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What Are Amino Acids?

If you are the same as me, you will have looked into the idea of improving your health through perhaps natural dietary supplements. I have read quite a bit on what constitutes a healthy diet and indeed what natural dietary supplements it would be good to take. Fairly regularly I read articles or promotional literature that tells me ‘amino acids are important’ or ‘this product contains all the amino acids you need.’ I find myself thinking ‘jolly good, but what on earth are amino acids?’

The human body is made up of protein. In fact protein is the most abundant substance in the body after water. All of the body’s organs, muscles and functions depend on protein to function. Enzymes, tissues and antibodies all rely on protein. Without the correct amount of this important substance, you will feel run down, have more illnesses and you will experience muscle atrophy. Protein is constructed from a range of amino acids, each protein using a different combination.

Many amino acids are provided by the food we eat and are absorbed through the wall of the large intestine. Once inside they form peptides or polypeptides, which are large molecules. These gradually band together to form the required proteins. Amino acids are therefore the building blocks from which protein is constructed.

There are twenty different amino acids and they are separated into essential and non-essential. These terms are misleading as all the amino acids are required to ensure full health and the two different groups simply divide those which have to be gained from outside the body (essential) and those the body can produce itself from other chemicals (non-essential). Each one has different characteristics and benefits to the human body.

Essential amino acid Histidine, for example, is very useful. It is important in the production of blood cells, lowers blood pressure, helps remove heavy metals from the body, is necessary for the growth and repair of tissues, and the protection of the outer shell of nerve cells. Histidine is used to combat anaemia, ulcers, allergies and rheumatoid arthritis and is found in large quantities in haemoglobin.

The other essential amino acids are leucine, isoleucine, lysine, methoinine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine with benefits such as the control of blood sugars, the repair of muscle and skin and bones, producing collagen, detoxifying the body and preventing certain mental problems. Leucine, isoleucine and valine are absolutely necessary as they represent one third of the skeletal muscle in the body.

Glutamine is perhaps the best known of the non-essential amino acids and the others are arginine, proline, tyrosine, serine, alanine, asparagine, aspartic acid, glycine, cysteine and glutamic acid. The benefits are many and varied including affecting our moods, helping the correct functioning of the heart, boosting the immune system, assisting in the DNA and cell formation, reducing the loss of collagen, repairing cartilage and strengthening of joints, tendons and heart tissue.

With their many uses within the human body, all amino acids are key to our health. It is very clear why so much is spoken about them and why the supply of amino acids needs to be constantly maintained through such sources as natural dietary supplements.

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