Essential Amino Acids and Their Function

Amino acids play important roles in processes including the regulation of immune function. They have also shown effectiveness in muscle development. They can benefit the body especially the digestive, immune, reproductive and nervous systems.   

essential amino acids

Obtained from food, essential amino acids are organic compounds which the human body cannot produce. Top sources include poultry, eggs, meat, and other animal proteins. They play important roles in processes including the regulation of immune function. They have also shown effectiveness in muscle development. Moreover, they can benefit the body especially the digestive, immune, reproductive and nervous systems.


The 9 Essential Amino Acids

There are nine essential amino acids. Phenylalanine is involved in making other amino acids. It is a key part in maintaining the function and structure of enzymes and proteins. It is a forerunner for the neurotransmitters norepinephrine, epinephrine, dopamine, and tyrosine.

  1. Valine is involved in the production of energy. It acts as a trigger in the growth and regeneration of muscles. It is one of the few amino acids which have a molecular structure with a chain that branches off to a single side only.
  2. Threonine is a vital component of elastin, collagen, and other structural proteins. It has a vital role in immune function as well as fat metabolism.
  3. Tryptophan is essential in sustaining the body’s proper nitrogen balance. It has many functions despite being linked to drowsiness. It is related to serotonin, a neurotransmitter involved in the regulation of mood, sleep, and appetite.
  4. Methionine is involved in the body’s detoxification and metabolism. It is key in the absorption of important minerals such as selenium and zinc. It also plays an important role in the growth of tissues.
  5. Leucine is crucial for muscle repair and protein synthesis. Like valine, this branched-chain amino acid helps in creating growth hormones. It also helps in wound healing and in regulating blood sugar levels.
  6. Isoleucine is the third branched-chain amino acid. It is mostly found in the muscle tissue and is key in muscle metabolism. It is a crucial part of energy regulation, hemoglobin production, and immune function.
  7. Lysine is a multifunction essential amino acid involved in calcium absorption. Aside from protein synthesis, it is also important in the production of hormones and enzymes. It helps in the production of elastin and collagen. It also plays a key role in immune function and energy production.
  8. Histidine is known for its important role in the sleep-wake cycles, sexual function, digestion, and immune response. It plays a crucial role in sustaining the protective barrier around the nerve cells.


Advantages of Using Essential Amino Acids Supplements

Taking concentrated doses of essential amino acids can benefit your health in so many ways.

For instance, low levels of serotonin are tied to sleep disturbances and depressed mood. To solve these problems, we can use tryptophan supplements to boost serotonin production. This way, we can improve sleep quality, boost your mood and decrease depression symptoms.

Isoleucine, leucine, and valine have been effective in stimulating muscle recovery. Based on studies, they can enhance athletic performance and reduce fatigue. These branched-chain amino acids are recommended for those who want to improve their workout performance.

Based on research, branched-chain essential amino acids are also effective in promoting weight loss. Compared to sports drinks and whey protein, they significantly reduced the percentage of body fat.

Essential amino acids can benefit the health of older adults too. In times of prolonged sickness and bed rest, it is best to give them mixed essential amino acids to help sustain their lean body mass and prevent muscle breakdown.


Possible Food Sources

You can easily get your daily needs of essential amino acids from various foods. Complete proteins are what we call foods containing all the different essential amino acids. These include dairy products, eggs, poultry, seafood and meat.

As alternatives, there are plant-based foods where we can eat to get all the essential amino acids. These include buckwheat, quinoa and soy. Nuts and beans are also great sources of essential amino acids although they do not have all the nine elements.


How to Eat a Diet with Essential Amino Acids

You can add lysine into your diet by including pumpkin seeds, quinoa and black beans in your meal. It can also be found in soy, eggs and meat.

Histidine can be found in large amounts in whole grains, seeds and nuts. It is also found in poultry, fish and meat.

If you need to load up on threonine, you can always count on wheat germ and cottage cheese as dependable sources of this essential amino acid.

Methionine is found in seeds, nuts, grains and eggs. For valine, the best common sources are vegetables, whole grains, mushrooms, peanuts, cheese and soy.

Good sources of isoleucine are seeds, nuts and lentils. There are plenty of it in cheese, eggs, poultry, fish and meat.

Leucine is commonly found in legumes, beans, soy, and dairy products. Sources of phenylalanine include nuts, beans, fish, soy, poultry, meat, and dairy products.

Last but not least, tryptophan is found in high-protein goods such as turkey, chicken, cottage cheese and wheat germ.


Additional Information

Found in some sleeping pills, tryptophan supplements can keep women healthy by improving their emotional processing and mental energy. A lack of tryptophan in the body can lead to pellagra. This condition is problematic as it causes digestive issues, skin rashes, and dementia.

Phenylalanine plays a valuable role in specific brain functions. A deficiency of this essential amino acid can cause many problems including fatigue and eczema in adults. This kind of deficiency is also problematic in infants because it can affect their ability to gain weight.

Leucine is very important in bone and muscle development and repair. It is needed in creating growth hormones and is crucial in wound healing. Being deficient of this essential amino acid may lead to fatigue, hair loss, and skin rashes.

Aside from essential amino acids, we also have what we call conditional amino acids and nonessential amino acids.

Conditional amino acids are nonessential except during times of stress and sickness. These include serine, proline, ornithine, glycine, tyrosine, glutamine, cysteine and arginine.

Nonessential amino acids are not derived from the food we eat but are produced by the body. These include glutamic acid, aspartic acid, asparagine, and alanine.

essential amino acids

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