Amino acids function as the building blocks for protein. In fact, when you eat a high protein meal, your body digests the protein into individual amino acids and links of amino acids that are small enough to be absorbed into the bloodstream. If you were to look at a protein under a microscope, it would look like a chain of amino acids that is connected by peptide bonds.
The primary function of amino acids is to build and repair muscle tissue. However, they are also used in food flavoring additives. For example, monosodium glutamate is composed of a nonessential amino acid known as glutamic acid.
In recent years, scientists have begun to find even more amino acid functions. For instance, changing the amino acid structure of keratin, which is found in hair, nails and horns can help develop the compound used for biodegradable plastic. These materials are used as environmentally-friendly packaging, in medicine delivery and in medicine in the construction of prosthetic implants.
Types of Amino Acids
There are twenty different amino acids in the body. They fall into two distinct types:
- The nonessential amino acids, which are those that the body can synthesize for itself, as long there is enough nitrogen, carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen available to aid in the synthesis process.
- Essential amino acids are those that have to be supplied by the diet. This is because the human body can't make enough of them by itself.
In most conditions, eleven of these amino acids are nonessential and nine are essential.
Examples of Essential Amino Acids
Since the nutrients from essential amino acids cannot be stored, failure to consume even one of them can destabilize the body's entire system. The ten essential amino acids are:
Amino Acid Function: L-Lysine
L-Lysine is an excellent example of an essential amino acid. L-Lysine's function is to release serotonin. Serotonin release is associated with anxiety control. As such, it can be useful in controlling both general and compulsive anxiety disorders. L-Lysine is found in red meat, pork, fish, cheese, nuts and soybeans.
Nonessential Amino Acids
The 10 amino acids that our bodies are capable of producing on their own are:
- Aspartic acid
- Glutamic acid
Amino Acid Therapy
Amino acid therapy works on the assumption that illnesses occur because the body fails to manufacture the right amino acids. Proponents of this methodology believe that amino acid supplementation can cure and prevent these illnesses. The technique will depend on the condition. For example, patients may take only the eight essential amino acids. Other patients are only prescribed the three branched chain amino acids: leucine, isoleucine, and valine. Patients may also incorporate amino-rich foods such as garlic and soy into their diets. In some cases, the amino acids are taken in pill form.
Amino Acids and Pet Food
Amino acids play an important role in pet food. Methioine is used to prevent cat health problems such as urinary crystals. Taurine and cysteine are also important for cat health. This amino acid aids in the formation of biliary salts, which are necessary for the digestion of fats. Taurine also helps cats vision, nervous and cardiovascular system.
Amino acids are also important in a dog's diet. Arginine stimulates the dog's immune system response by enhancing the production of T-cells. Histidine releases histamines from body stores. It controls pain and widens the small blood vessels which in turn aid digestion. Tryptophan produces serotonin, which aids in sleep.
Amino acids serve many important functions. Make sure that you get enough of the essential amino acids in your diet.