Amino acids are the basic building blocks that make up proteins in our bodies. Our bodies need amino acids to grow, repair and maintain tissues and organs. However, our bodies cannot produce some amino acids and these are called essential amino acids which must be obtained through our diet. This article examines the different types of amino acids, their functions and importance in the human body.
Types of Amino Acids
Of these 20 common amino acids, 9 are considered essential amino acids as they cannot be synthesized by the body and must be obtained through diet. These essential amino acids are phenylalanine, valine, threonine, tryptophan, methionine, leucine, isoleucine, lysine and histidine. The remaining 11 amino acids are considered non-essential as they can be synthesized by the body. However, some amino acids like cysteine and tyrosine are sometimes categorized as conditionally essential as their requirements may increase under conditions of stress, injury or illness.
Functions of Amino Acids
Amino Acids perform a variety of critical functions in the human body such as:
– Protein Building: Amino acids combine together to form long chains called proteins. Proteins are essential components of body tissues like muscles, bones, skin, and blood.
– Enzyme Production: Many amino acids are precursors required for the body to synthesize enzymes and hormones that regulate important metabolic functions.
– Immune Function: Certain amino acids like lysine, arginine, glutamine helps support optimal immune function. Supplementing with these can help recovery from infections or injuries.
– Cell Signaling: Amino acids transport messages between cells and help maintain fluid balance in the cellular environment.
– Neurotransmitter Synthesis: Amino acids like tryptophan, tyrosine, phenylalanine are precursors for neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine, adrenaline that impact mood, sleep, appetite, etc.
– Energy Production: The Krebs cycle, the main energy producing process in mitochondria utilizes amino acids as an important energy source.
Importance of Getting Amino Acids from Diet
It is important to obtain all the essential amino acids from our daily diet to support various bodily functions. Deficiency in one or more amino acids can impair multiple metabolic pathways and increase disease risk. Some risks of amino acid inadequacy include:
– Muscle Wasting: A lack of branched-chain amino acids like leucine can cause loss of muscle mass especially in elderly or ill individuals.
– Poor Immune Function: Chronic deficiency of immune supporting amino acids negatively impacts immune cell formation and response to infections.
– Mood Disorders: Insufficient tryptophan levels have been linked to depression, anxiety and insomnia in some studies.
– Liver Damage: Deficiency of methionine can lead to fatty liver disease in malnourished individuals.
– Developmental Delays: Children deficient in lysine, tryptophan, phenylalanine exhibit growth faltering and poor cognitive development.
Therefore, it is recommended to obtain amino acids from eating a variety of high quality protein foods like meats, fish, eggs, dairy, legumes, nuts etc. in proper amounts daily as per age and calorie requirements.
Role of Supplementation
While an adequate whole food diet can meet amino acid needs, certain scenarios may benefit from supplementation:
– Elderly persons: Age related decline in appetite and digestion can limit protein intake and amino acid absorption. Supplementation along with calorie-dense foods helps prevent muscle loss and frailty.
– Athletes/Bodybuilders: Those engaged in intense training routines may have increased amino acid requirements to support heightened muscle protein demands. Supplementing helps with muscle recovery post workout.
– Pregnant/Lactating Women: The growing fetus and breastfed infant place increased demands on maternal amino acid stores. Supplementation ensures proper fetal development and milk production.
– Vegetarians: Plant based diets can be low in some essential amino acids like lysine. Proper food combining or supplementation is advisable for vegetarians.
– Medical Conditions: Those with liver or kidney diseases affecting protein metabolism, digestive disorders limiting absorption or undergoing therapies like dialysis need supplemental amino acids.
The article examined in detail the different types of amino acids present in the human body, their critical functions and importance in building proteins, enzymes, hormones, neurotransmitters, immunity and overall cellular health. It stressed on obtaining all the essential amino acids from dietary sources but also explained scenarios where amino acid supplementation is beneficial. A balanced diet/supplement approach ensures optimum amino acid nutrition for sustaining life and growth.
1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
2. We have leveraged AI tools to mine information and compile it