Amino acids are the basic building blocks of the body. They are also sources of energy, like fats and carbohydrates. However, amino acids are structurally characterised by the fact that they contain nitrogen (N), whereas fats and carbohydrates do not.
Therefore, only amino acids are capable of forming tissues, organs, muscles, skin and hair.
The importance of amino acids as the precursors of enzymes and neurotransmitters is often underestimated. As such, amino acids regulate almost all of the metabolic processes in the human body, and they are essential for a healthy body.
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Amino acids are extremely versatile: most hormones consist of amino acids, and they transport nutrients and oxygen through the body. Antibodies also consist mostly of amino acids, therefore a lack of amino acids can quickly reveal itself in a poorly functioning immune system.
One fifth of our body consists of proteins and their building blocks amino acids. Muscles, bones and skin in particular include large amounts of protein. Amino acids are therefore essential for growth and the constant repair of these tissues. Typical symptoms of undersupply are therefore poor growth of finger and toenails, skin, hair as well as poor healing of cuts and tears.
Although more than 200 different amino acids exist, the most well known are the so-called 22 proteinogenic amino acids. They are the building blocks of complex proteins and therefore crucial for the growth and maintenance of key tissue such as muscle, skin and hair. This website is about those 22 amino acids we will show you the most important applications in the fields of medicine and sports explaining clearly how you can use them to balance your general health and well-being.
Foods high in amino acids
Amino acids occur in very different concentrations within different foods. Generally meat, dairy products and seafood offer the best sources of amino acids because they are protein rich. However, plant derived food can also provide good a source of protein and amino acids.
An increasing number of people choose to eat plant-based proteins over animal proteins for ethical and health reasons. Many of the plants and seeds are cheap to source and several (like Quinoa and Amaranth) boast a complete amino acid profile.
The term “complete” refers to foods that have all nine essential amino acids present in the correct proportion for our bodies to build protein with.
Here is our list of top protein-rich plants (per 100g)
|Soybeans (dry)||33.0 g|
|Wheat germ||26.6 g|
|Lentils (dry)||23.5 g|
|Wholemeal spelled flour||13.3 g|
|Wheat flour||10 g|
|Lentils (cooked)||7.4 g|
|White bread||7.3 g|
|Whole wheat bread||7.0 g|
|Bean sprouts||5.3 g|
|Pasta (cooked, drained)||4.0 g|
Examples of Health Benefits
Today, amino acids are central to the field of orthomolecular medicine. This field describes the practice of optimising bodily functions, preventing and treating disease by providing the body with optimal amounts of nutrients such as vitamins, dietary minerals, proteins, antioxidants, amino acids and fatty acids. Crucially, these nutrients are all natural to the human body.
The benefits of supplementing optimal amounts of such nutrients for improved health and protein synthesis have been empirically proven and published in research papers and scientific journals. Among many other key functions, benefits include reduction of hair loss, better circulation, immunity and fertility.
Importantly, the field of orthomolecular medicine is not meant to substitute, but rather complement classical medicine. The supplementation of important nutrients in large doses is often complimentary to classical medical therapy and can reduce side effects, increase primary effects of medication or simply help to reduce risks associated with treatments.
Here are a few research-based examples of how amino acids can improve your health:
SIX amino acids reduce and prevent hair loss
Arginine helps to produce keratin and helps to minimize disease-related hair loss by enhancing immune function.
It also protects the hair from the damaging effects of hair colouring and bleaching.1
Approximately 25% of keratin is made from Cysteine. Several studies have confirmed that cysteine supplementation can reduce the symptoms of androgenic alopecia2 Cysteine also indirectly assists with the protection of hair follicles from oxidative stress.
The second major component of keratin is L-methionine. This amino acid is vital for the synthesis of the precursor to collagen called procollagen.The antioxidant methionine also helps to protect the hair follicles from oxidative stress. Research has shown that low concentrations of methionine cause a decline in hair health and growth diminishes3. Another study suggests that methionine could also have an important role in slowing the greying of hair and hair thinning4.
The essential amino L-Lysine helps to stimulate collagen and is thusimportant for repairing damaged hair. Hair follicles also require lysine to properly function. Research has conclusively shown that hair loss can be reduced with lysine supplementation5
Proline is a non-essential amino acid helps to produce collagen and cartilage, as well as maintaining muscle tissues.
Click on the boxes to read examples of additional amino acid health benefits
Arginine and Methionine help cure Arthritis by reducing inflammation and repairing the joints
Cartilage, which is a critical component of joints consists of a large proportion of sulphur. Methionine is a sulphur containing amino acid, which critically promotes the development of cartilage tissue. It is therefore one of the most important and effective in the diet therapy of arthritis6.
Research has demonstrated that methionine supplementation shows effects comparable to those of conventional anti-inflammatory drugs after four weeks7. The supplementation of methionine has no negative side effects.To optimise the metabolism of methionine it should be taken with vitamin B12 and folic acid.
Arginine supports the immune system and can promote the healing of inflammatory processes. In addition, arginine improves circulation and therefore helps the transfer of micronutrients throughout the body and to the joints.
Erectile Dysfunction and Muscle Growth: L-arginine Improves Blood Circulation
The amino acid L-arginine isconsidered the most precious of them all.
L-arginine is the key building block in the Nitrogen-Monoxide (NO) molecule, which helps to control relaxation of arteries and therefore the rate of blood flow throughout the body.
The 1998 Nobel Prize in Medicine was awarded to a team of scientists led by Dr. Louis J. Ignarro, who’s research demonstrated the importance of NO and the vast amount of health benefits to the human body caused by improved circulation. Dr Ignarro published his findings in the best-selling book “NO More Heart Disease”.
The vast health benefits caused by improved circulation are in summary:
- More blood flow means better supply of nutrients and disposal of metabolic waste throughout the system. This enhances virtually all systems in the body including immunity, energy, reproduction, digestion and so forth
- L-arginine can significantly improve male potency due to its central role in the regulation of blood flow. This requires 3,000 – 5,000mg per day of pharmaceutical grade L-arginine according to several studies. Research has now found that pine bark extract enhances this effect further 8 by catalysing the rate of NO production, reducing inflammation and promoting arterial blood wall health and elasticity.
Enseleit, F., et al. “Effects of Pycnogenol on endothelial function in patients with stable coronary artery disease: a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled, cross-over study,” European Heart Journal, published Epub ahead of print – See more at: http://aminoacidstudies.org/new-research-confirms-pine-bark-extract-protects-blood-vessels/#sthash.xYw1pz45.dpuf”]
- Arginine systemic health benefits support the production of human growth hormone (HGH), which is known as the anti-ageing hormone9
Arginine protects the hair from the damaging effects of hair colouring and bleaching 10and stimulates the growth of hair by increasing blood flow in the scalp ensuring a constant supply of valuable nutrients.
- Improved energy and nutrient supply increase performance during and faster recovery after exercise. The long term effect is a change in “body composition” as muscle tissue increases fat tissue decreases. The result is a large number of health benefits such as better confidence caused by an overall favourable and attractive body shape, better joint support, more elastic arteries and so on.
- Reduced risk of Coronary Heart Disease (CHD) and heart attack. CHD is normally caused by narrowing or complete blockage of the coronary arteries called atherosclerosis. Increased NO levels significantly reduce the risk of atherosclerosis.
- Improved circulation is beneficial in the treatment of Tinnitus. Treatments have been released, which aid the natural healing following a sudden loss of hearing. Suitable products can mostly be found in online pharmacies.
- Osteoarthritis: L-arginine can also be used for a general, supportive treatment of weak blood vessels and atherosclerosis.
All seven applications of L-arginine have in common that there are no known side-effects provided the supplement is produced to pharmaceutical grade.
Anti-Ageing and Virility: The Super-Antioxidant L-Glutathione
L-glutathione (GSH) is a linear tripeptide. This means it is built out of the three amino acids L-glutamic acid, L-cysteine and L-glycine. It is a particularly strong antioxidant and protects cells from damage caused by free radicals.
L-glutathione is critical for the organism and plays a central role in many metabolic processes.
Glutathione is able to prevent oxidation of lipids (important fats such as Omega-3 fatty acids), proteins and most importantly nucleid acids, which are central to the process of cell division and therefore growth.
Glutathione is therefore central to the human body’s ability to grow and maintain healthy tissue, in other words, its ability to stay young.
Due to its strong antioxidant properties L-glutathione supports the quality of sperm and hence male virility.
A large number of research studies investigating the importance of Glutathione for the immune system and for cancer patients have been conducted with promising results.
- “http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15645092” ↩
- “http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1610-0379.2011.07802.x/full” ↩
- “http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18498491” ↩
- “http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20823774” ↩
- “http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18498491” ↩
- “http://arthritis-research.com/content/9/6/R127” ↩
- “http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3318443” ↩
- “Enseleit, F., et al. “Effects of Pycnogenol on endothelial function in patients with stable coronary artery disease: a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled, cross-over study,” European Heart Journal, published Epub ahead of print” ↩
- “http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18090659” ↩
- “http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15645092” ↩