By Dr. Tom Fisher
Amino acids play a vital role in numerous functions of the body. They are the building blocks of the protein tissue matrix. Twenty amino acids are needed by the body to build the various proteins responsible for the repair, growth, and maintenance of body tissues. Some of the 20 amino acids can be manufactured by the body itself, and are called non-essential amino acids. However, others, known as essential amino acids, must be obtained from food in the diet.
The classification of the amino acids, whether essential or non-essential, does not reflect their relative importance. All of the twenty amino acids are vitally important for health. Rather, the classification system is simply a reflection of the body’s ability to naturally produce a particular amino acid. All of the amino acids keep us vibrant, alive, and healthy. Any deficiency in a single amino acid will cause health problems. Any deficiency should be replaced to fulfill its functions.
The nine essential amino acids which cannot be naturally produced by the body are as follows:
Lysine- This is one of the nine essential amino acids that is needed for the growth and the maintenance of nitrogen balance in the body. It is integrated into many proteins throughout the body and appears to help the body absorb and conserve calcium.
Methionine- This amino acid supplies sulphur and other compounds needed for normal metabolism and growth. This is also one of the nine essential amino acids that belongs to a group of compounds called “lipotropics” or chemicals that help the liver process fats.
Phenylalanine– This one of the nine essential amino acids that serves as a building block for a variety of proteins that are manufactured by the body. It can be converted to L-tyrosine and subsequently to L-dopa, epinephrine, and norepinephrine.
Tryptophan– This amino acid is a natural relaxant that helps ease insomnia by inducing normal sleep. It reduces anxiety and depression, helps in the cure of migraine headaches, helps reduce the risk of artery and heart spasms, and helps the immune system. It works with Lysine to reduce cholesterol levels. It also aids in the production of antibodies, and can be converted into Glycine.
Histidine– This amino acid is one of the nine essential amino acids that are found in high concentrations in hemoglobin. It is useful in treating anemia due to its relationship to hemoglobin. Histidine has been used to treat rheumatoid arthritis and has also been linked to allergic response and has been used to treat allergy. It also assists in maintaining proper blood pH.
Leucine-This essential amino acid is one of the three major Branched-Chain Amino Acids (BCAA), that are involved with muscle strength, muscle stamina, and endurance while delaying deterioration of muscle tissues.
Isoleucine– This essential amino acid is used by muscle tissue as an energy source. It is also required for the formation of hemoglobin, and is essential for proper blood-clotting and muscle repair. It is a potent stimulator of insulin and helps in bone healing. It also promotes skin healing and modulates the release of Enkephalins (natural pain-reducers).
Valine- This amino acid is one of the three major Branched-Chain Amino Acids. BCAA levels are significantly decreased by insulin. Intake of high dietary sugar or glucose causes the release of insulin which, in turn, causes a drop in BCAA levels. This amino acid competes with Tyrosine and Tryptophan in crossing the blood-brain barrier. This amino acid is also actively absorbed and used directly by the muscle as an energy source.
Threonine- As one of the nine essential amino acids, Threonine is required for the formation of collagen and helps prevent fatty deposits in the liver. It aids in the production of antibodies and can be converted to Glycine in the central nervous system. It also acts as a detoxifier and is needed by the gastrointestinal tract for normal functioning. Threonine speeds wound healing and recovery from injury by helping build strong bones.