Amino acids are the particles or blocks that make up long strands of proteins. Varying types of proteins have a certain sequence in which amino acids are structured, and this sequence decides the function of the protein. These proteins are used to build the body to its greatest functioning potential.
There are two basic types of proteins. Structural proteins are found in bones, connective tissue, and muscles. Functional proteins include antibodies, enzymes used for digestion, and hormones such as those found in the pancreas and thyroid.
There are at least twenty different amino acids. Of these twenty or more, some are considered essential, or necessary, while others are non-essential. Essential amino acids are those which the body requires from sources outside of itself. This is generally because the body cannot produce this type on its own, but it can generally be easily found in a variety of foods and supplements. Non-essential amino acids are created in the body; however, there are supplements available for cases where the body does not produce them in adequate amounts.
Essential amino acids include isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, cystine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine. For infants and small children, another essential amino acids is histidine. Non-essential amino acids include alanine, aspartic acid, glutamic acid, glycine, serine, and tyrosine.
The amount of various amino acids necessary for normal body function can increase and decrease, depending on the growth of the body at the time. Generally, more is needed during times of increased growth, like infancy, pregnancy, breast feeding, recovery from excessive weight loss, and healing from serious injuries like burns.
In some cases, amino acids may be found in places other than proteins. They have been found in neurotransmitters, molecules that help the body transfer electrical nerve impulses to the brain. This shows that there are a variety of uses for these important amino acids.
Now that you understand what amino acids are, it will be easier to understand their uses. People do not think of amino acids as important nutritional supplements, but they can provide a variety of important benefits. It would be wise to investigate them along with other vitamins and minerals.
Some disease treatments require that a particular type of protein be increased in the body; this, in turn, sometimes calls for an increase in a corresponding amino acid as well. Many times, the extra amino acid is not supplied by a person’s diet alone, so a supplement may be necessary. In other cases, a body may incorrectly metabolize a particular amino acid. This often happens when a person begins taking certain pharmaceuticals that affect amino acid metabolism. For example, some anti-inflammatory medications used to treat arthritis can affect the metabolism of amino acids such as tryptophan. In cases such as this, patients will need to add a tryptophan supplement.
As stated, many amino acids have beneficial uses. Consider the following. Arginine is often used to provide increased sperm count and motility in males. Lysine can be used to help treat herpes and cold sores. Phenylalanine, tryptophan, and tyrosine are often used as a treatment for depression. Histidine can be used in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. As research of amino acids continues, it is expected that even more beneficial uses will be discovered.
The amino acids contained in proteins are necessary for the well-being of our bodies. Both essential and non-essential amino acids help our bodies to be structurally sound and help ensure healthy bones, muscles, and connective tissue. Additionally, these proteins help balance the hormones and other chemicals that are found in the body. While the uses of amino acids may be somewhat minimal for the present, we can expect to see even greater research about the important role they have in our overall wellbeing. It is imperative that individuals consult with a physician to determine if an amino acid supplement would be a positive step to maintaining body health.