A Personal Study of Amino Acids

I really love to study the human body, particularly how it works with the food you eat. Recently I started a study of amino acids, and used an old standby book for my reading: Prescription for Nutritional Healing: The A-to-Z Guide to Supplements, 2nd ed. by Phyllis A. Balch, CNC (certified nutritional consultant). Her science and research seems quite credible. Anyway. Here are my notes from my studying – all credit goes to Ms. Balch.

*These are my personal notes and should not be used in place of a medical professional.

Alanine: plays a major role in the transfer of nitrogen from peripheral tissue to the liver; aids in metabolism of glucose; guards against the buildup of toxic substances; useful for treatment with insulin-dependent diabetes; too much alanine and low levels of tyrosine and phenylalanine is associated with Epstein-Barr and chronic fatigue.

Arginine: boosts immune system, liver function, muscle metabolism, lymphatic tissue, weight loss; involved in enzymes and hormones; good for arthritis and connective tissue disorders. Essential to newborns but they can’t produce it fast enough, need from mother’s milk. Citruline, proline, and glutamic acid are created from Ornithine;  Ornithine is created from Arginine. Carob, chocolate, coconut, dairy products, gelatin, meat, oats, peanuts, soybeans, walnuts, wheat, and wheat germ are all high in Arginine. People with herpes should be careful of getting too much Arginine because it can promote the growth of certain viruses; should boost lysine intake.

Asparagine: created from aspartic acid; balances central nervous system.

Aspartic Acid: needed for production of asparagines; increases stamina; aids liver function; removes toxins; moves minerals into blood and cells; aids cell function, function of RNA and DNA; boosts immune system. Found in sprouting seeds and plant proteins.

Carnitine: not technically an amino acid; energy production, burns fat and prevents fatty buildup; enhances effectiveness of vitamins E and C; slows aging. Can be made if B1, B6, lysine and methionine are sufficiently available. Vitamin C is needed for synthesis of carnitine. Found in primarily meat and other foods of animal origin.

Citrulline: created from Ornithine; promotes energy, immune system function; forms L-arginine; detoxifies ammonia, found in the liver.

Cysteine and Cystine: always together; needed for formation of skin, detoxification; found in finger/toenails, skin, hair, digestive enzyme, collagen; protects from radiation damage; best free radical destroyers, works best when taken with selenium and vitamin E; cysteine is precursor to glutathione, a liver detoxifier; Vitamin B6, B12, and folate are necessary cysteine synthesis; people with chronic illness need more than normal amounts of cysteine; it chelates heavy metals, aids in iron absorption; promotes burning of fat and building of muscle; useful in treatment of bronchitis, emphysema, and tuberculosis because it breaks down mucus in the respiratory tract; needed for production of glutathione.

Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid (GABA): neurotransmitter in the central nervous system; essential for brain metabolism; formed from glutamic acid; decreases neuron activity and inhibit nerve cells from overfiring; working with niacinamide and inositol it prevents anxiety and stress-related messages from reaching the motor centers of the brain by occupying their receptor sites; plays a role in regulating the release of sex hormones; increased by glutamine.

Glutamic Acid: needed for production of GABA, is converted into either glutamine or GABA; excitatory neaurtransmitter that increases the firing of neurons in the central nervous system; important in metabolism of sugars and fats, aids in transportation of potassium into spinal fluid and across the blood-brain barrier; used as brain fuel; detoxifies ammonia, particularly in the brain; is a component of folate.

Glutamine: created from glutamic acid; readily passes the blood-brain barrier; brain fuel; increases amount of GABA; assists in maintaining the proper acid/alkaline balance in the body; basis of the building blocks for the synthesis of RNA and DNA; promotes mental ability and maintenance of a healthy digestive tract; helps build and maintain muscle. Found in raw spinach and parsley, easily destroyed by cooking.

Glutathione: not technically an amino acid; produced from cysteine, glutamic acid, and glycine; powerful antioxidant produced in teh liver; helps maintain integrity of red blood cells and protect white blood cells; needed for carbohydrate metabolism.

Glycine: needed for production of glutathione; supplies creatine to muscle; essential for synthesis of nucleic acids, bile acids, and other nonessential amino acids; repairs skin damage, promotes healing; necessary for central nervous system function and healthy prostate; can be converted into serine.

Histidine: important in growth and repair of tissue, myelin sheaths, productions of both red and white blood cells; protects from radiation damage, lowers blood pressure; aids in chelation; histamine is derived from histidine, and is important for sexual arousal and the secretion of gastric juices (aids indigestion).

Homocysteine: too much leads to heart disease; need sufficient amounts of B6 and B12 and folate to ensure it is broken down properly.

Isoleucine: works with leucine and valine to protect muscle and act as fuel; needed for hemoglobin formation; stabilizes and regulates blood sugar and energy levels; it’s metabolized into muscle tissue. Found in almonds, cashews, chicken, chickpeas, eggs, fish, lentils, liver, meat, rye, and most seeds.

Leucine: works with isoluecine and valine to protect muscle and act as fuel; lowers blood sugar levels and aids in increasing growth hormone production. Found in brown rice, beans, meat, nuts, soy flour, and whole wheat.

Lysine: necessary building block for all protein; needed for proper growth and bone development in children; helps calcium absorption, maintains a proper nitrogen balance in adults; aids in production of antibodies, hormones, enzymes, collagen formation, and tissue repair; useful for fighting cold sores and herpes viruses. Found in cheese, eggs, fish, lima beans, milk, potatoes, red meat, soy products, and yeast.

Methionine: assists in the breakdown of fats; synthesis of cysteine and taurine; helps the digestive system; chelates lead and other heavy metals; helps diminish muscle weakness, prevent brittle hair, and protect against radiation; beneficial for people with osteoporosis or chemical allergies, and in the treatment of rheumatic fever and toxemia of pregnancy; is a powerful antioxidant; good source of sulfur which inactivates free radicals and helps prevent skin and nail problems; is required for synthesis of nucleic acids, collagen, and proteins found in every cell of the body; beneficial for women taking oral contraceptives because it promotes the excretion of estrogen; reduces levels of histamine in the body; need for methionine increases as the levels of toxins increase; can be converted into cysteine, a precursor of glutathione, prevents glutathione depletion if body is overwhelmed by toxins, thus protects the liver from damage; used to create the brain food choline, risks depletion. Found in beans, eggs, fish, garlic, lentils, meat, onions, soybeans, seeds, and yogurt.

Ornithine: prompts release of growth hormone, which promotes metabolism of excess body fat, best results when combined with arginine and carnitine; necessary for proper immune-system and liver function; detoxifies ammonia and aids in liver regeneration; synthesized from arginine, then serves as the precursor of citrulline, proline, and glutamic acid.

Phenylalanine: can cross the blood-brain barrier, directly effects brain chemistry; can be converted into tyrosine, which is used to synthesize dopamine and norepinephrine; can elevate mood, decrease pain, aid in memory and learning, and suppress appetite; used to treat arthritis, depression, menstrual cramps, migraines, obesity, Parkinson’s, and schizophrenia. Available in three forms: L, D, DL.

Proline: improves skin texture by aiding production of collagen and reducing the loss of collagen through the aging process; heals cartilage and strengthens joints, tendons and heart muscles; works with vitamin C to promote healthy connective tissue. Found in meat, dairy, and eggs.

Serine: needed for the proper metabolism of fats and fatty acids, growth of muscle, and maintenance of a healthy immune system; a component of brain proteins and myelin sheaths; important in RNA and DNA function, cell member formation, and creatine synthesis; aids in production of immunoglobulins and antibodies; too high serine levels may have adverse effects on immune system; can be made from glycine in the body, but requires presence of sufficient amounts of B3 B6 and folic acid. Found in meat, dairy, wheat gluten, peanuts, and soy. Moisturizing agent in many cosmetics and skin care preparations

Taurine: building block of all other amino acids as well as a key component of bile, needed for digestion of fats, absorption of fat-soluble vitamins, and control of serum cholesterol levels; useful for people with atherosclerosis, edema, heart disorders, hypertension, or hypoglycemia; vital for proper utilization of sodium, potassium, calcium, and magnesium, and spares loss of potassium from heart muscle which prevents development of cardiac arrhythmias; protects the brain, particularly from dehydration; is associated with zinc in maintaining eye function. Found in eggs, fish, meat and milk but not vegetable proteins. Can be synthesized from cysteine and methionine if sufficient quantities of B6 are present.

Threonine: helps maintain proper protein balance; important for formation of collagen, elastin, and tooth enamel; aids liver and lipotropic function when combined with aspartic acid and methionine; a precursor to glycine and serine; helps prevent fatty buildup in the liver; enhances immune system by aiding in the production of antibodies. Found in cottage cheese, fish, lentils, meat, poultry, and sesame seeds.

Tryptophan: necessary for production of vitamin B3; used by the brain to produce serotonin; helps combat depression, insomnia, and stabilizes mood; helps control hyperactivity in children, alleviates stress, is good for the heart, aids in weight control by reducing appetite, and enhances the release of growth hormone; good for migraine headaches; sufficient amounts of vitamins B6 and C, folate, and magnesium are necessary for the formation of tryptophan, which is required for formation of serotonin. Found in brown rice, cottage cheese, meat, peanuts, and soy protein.

Tyrosine: important to overall metabolism; precursor of adrenaline and norepinephrine and dopamine; acts as a mild antioxidant, suppresses the appetite, helps reduce body fat; aids in production of melatonin and in functions of adrenal, thyroid, and pituitary glands; involved in metabolism of phenylalanine; used to treat stress, chronic fatigue, narcolepsy, anxiety, depression, low sex drive, allergies, and headaches; can be produced from phenylalanine. Found in almonds, avocados, bananas, dairy products, lima beans, pumpkin seeds, and sesame seeds.

Valine: has a stimulant effect; needed for muscle metabolism, tissue repair, and maintenance of proper nitrogen balance; an energy source for muscle tissue; may be helpful in treating liver and gallbladder disease, good for correcting sever amino acid deficiencies caused by drug addiction. Found in dairy, grains, meat, mushrooms, peanuts, and soy protein.

Foods to focus on: meat (12), soy (7), fish (5), dairy (5), eggs (5), peanuts (4), wheat (4), lentils (3), cottage cheese (2), beans (2), lima beans (2), grains (2), almonds (2), brown rice (2), seeds (2), sprouting seeds (2), mushrooms, pumpkin seeds, poultry, garlic, onion, yogurt, sesame seeds, potatoes, yeast, red meat, liver, raw spinach, raw parsley, avocados, bananas, carob, chocolate, coconut, gelatin, oats, walnuts, animal products.

*note: Ms. Balch lists soy products as sources for several amino acids. The benefits/drawbacks of soy are a bit controversial, and, apart from consuming it in fermented form, I personally don’t believe consuming soy is a wise choice.

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