certain chemical imbalances arising within the body of the person, however, the absence of sufficient proteins and a general poor dietary intake is one of the main reasons for the cause of a deficient amino acid level in the body. The evidence of an amino acid deficiency in the body is usually checked by most nutritionally oriented doctors through blood tests that can help determine the bio-chemical and physiological status of a person. Deficiencies in any of the amino acid can be compensated by careful and long term use of relevant supplements. These can also be used in the therapeutic capacity, especially in cases where the patients aren’t deficient but may require it for a holistic treatment of a wide variety of related health issues.
Most of the amino acids needed in the human body are manufactured in the liver, which produces about eighty percent of the amino acid requirements. Amino acids which are classed as essential make up the other twenty percent – the diet must contain these essential amino acids. There is a great deal of correlation between the content of any amino acids, for example if the levels of an essential amino acid are low or deficient, it can severely affect the ability of all the other amino acids to a certain extent. This is because all the amino acids are required as the basic building blocks of different peptides, the larger polypeptides and the proteins – these products of amino acids contain different amino acids in proportionate amounts at any time and one or most of them are required to synthesize any single protein.
Next to water, the most abundant bio-molecules in the human body are the various proteins – the human body is mostly water with proteins forming the essential framework like the muscles together with other class of bio-molecules like the lipids. As a class of compounds in the body, the proteins form the muscles, the tendons, the various ligaments, the glands, the organs, and all external tissues like the nails and hair, they are also found in the body fluids necessary for normal bone growth and development – last but not least, all enzymes are proteins as well as many kinds of hormones. Amino acids are the digestive product of consumed proteins.
The amino acids in a protein are held together by chemical connections called peptide bonds, this is called the primary structure of a protein molecule, and the very structure of proteins determines the essential role they play in the body. Therefore, every single protein in the human body is unique in the chemical sequencing and arrangement of bonds and biochemical breaks. All proteins have very specific duties in the body and fulfill a specific function of the body – the work of any single protein is thus not interchangeable with that of another protein at any time – this high specificity of proteins enables similar proteins to do very different types of functions in the human body. All the proteins consumed in the food are not used directly by the body – they are first digested down to basic amino acids. The intake of dietary proteins undergoes a process of being comprehensively broken down and all the amino acid components ensuing are utilized by the body. The body then synthesizes very specific proteins as per the requirement of the body at any given time or for any given function. Thus amino acids are considered to be essential nutrients, not all proteins contain all the amino acids in their structure and a wide variety of protein sources are needed in the human diet. Amino acids are involved in some very essential functions as given in the following paragraph.
Some amino acids function as neurotransmitters or are precursors to the formation of such compounds. These functions can include functional roles in the brain like receive or transmitting messages to and from the nervous system. Amino acids playing these roles some can bypass the blood brain barrier and gain entry into the central nervous system – the blood brain barrier helps in the maintenance of the health of the brain, it is also involved in fine tuning the chemistry and the operation of various processes of brain body communication. Some types of amino acids help aid in communication between the nerve cells and the other parts of the body. Certain amino acids also support the function of many vitamins and minerals – aiding them in performing specific roles as required in the body.
Proteins which are the synthesized products of all amino acids perform many vital functions in the body including the following:
- Many classes of proteins aid in regulating the growth of bone both structurally as well as biochemically.
- Certain proteins are important in the regulation of brain function and central nervous system performance.
- All biochemical and life maintaining reactions in the body are catalyzed by proteins called enzymes and the regulation of much important function is through hormones – some hormones are peptide or proteins.
- Proteins form organs like the skin – the integument system – they thus actively aid in preventing the onset of infection and disease and prevent the coming of illness in the human body.
- Proteins also affect the maintenance and regulation of optimal internal pH and the water balance of the body.
- Proteins also actively aid in nutrient exchange that occurs across the tissues, the blood and the lymph and the facilitation of nutrient laden intercellular fluids – most forms of cellular transport is via protein based cellular gates or channels.
- The DNA bound proteins also form an important structural base for chromosomes – these proteins regulate the folding and conformation of genetic material.
Certain amino acids also help in the stimulation of the body’s production of the human growth hormone – called the somatotrophin hormone or STH, in short. The human growth hormone is stored in the pituitary gland – this organ releases the hormone slowly into the body as a result of such activities like physical exercises, a sudden reduction in the consumption of food or a lack of sleep. The levels of growth hormone produced by the body tend to decrease as a person increases in age, till all production and release of the hormone is stopped when a person is about fifty years of age. Supplements of these amino acids may help in stimulating the body’s natural ability to manufacture growth hormone and this can result in a return to the growth hormone levels of a young adult – this can help treat aging related conditions.
Hormones that originate in the hypothalamus are responsible for the regulation of human growth hormone release from the pituitary. These two hypothalamic hormones include the hormone called somatostatin, also called growth hormone -inhibiting hormone – GH-IH, in short, and the growth hormone releasing hormone or GH-RT, in short. The production of the human growth hormone is influenced and regulated by hormones released from many other sources inside the human body, such as those released by the thyroid, the adrenal glands and the gonads, the production of this growth hormone is also influenced by the levels of essential nutrients present in the circulating blood inside the body. Some of the major health related effects of the human growth hormone on the body include:
- The human growth hormone is known to possess potent anti-aging properties and effects on the body at large.
- The hormone also helps burn fat at a faster rate and converts it to energy, thus aiding weight loss and increase of muscles in the body.
- The growth hormone also aids in promoting the synthesis of proteins for the formation of muscles in the body.
- The hormone speeds up the wound healing process, it also aids in the regeneration of tissues in the heart, the kidneys, the liver and the lungs aside from other organs.
- The growth hormone also helps to restore normal hair growth and color in the hair follicles.
- The growth hormone also actively aids in tissue repair and restoration of damaged cells.
- It is believed to increase the sharpness of vision.
- The hormone is capable of bringing about a reduction in the number of wrinkles, at the same time it also actively aids in improving the elasticity and texture of human skin.
- The hormone also brings about a general reduction in the levels of urea found in the urine and the blood.
- The hormone is said to be capable of improving the quality of the connective tissues in the body, this effect in turn leads to strengthened ligaments and tendons in the body.
- The hormone helps build stronger bones, at the same time it brings about a restoration of bone and muscle mass in the body to normal levels. The levels of calcium osteocalcin and collagen are also increased by the hormone.
- The hormone boosts the energy and endurance of the person during a bout of physical exercise and helps in building the body mass – it can thus help physical training with weights.
- The hormone generates anti-depressant effects on the brain, thus boosting mood and helping a person have better mental concentration specific to tasks.
- The hormone greatly strengthens the immune system, as it increases the production of anti-bodies. At the same time, it boosts the performance of the thymus gland; this gland is responsible for the maturation of T-cells in the human body.
- The intake and availability of oxygen to the tissues and the ability to exercise for long periods is also boosted by this hormone.
- The hormone also helps in promoting sleep in people.
- The hormone also brings about a general reduction in the blood pressure and levels of cholesterol in the blood.
- The presence of the hormone in the blood leads to a greater cardiac output.
- The hormone is considered by some to be a very potent and powerful aphrodisiac, suitable for both men and women.
- The hormones can also help in alleviating various symptoms during PMS and helps in the complete elimination of vaginal dryness affecting women.
People who took dosages of the growth hormone directly for up to six months have been shown as clearly benefiting from the supplement according to the results of many studies. Taking doses of the hormone longer than six months is not advised in all cases, which are borne out by the fact that some adults seem to be negatively affected by the dosage if they take the hormone longer than this period. The ideal option is to boost the body’s ability to release growth hormones on its own in a natural way by combination supplementation of amino acids and different organic nutrients. It is known that the ability of the amino acids to promote human growth hormone release is very significantly boosted when the supplementation is done along with organic nutrients like the vitamin B6 or pyridoxine, along with the vitamin C or ascorbic acid, or along with niacin amide, or with minerals like calcium, and other essential minerals such as magnesium, potassium and zinc in small quantities.
Amino acids can be classified into laevorotatory or dextrorotatory bio-molecules. Thus the placing of an ‘L-‘ just before an amino acid can indicate that this amino acid is in the natural form used by the body. The biologically relevant form of alanine for example, is called ‘L-alanine’. D-alanine is normally not used by the body, on the other hand, the placement of a ‘D -‘ before an amino acid may simply indicate that it is a synthetic variant of the amino acid – such forms are not used by the human body and seems to present as the components in the proteins of some very exotic animals, mostly marine.
Certain types of heart disease can be very effectively treated using different kinds of amino acids and their bio-chemical by-products. The muscles forming the heart for example, have very high concentrations of carnitine, which strengthens the heart, and comes to the aid of those suffering from congestive heart failure. Taking doses of this compound can boost the chances of surviving a heart attack in many people. Results from some studies have shown that there is a real chance of reduction in the amount of heart damage suffered by a person if the carnitine dosage was used for four to twelve weeks following a heart attack. Carnitine is also involved in the metabolism of fat in the body, thus it is believed to also help lower the very high levels of triglycerides – compounds similar to blood cholesterol – found in people susceptible to a heart attack. Arginine, which is one of the non-essential amino acids also lowers the risk of heart attack and stroke by dilating blood vessels and thus bringing about a reduction in elevated blood pressure. It can be taken as a supplement to help bring about some ease from the symptoms and pains associated with angina also. High blood pressure in the body and the chances of congestive heart failure is also reduced by taurine, which balances the sodium to potassium ratio in the blood, it also regulates excessive activity in the central nervous system and aids in defeating the condition in patients.
The production of helpful molecules called anti-oxidants in the body is stimulated by n-acetylcysteine (NAC), which is a by-product of the amino acid cysteine – this form of cysteine is better absorbed than cysteine itself and could potentially have anti-oxidant effects of its own. The other helpful actions of this compound also lie in its ability to repair cellular damage and thus directly boosting the immune system performance. Additional actions of NAC, include an ability to thin the mucus produced during a case of chronic bronchitis, it is also used to protect the functional state of the liver during cases of overdose from the use of acetaminophen – marketed commonly as Tylenol. Disorders that involve damage to the functioning of brain or nerve cells, during disorders like multiple sclerosis may also be treatable using this supplement.
The cells of the digestive tract have large concentrations of the amino acid glutamine. This amino acid can help in healing ulcers and also soothes symptoms of conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome and diverticulosis. The amino acid taurine also enhances the production of certain types of brain chemicals, and this property of the amino acid can often be a great help to those suffering from epilepsy and related conditions. This amino acid is also a major element in the formation of bile and can possibly help in preventing the formation of gallstones in people. Taurine may also benefit individuals suffering from diabetes as it is known to facilitate the use of insulin by the human body.
The muscles are also aided by carnitine and this enables the muscles to burn the fat present in the body for energy production – this is of great value in the treatment of obesity related conditions. One of the most effective treatments for various kinds of cold sores, for problems like shingles and canker sores is supplementing the diet with extra lysine. Taking extra arginine may actually trigger a cold sore or make a person susceptible to genital herpes infections. The treatment of various sleep disorders and depression can successfully be carried out using the amino acid tryptophan.
The entry for the appropriate ailment can be consulted to get recommended dosages of any of the amino acids. The ideal way of supplementation is to take amino acids in a complex combination form, instead of using any individual amino acid for longer than one month, using a mixed amino acid complex as a supplement will enable the body to receive adequate and balanced amounts of all the amino acids needed by the body.
The supplementation regimens using any of the amino acid supplements will be the most effective in the absence of competition from digested amino acids found in high protein foods such as meat and eggs. For this reason, one should ideally use the amino acid supplements at least an hour and a half just prior to or following the daily meals. The supplement can be taken first thing in the morning or may be used near bedtime – these timings are ideal for full absorption of the supplement in the body. Taking any single amino acid supplement longer than three months is not recommended, but may be carried out under the supervision of a doctor experienced with nutritional use of such supplements. When taking any individual amino acid as a supplement it is also advisable to take mixed amino acid supplements along with the single amino acid doses on an empty stomach at a different time of day.
Side effects and cautions
When and as long as used in the recommended dosages, all the amino acid supplements will not induce any side effects and can be considered very safe supplements. Toxicity can often result if unnecessarily high doses of certain amino acids are taken for too long, physical symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea can ensue in such cases.
Most commonly used amino acids
- aspartic acid
- cysteine and cystine
- dimethylglycine ( DMG )
- gamma-aminobutycine acid ( GABA )
- glutamic acid