Bet You Didn't Know This About Amino Acids

Posted by Dr. Rick Cohen on Jul 25th 2019

Quiz.

What organ or part of the body requires the greatest amounts of amino acids?The answer is at the bottom.

Amino acids are the building blocks of our body. 

When protein is broken down by digestion, the result is what has been identified as 22 groups of amino acids. These 22 amino acids in various combinations produce some 50,000 proteins, and over 15,000 known enzymes. In addition to building cells and repairing tissue, they form antibodies to combat invading bacteria & viruses, are part of the enzyme and hormonal system, build nucleoproteins (RNA & DNA); carry oxygen through the body, produce cellular energy and are required for muscle activity. 

Amino acids are not just for bodybuilders.

While amino acids use, particularly only the 3 EAA called BCAA, were popularized by bodybuilders, amino acids play an even greater role in the health and wellbeing of everyone. Amino acids support mental health by normalizing moods, attention, concentration, energy and depth of sleep; they protects against the loss of muscle as we get older, the support our energy by improving the function and number of mitochondria in our cells, they promote stronger tendons, ligaments and thicker skin and hair and help recovery though helping muscles repair and supporting adrenal health. 

Eight of the 22 amino acids are most be obtained in the diet.

They are termed ESSENTIAL (EAA) as they can NOT be manufactured by the human body. The body can use these eight EAA to create the other 14 amino acids. In reality, essential is misleading as all 22 of the amino acids are essential for life, health and longevity. A better term might be dietary required.

The body needs amino acids in order to get amino acids from the food consumed. Huh?

All enzymes, including digestive enzymes, are made from amino acids. When protein is consumed, the body first breaks the protein down into individual amino acids before the cells can rebuild them as required. The catch is that the right kind of enzymes are required to breakdown protein . So the lack of any one of the essential amino acids can results in the inability to produce adequate amounts of digestive enzymes necessary to break down protein leading to further reduction of amino acids and so on. 

Fun Amino Fact: Why do mosquitoes bite us?

Actually, only the female mosquitoes bite people us to get the branched chain amino acid, isoleucine, in our blood. They require isoleucine to make proteins needed in their eggs. If they find isoleucine then they may lay as many as 100 eggs, if not, they may only lay at most ten eggs. Actually, human blood is not the best source for isoleucine. Blood from buffaloes and rats contains more isoleucine, but since people outnumber rats and buffaloes in many places the mosquitoes bite us.

Quiz Answer:

While many may have guessed our muscles use the most amino acids it is actually our pancreas. The pancreas requires a large amount of amino acids to make the large amount of digestive enzymes and hormones such as insulin and glucagon. This is critical since if you are deficient in essential amino acids you will have poor digestion and further worsen the problem.

Next week we will have a one-on-one competition between the use of dietary protein and essential amino acid to support optimal essential amino acid levels in your blood.