Importance & Functions of Amino acids

Published: 17th September 2009
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A Dutch chemist by the name of G J Mulder described a certain organic material as "unquestionably the most important of all known substances" in the organic kingdom. He made this discovery in 1838. The chief phenomena of life are produced through its means. This complex nitrogen bearing substance was called protein. Protein is now a group name signifying the principal nitrogenous constituents of the protoplasm of all plant and animal tissues.
There are several varieties of proteins. Each type contains a specific number of "building blocks" known as amino acids. Before their absorption by the body, all proteins must first be broken down into amino-acids. When we eat food all the essential nutrients and amino-acids do not immediately diffuse into all the different tissues. A series of biochemical reaction takes place in the digestive tract which collects these proteins, breaks them down, and utilizes them as and when needed. If the normal digestive process is disturbed it causes incomplete protein digestion resulting in gas, bloating etc.

For the normal functioning of the body about 22 amino-acids are needed. If the body has enough nitrogen source it can produce many amino-acids but it cannot produce certain other in sufficient amount to meet its needs. The amino-acids that the body is not able to synthesis in adequate amounts are called essential because they must be supplied by diet in proper proportions and amounts to meet the requirements for the growth and maintenance of tissues. Non-essential amino-acids are those that the body can synthesis in adequate amounts to meet its need in the total amount of nitrogen supplied by protein is adequate.

Histidine, Isoleucine, Leucine, Lysine, Methionine, Phenylalanine, Threonine, Tryptophan, and Valine are the 9 essential amino acids.

Alanine, Argenine, Asparagine, Aspartic acid, Cysteine, Cystine, Glutamic acid, Glutamine, Glycine, Hydroxyproline, Proline, Serine and Tyrosine are the non-essential or dispensible amino acids.

The requirement for the daily need of amino acids depends upon age, sex, and physiological conditions of an individual.

Amino-acids have gone through a variety of research in the recent times and this has created new opportunities for dramatic treatments and cure of different problems by their judicious use. Various essential amino-acids are discussed below:

Histidine: This amino-acid helps the growth and repair of tissues. It produces normal supply of blood and glycogen in the liver. The main sources of histidine are all root and green leafy vegetables.

Isoleucine: This amino-acid is essential for maintaining the balance of nitrogen which is vital for the body functioning. Its main sources are sunflower seeds, all nuts, except cashew nuts, avacodas and olives.

Leucine: The functions and sources of leucine are similar to isoleucine as it is a component of isoleucine with similar chemical composition but with a different arrangement.

Lysine: This amino-acid along with Vitamin C, Zinc and Vitamin A helps in eliminating virus infections. The female reproductive cycle is also influenced by lysine. A person may suffer from headache, dizziness, anemia due to inadequate lysine in the diet. Its main sources are all kinds of nuts, seeds, vegetables and sub-acid fruits.

Methionine: This is a vital compound which assimilates fats and dissolves cholesterol. Normal weight and proper nitrogen balance of the body can be maintained by this amino-acid. Rich sources of methionine are hazel-nut, brazil-nut and other nuts, cauliflower, cabbage, pineapples and apples.

Phenylalanine: This is necessary to the production of hormone adrenaline, to the production of thyroid secretion, and the skin and hair pigment melanin. It is also useful in weight control. Its main sources are carrots, seeds, nuts, tomatoes and parsley.

Threonine: Cows milk is the major source of this amino acid. It is necessary for the basic development of the child and proper functioning of the brain. Its main sources are green vegetables, nuts, seeds and carrots.

Tryptophan: This amino acid is necessary for digestive juices, optic system and blood clothing. It quitens the nervous system and induces sleep. Major sources of this amino acid are vegetables, nuts and seeds.

Valine: This is an essential body growth factor particularly the ovaries and mammary glands. Valine prevents the disorders of the digestive and nervous system. Its major sources are vegetables, apples and almonds.

Thus we can say that amino acids are the major components of diet, and are vital and essential for the growth, development and regulation of various body processes

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