Amino Acid Supplements
What are Essential Amino Acids and What are the Health Benefits?
By Stan Rogers
Essential amino acids and non-essential ones are vitally important for human health. They are commonly described as ‘the building blocks of protein’ but they are more than this. Despite the classification, they are both "essential" to the human body...however, the non-essential varieties can be produced by the body itself, and do not need to be obtained from the diet or supplementation.
Amino acids function as protein builders in our bodies. Given that second to water, protein is the most common substance in the human body, this makes them extremely important to us. Protein is found in our muscles, skin, blood, bones and cartilage. This is why it is so important that we are eating a diet rich in essential amino acids.
When all of the amino acids are present in approximately equal amounts, a food source is called a "complete protein". Meat, fish, poultry along with soy and dairy products are all complete proteins. Fruit, vegetables and grains are called "incomplete proteins" because they contain some of the essential amino acids but not all of them.
The process of making new protein out of amino acids and breaking down protein into amino acids are essential aspects of human life. For example, the body breaks down the amino acids present in the complete proteins we eat so they can be used later, yet when we are working on building muscle strength through exercise, amino acids provide the new protein necessary to build the muscle cells. If our diet does not provide us with a complete range of essential amino acids these processes are compromised.
If our diet is deficient in any of the essential amino acids, an imbalance in our body will probably occur, such as obesity, depression, nausea or a range of other possiblities. Yet poor diets are not the only cause of deficiencies in amino acids. Other factors such as infections, age and stress can interfere with the amino acids’ function.
For most of us, however, eating a healthy diet of a variety of nutritional foods will give us at least most of the amino acids we need. However, since they are so very important to our good health we should ensure that our nutritional supplement includes all of them.
The following list of amino acids will tell you what to look for on the label: histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan and valine.
Although not dietary, a list of amino acids (non-essential) is also printed here for your information: alanine, arginine, aspartic acid, cystine, glutamic acid, glycine, proline, serine, and tyrosine.
Using a supplement that contains a full range of essential amino acids is the best way to ensure that you are getting enough of them. They can also be taken as "free form amino acids" which do not have to be broken down in the digestive system.
Amino acids function as builders and repairers of muscle tissues and produce chemicals that enhance brain function. Ensuring that your body has an adequate supply of essential amino acids is just good sense.
Stan Rogers is an alternative health researcher and an expert in natural healing. He is a contributor to many health sites, including the Dietary Supplements section of Nutritional Herbal Supplements Guide, a site dedicated to natural treatments for various health conditions.
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