What is Amino Acid
Twenty percent of the human body is made up of protein. Protein plays a crucial role in almost all biological processes and amino acids are the building blocks of it.
A large proportion of our cells, muscles and tissue is made up of amino acids, meaning they carry out many important bodily functions, such as giving cells their structure. They also play a key role in the transport and the storage of nutrients. Amino acids have an influence on the function of organs, glands, tendons and arteries. They are furthermore essential for healing wounds and repairing tissue, especially in the muscles, bones, skin and hair as well as for the removal of all kinds of waste deposits produced in connection with the metabolism.
The importance of amino acids for human well-being is on the increase
Meirion Jones, a well-known BBC journalist, reported that contrary to years ago, many doctors have now confirmed that a supply of amino acids (also by way of nutritional supplements) can have positive effects.
Jones and Erdmann explain the changes in medical opinion in the following way: “Unfortunately, in the real world countless factors are working to prevent our bodies from receiving a full and balanced supply of these all-important substances. Among these factors are the pollution caused by burning fossil-fuels, the hormones fed to cattle, the intensive use of fertilizers in agriculture, and even habits such as smoking and drinking, all of which can prevent our bodies from fully using what we eat. Worse still is the amount of nutrition that is lost from our food through processing before we actually get to eat it…By providing the body with optimal nutrition, amino acids help to replace what is lost and, in doing so, promote well-being and vitality.”
A recent study from Germany carried out by the DAK has revealed that older people in particular are more prone to suffering from malnutrition. “If the body is lacking in the minimum energy and nutrients, the body cannot carry out its bodily and mental functions. Without the necessary vitamins, proteins (amino acids), trace elements and minerals, there is a risk of debilities and metabolic disorders which can have serious consequences.”
The amino acid pool has to be right
Jones believes that almost every disease caused by civilisation is a result of imbalances in our metabolism. The amino-acid pool is jointly responsible for achieving a balanced metabolism.
The amino acid pool describes the entire amount of available free amino acids in the human body. The size of the pool amounts to around 120 to 130 grams in an adult male. If we consume protein in the diet, the protein in the gastro-intestinal tract is broken down into the individual amino acids and then put back together again as new protein. This complex biological process is called protein biosynthesis. The entire amino acid pool is transformed, or ‘exchanged’ three to four times a day. This means that the body has to be supplied with more amino acids, partly by protein biosynthesis, partly by the diet or through consumption of suitable dietary supplements.
The objective is that the amino acid pool is complete and maintained in the correct combination. If the one or more amino acids are not available in sufficient quantities, the production of protein is weakened and the metabolism may only function in a limited way.
Older people are not the only ones who this applies to, for young people can also be affected by the negative consequences of a limited supply of nutrients. These include weight problems, hair loss, skin problems, sleep disorders, mood swings and/or erectile disorders but also arthritis, diabetes, cardiovascular imbalance (high cholesterol levels, high blood pressure) or even menopausal complaints.
What types of amino acids are there?
Amino acids are organic compounds which contain at least one amino group (-NH2) and a carboxy (-COOH) group. In the human genome, 20 amino acids are created to build proteins and therefore termed proteinogen. Besides this, there are approximately 250 amino acids which do not form proteins. These are used to form sugar for example.
The 20 proteinogen amino acids are also called standard amino acids, which can be divided into three groups: essential, semi-essential and non-essential.
Eight amino acids are essential for humans, as the body cannot produce them by themselves, and they have to be supplied externally. These are: isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan and valine.
Arginine and histidine form the group of so-called semi-essential amino acids. They have to be consumed in the diet under certain circumstances.
The ten non-essential amino acids are able to be produced in the body. The following amino acids fall into this category: alanine, asparagine, aspartic acid, cysteine, glutamine, glutamic acid, glycine, proline, serin and tyrosine.
It should be noted that the grouping ‘essential’ and ‘non-essential’ does not mean that one group more important is that the other. This is because the division of the two does not assess whether the body has sufficient supply of the amino acids in question at its disposal. The protein requirement can differ greatly from person to person. The amount of semi-essential and non-essential amino acids produced by the body itself depends on many different factors, such as age, mental and/or physical stress or distress situations. These determine the various amino acid levels required to stay fit and healthy.
It all depends on the structure
From a biochemical point of view, the proteinogen amino acids can be differentiated through their structure. They come in two symmetrical forms: the L- and D- structure. The L- amino acid structure is the only one natural to the body. This is why it is important to be aware when choosing additionally required amino acids, e.g. through dietary supplements, that the ingredients contain L- and not a D- or DL- (mixed) amino acid form.
We are convinced that the most relevant amino acids for the human body are the so-called proteinogen amino acids, in particular the L-amino acids. A sufficient balance of the supply of B-vitamins is decisive for the amino acids to have an optimal effect. The B vitamins should not be separated from their naturally occurring combination. This means they should not be taken individually, as this could negatively impact their effect.
The effects of amino acids
Research over recent years has shown that amino acids have been useful against diabetes, osteoporosis, heart trouble, metabolic disorders, erectile dysfunction, anti-aging and also menopausal complaints, to name but a few. That was the message from the international symposium of the Society for Applied Amino Acid Research in Treatment and Practice held in 2005 and attended by one hundred scientists from six different nations. Even though studies show that the effects of amino acids are positive, they are still not properly recognised in the field of medical science in Europe. They are necessary to build structural proteins such as collagen, enzymes, clotting mechanisms, antibodies, transport molecules, muscles and hormones.
In the UK, as in many countries in Europe, poorly balanced diets lead to the supply of amino acids to the body being below internationally recommended levels. The prevention and treatment of certain illnesses frequently leads to increases in the amino acid dosage requirements, which means they should be taken as supplements. This is one of the conclusions made from the congress participants. Vegetarians as well as people with chronic disorders of the liver and kidneys have a greater risk of developing an amino acid deficiency. The amino acids arginine, glutamine, lysine, methionine and taurine have immunomodulating effects and are beneficial for people with an immunodeficiency. All in all, amino acids have an enormous potential for use in the treatment and prevention of a wide range of illnesses.
Amino acids can support the body in many different ways
To summarise, we can conclude that in addition to the traditional conventional medicinal support, amino acids provide natural alternative approaches in the following areas:
– Arthritis and osteoporosis
– Healthy skin
– Hair loss
– Sleep, mood and performance