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How Does Our Body Use Amino Acids?

Blog > Nutrition

Amino acids are the constituent elements of proteins, and these, in turn, are the structures that make up any living tissue. Muscle fibers, cell membranes, enzymes, and neurochemical elements of brain tissue are examples of tissues composed of proteins. 70% of our body (excluding water and fatty tissue) are proteins. Their presence is of such relevance that these nutrients are known as the ‘builders of life.’ Its functions include the intervention in energy metabolism, and its anti-stress action, minimizing the harmful effects caused by certain diseases. Likewise, the role that proteins and, consequently, the role they play in our body is vital. Therefore, detailed knowledge of the functions of these molecules will allow their therapeutic use to promote, in a natural way, a good state of health and well-being.

What are Amino Acids?

Our body needs a vast number of protein molecules. These proteins are endogenously synthesized from them. Generally, amino acids are involved in the maintenance of biosystems in particular, and as constituents of proteins, they play these functions:

  1. Constituents of the hormones essential for reproduction.
  2. They are involved in energy metabolism.
  3. They are involved in the synthesis of digestive enzymes.
  4. They promote the growth and repair of tissues and cells.
  5. They contribute to blood functions.
  6. Structural components of tissues, cells, and muscles.

In this way, these molecules are essential for its functions since they are essential for the other nutrients to be properly absorbed and metabolized. They are also necessary for the correct functioning of vitamins and minerals.

What Happens with Them in Our Body?

Metabolism concept diagram on note in plate with measuring tape. Anabolism + Catabolism = Metabolism

They are obtained from protein in the diet. There is the caveat that our body cannot directly use these dietary proteins. Once ingested, the proteins contained in food undergo enzymatic processes of digestion and catabolism until they are broken down into their constituent amino acids. Later and endogenously, these molecules are recombined, giving rise to the appropriate proteins. This protein synthesis process combines the different molecules in different numbers and configurations, giving rise to more than 40,000 known proteins.

Deficiencies in the Diet

Unbalanced diets can induce amino acid deficiencies. The repercussion of the deficit is that our organism resorts to its tissue proteins, degrading them and taking those molecules that it needs. The deficient dietary intake of these molecules causes both physical and mental alterations. Among them, we can highlight the reduction of energy metabolism, sleep disturbances, chronic fatigue, digestive disorders, skin disorders, anxiety and emotional distress, obesity, malnutrition, and the retention of toxic waste in the blood. These processes induce alterations in the state of health and well-being of the individual who suffers them. Therefore, since it is necessary to ingest all the essential proteins, both in sufficient quantities and adequate proportions, unbalanced diets can be compensated for with the administration of supplements. Our body is amazing, every second, the bone marrow generates 2.5 million red blood cells. The mucosa of the gastrointestinal tract and platelets are regenerated every four days. Furthermore, in 10 days, the leukocytes regenerate. Every 24 days, the skin tissue is wholly regenerated, and in 30 years, the regeneration of collagen occurs. These processes and many others not mentioned allow us to conclude that continuous anatomical and functional repair and regeneration requires high amounts of these molecules.

Essential Amino Acids

Amino acids vector illustration. List with food and its essential acids. Healthy and well balanced nutrition meal to get necessary chemical elements like histidine, lysing, valine, leucine and others.

Although the quantity is important, the proportion is equally important since the function which these molecules exert in our body is specific. Indeed, none of them can compensate for the other, so the deficit of even a single amino acid can trigger health disorders. This aspect is still being studied. Recent data show that the deficiency of tryptophan, methionine, or isoleucine induces defects in the synthesis of liver albumin and globulin. In addition to urinary disorders, it can also lead to edema and an increase in susceptibility to infections.

The Most Common

Table showing the diagrammatic formulae and structure of the 20 most common amino acids

Many different classifications of amino acids are known, and all of them are necessary to achieve good health. Our body can synthesize 80% of the total molecules. On the contrary, we must obtain the remaining 20% through diet. For this reason, they are classified as non-essential (endogenous synthesis) and essential (those that we must get from external sources).

The 20 Most Common Amino Acids:

  1. Alanine
  2. Arginine
  3. Asparagine
  4. Aspartic Acid
  5. Cysteine
  6. Glutamic Acid
  7. Glutamine
  8. Glycine
  9. Histidine
  10. Isoleucine
  11. Leucine
  12. Lysine
  13. Methionine
  14. Phenylalanine
  15. Proline
  16. Serine
  17. Threonine
  18. Tryptophan
  19. Tyrosine
  20. Valine

The most significant difference between these two groups is that the essential ones must be ingested daily. On the other hand, the non-essential, although also necessary, can be synthesized endogenously if the diet does not provide them in sufficient quantities. The body requires stable proportions between the different essential amino acids to properly perform the functions of growth, maintenance, and repair.

Some of The Best Food Sources

Fresh cottage cheese in a ceramic bowl and green leaves, a rich source of amino acids

Of all the foods, those that contain protein in the highest concentration and that are less expensive are brewer’s yeast, skimmed milk powder, wheat germ, and soy flour. These foods constitute a protein source accessible to any purchasing power so that protein-balanced diets are achieved within reach of any socioeconomic level. Spirulina contains in its composition between 50 and 70% highly digestible proteins, constituting one of the few sources with all the essential ones.

Seven foods containing amino acids

  1. Dairy, e.g. Cottage Cheese
  2. Eggs
  3. Fish, e.g. Salmon
  4. Grains, e.g. Quinoa
  5. Lean Meats, e.g. Turkey
  6. Legumes & Beans, e.g. Chickpeas
  7. Nuts and Seeds, e.g. Brazil Nuts
Bottom Line

There is much evidence that supports the influence that imbalances in amino acid levels exert on health-disease states. Supplementation offers an alternative strategy in the therapeutic management of certain health problems. Supplements are being prescribed in the medical field as a treatment for medical conditions such as arthritis and liver diseases. Another of its indications offers the possibility of increasing the state of well-being since the ingestion of supplements contributes to maintaining balanced levels of these molecules.

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