The Amazing Amino Acids

By Dr. James A. Jackson

Proteins are necessary for life in humans and all animals. Muscles, cell membranes, and proteins are made from amino acids. Amino acids get their name from their chemical structure; that is, they contain a nitrogen (amino group) on one end and a COOH (acid group) on the opposite end. The nitrogen group in the form of ammonia is a waste product from protein metabolism that is converted in the liver to urea. Urea is then removed from the blood via the kidneys. If the kidneys are severely damaged and cannot remove the excess ammonia (nitrogen), the brain will be damaged. If severe enough, one may have to have dialysis to remove various waste products from the blood. Many of our readers have had a simple test of kidney function to measure the level of nitrogen in the blood. It is called blood urea nitrogen, or simply abbreviated as BUN. The other blood test routinely measured for kidney function is creatinine. There are 22 known amino acids. Eight amino acids (nine in children and infants) cannot be made in the human body. Amino acids of the body are alanine, arginine, asparagine, aspartic acid, cysteine, cystine, glutamic acid, glutamine, glycine, histadine (infants and children),* isoleucine,* leucine,* lysine,* methionine,* ornithine, phenylalanine,* proline, serine, threonine,* tryptophan,* tyrosine, and valine.* Any nutrients that cannot be made in the body and must be obtained in the diet (or as supplements) are called essential amino acids. The * indicates the essential amino acids. There are about 51 different nutrients that are essential for life; the eight amino acids are just one group.

Amino acids must be obtained in the proper amount and ratio. A missing or low concentration of any amino acid will proportionately reduce the effectiveness of all the others. Everyone’s protein requirement is different. As stated before, amino acids make up proteins found in every tissue of the body and play a major role in nearly every chemical process affecting physical and mental functioning. They contribute to the formation of proteins, muscles, neurotransmitters, enzymes, antibodies, and receptors. Health, age, and size determine the daily amount of protein you need. Children between the ages of 1 to 3 years need 23 grams of protein a day. Between 4 and 6 they need 30 grams, and between 7 and 10 years they need 34 grams. Adult males between 11 and 14 need 45 grams, while those between 15 and 51+ years need 56 grams. Women between the ages of 11 and 18 need 46 grams, while those between 19 and 51+ years need 44 grams. There are two important basic types of proteins. They are complete proteins that contain all the essential amino acids in the proper proportion. These are usually found in animals: meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, milk, and cheese. Egg albumin (white part of the egg) is said to contain the proper ration of amino acids. Incomplete proteins lack certain essential amino acids. These proteins are found in seeds, nuts, legumes (peas and beans), and grains. For better nutrition, mix incomplete with complete proteins. Proteins, carbohydrates, and fat are interchangeable sources of energy. Carbohydrates and proteins have the same amount of calories per gram. Each has 4.0 kilocalories/gram. Fats have 9 kilocalories/gram. Let’s look at some amino acids and see why they are important in various parts of the body. The brain contains taurine, GABA, glycine, phenylalanine, DLPD, glutamine, tyrosine, and tryptophan. The anterior pituitary contains arginine, glycine, and ornithine. These
are necessary for normal functioning of the pituitary gland and are especially important in the release of growth hormone. Arginine can be found in all protein-rich foods, chocolate, nuts, raisins, sunflower and sesame seeds, oatmeal, and whole-wheat breads. Any amino acid supplement should only be taken under the advice of a knowledgeable healthcare worker. Glycine is the simplest of the amino acids. It helps in low pituitary gland function, helps supply the body with creatine, which is essential for muscle function, and may help in hypoglycemia. Glycine helps stimulate the release of the hormone glycogen, which then breaks down glycogen to release glucose in the blood. Glycine is included in many antacid medications as a treatment for high levels of stomach acid.
Glycine is available in protein-rich foods and in supplemental form. Tryptophan is another very important essential amino acid. Serotonin, the important brain neurotransmitter, is made from tryptophan. Amino acids and most other nutrients do not act alone! Many other nutrients are necessary for the conversion of one compound into another. To convert some amino acids to neurotransmitters it may take as many as 17 different minerals, enzymes, and vitamins. Vitamin B6, niacin, and magnesium are part of the compounds necessary to convert tryptophan to serotonin. Phenylalanine is an important amino acid in the area of the brain. The heart needs carnitine, lysine, and methionine, as well as other substances such as coenzyme Q10 and magnesium, to operate correctly. Two amino acids that allow the thyroid to function are phenylalanine and tyrosine. Amino acids important to the body organs are as follows:

Muscles – Glycine, Lysine, Leucine,
Valine, Isoleucine
Liver – Alanine, Methionine, Threonine,
Tryptophan, Phenylalanine
Skin – Lysine, Proline, Cystine
Bone – Histidine, Lysine
Gallbladder – Glycine, Taurine
Stomach – Glutamine, Glycine
G.I. Tract – Histidine, Glutamine
Pancreas – Cysteine
Blood – Serine, Histidine, Cysteine, Tryptophan

Magnesium, vitamin B6, or P5’P should be added to all amino acid supplements.

There are over 34 symptoms of amino acid deficiencies. These range from behavioral disorders, anxiety, chronic allergies, hypoglycemia, mood swings, chronic fatigue, etc. Why do amino acid deficiencies occur? Some of the more common reasons are poor diet, inadequate digestion and absorption of proteins, inadequate cofactors such as B6 and magnesium, chronic stress, anxiety, illness, and rare inborn errors of metabolism. How would one overcome these deficiencies? Eat a balanced diet, add digestive enzymes to break down proteins to amino acids, add necessary cofactors, and take necessary cofactors recommended by a healthcare professional.