Guide to Amino Acids

Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. The body has twenty different amino acids that act as these building blocks. Non-essential amino acids are those that the body can synthesise for itself provided there is enough nitrogen, carbon, hydrogen and oxygen available. Essential amino acids are those supplied by the diet since the human body either cannot make them at all or cannot make them in sufficient quantity to meet its needs. Under normal conditions eleven of the amino acids are non-essential and nine are essential.

Proteins act as enzymes, hormones and antibodies. They maintain fluid balance and acid/base balance. They also transport substances such as oxygen, vitamins and minerals to target cells throughout the body.

Structural proteins, such as collagen and keratin, are responsible for the formation of bones, teeth, hair and the outer layer of skin and they help maintain the structure of blood vessels and other tissues.

In contrast, motor proteins use energy and convert it into some form of mechanical work such as a contracting muscle or cell replication.

Enzymes are proteins that facilitate chemical reactions without being changed in the process.

Proteins help to maintain the body's fluid and electrolyte balance. This means that proteins ensure that the proper types and amounts of fluid and minerals are present in each of the body's three fluid compartments.

Proteins also help to maintain the balance between acids and bases within body fluids. The lower a fluid's pH, the more acidic it is. Conversely, the higher the pH, the more alkaline the fluid is. The body works hard to keep the pH of the blood near 7.4 (neutral). Proteins also act as carriers, transporting many important substances in the bloodstream for delivery throughout the body.

Amino Acid Function RDA
Alanine Involved in the breakdown of glucose, producing energy which can prevent the build-up of toxins in the muscles when extra energy is needed. Not Applicable
Arginine Improves the immune system's responses to bacteria, viruses and tumour cells. Promotes wound healing and tissue repair and releases growth hormones. Not Applicable
Aspartic Acid Relieves chronic fatigue, helpful in treating heart attacks and irregular heart rhythms. Can help treat decreased fertility in men. Not Applicable
Asparagine A mild immune system stimulant and helps in the metabolic functions of the brain and nervous system. Helps with fatigue and depression. Not Applicable
Carnitine Good for weight loss, metabolises fat, reduces the risk of heart disease. Not Applicable
Cysteine A precursor to Glutathione. Prevents and treats osteoarthritis, atherosclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis. Promotes tissue healing, muscle building and fat burning. Not Applicable
Cystine Protects against radiation and pollution. Slows the ageing process and neutralizes toxins. Required for the formation of skin. 13 mg/kg per day
Glutamic Acid Improves mental capacity. Speeds the healing of ulcers. Reduces fatigue. Has been found to help control sugar cravings, schizophrenia and alcoholism. Not Applicable
Glutamine Improves mental clarity, alertness and moods. Not Applicable
Glutathione A composition of three amino acids (cysteine, glutamic acid and glycine) prevents ageing and protects against peroxidation caused by exposure to pesticides, plastics, smoke, nitrates and drugs. Not Applicable
Glycine Helps manufacture certain hormones and triggers oxygen during cell making processes. Not Applicable
Histidine Involved in producing both red and white blood cells. Helps regulate antibody activity and maintains myelin sheaths that insulate the nerves. 8-12 mg/kg per day
Isoleucine Involved in haemoglobin production and blood sugar level regulation. 10 mg/kg per day
Leucine By stimulating protein synthesis within the muscles, is essential for growth, skin and muscle tissue and bone healing. Treats liver damage in alcoholics. 14 mg/kg per day
Lysine Fights mouth blisters, cold sores and genital herpes. Aids the production of antibodies, enzymes and hormones. 12 mg/kg per day
Methionine Improves skin tone and hair and helps strengthen nails. Helps the body absorb Zinc. Prevents the build-up of excess fat in the liver. Helps reduce fatigue, allergies and rheumatic fever. 13 mg/kg per day
Ornithine Enhances liver functionality and helps protect the liver. Helps detox the body of toxins and also releases a growth hormone. Not Applicable
Phenylalanine Works with tyrosine in helping to form the thyroid hormone. Can help in eliminating depression. 14 mg/kg per day
Proline A no-nessential component that works best with ascorbic acid (vitamin C). Can help improve skin texture as it is the main component of collagen and connective tissues. Not Applicable
Serine Metabolizes fats, fatty acids, purines and pyrimidines. Promotes a healthy immune system and encourages muscle growth. Has a role in the formation of cell membranes. Not Applicable
Taurine Multi-functioning, effects blood sugar levels, stabilizes cell membranes, aids the cells in the movement of potassium, calcium, sodium and magnesium. Helps promote normal vision and in preventing age-related cataracts. Maintains solubility of cholesterol and may lower blood pressure. 7 mg/kg per day
Threonine Involved in the formation of tooth enamel, proteins, collagen and elastin. Good for indigestion and intestinal malfunctions, helps control the build-up of fat within the liver. 7 mg/kg per day
Tryptophan Helps the brain in its essential production of serotonin by helping produce the niacin it requires for this. 3.5 mg/kg per day
Tyrosine Used by the thyroid in producing the thyroxin hormone. Can help treat anxiety, depression, headaches and allergies. 14 mg/kg per day
Valine An essential stimulant. Necessary for healthy growth. 10 mg/kg per day

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