essential amino acids

Arginine
  • Used for
    • Wound healing, detoxification reactions and immune function
    • Promoting hormone secretion (e.g. insulin, growth hormone)
    • Synthesizing creatine
  • Plays central role in formation of Nitric Oxide
  • Needed:
    • During periods of growth (eg pregancy, childhood and muscle building training) and stress
    • When protein intake in high (to break down nitrogen in amino acids)
  • Prevents hypoammonemia

Best sources – chocolate, peanuts, seeds, almonds, walnuts

Histidine
  • Used in blood cell production (ie hemoglobin) and to produce Histidine, hormone responsible for immune reaction resulting in swelling and allergic reactions
  • Needed:
    • During childhood and growth periods
    • For tissue formation and repair (eg injury)
IsoLeucine
  • Branch Chain Amino Acid (BCAA)
  • Promotes muscle recovery after exercise
  • Broken down to help regulate blood sugar
  • Stimulates protein synthesis and maintenance of muscle tissue
  • Oxidized in mitochondria for energy
  • Acts as precursors for ketone bodies and lipids in the liver
  • Supports energy related disorders, stress, muscle building
  • Reduces twitching and tremors

Best sources

  • high protein foods; red meat, dairy, fish
  • Nuts, seeds, grains, grain flour and their germs (eg wheat germ)

Function notes – in brain entry, BCAAs share transport mechanisms with tryptophan, phenylanine and tyrosine

Leucine
  • BCAA
  • Used to make sterols (e.g. cholesterol)
  • Stimulates protein synthesis and maintenance of muscle tissue (more than other BCAA)
  • Oxidized in mitochondria for energy
  • Acts as precursors for ketone bodies and lipids in the liver
  • Support energy related disorders, stress, muscle building; helps heal wounds of skin and bones

Best sources

  • High protein foods; red meat, poultry, fish, dairy
  • Oats, grains, grain flour and their germs

Function notes – in brain entry, BCAAs share transport mechanisms with tryptophan, phenylanine and tyrosine

Lysine Building muscle protein (especially useful for injury / operation recovery); concentrated in muscle tissue; production of anti-bodies, hormones and enzymes; calcium absorption from GI tract; help prevent osteoporosis; maintaining correct nitrogen balance; used for making protein Carnithine; promotes bone growth (especially in children); helps form collagen; deficiency may reduce growth, immunity, increase urinary calciumBest sources

  • Very high in fish, meats (turkey,chicken), dairy
  • Higher than other aminos in wheat germ, legumes and many fruit and vegetables
  • Not readily available in grain cereals of peanuts
  • Lysine sensitive to dry heat (such as popping, dry frying) but content of lysine enhanced by sprouting
Methionine
  • Methyl donor in methylation (with folic acid, B6, B12) as SAMe in methylation of DNA which controls DNA expression (useful in genetic disease states) and hormone production
  • Manufacture of body components, especially brain cells
  • Manufacture of sulfur containing cartilage compounds
  • Manufacture of Glutathione in liver detoxification
  • Sulfur containing
  • Intermediary in creation of phospholipids (used in each cell membrane), and other proteins: e.g. Taurine, Choline
  • Helps in treating depression, osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia, liver disorders, migraines

Best sources – meat, fish, eggs, dairy

Phenylanine Required for making tyrosine, precursor to neurotransmitters and catecholamines such as epinephrine (adrenaline), norepinephrine (noradrenalin), dopamine, tyrosineBest sources

  • High in many foods, especially meat, milk products
  • Lower levels in oats and wheat germ
Threonine
  • Supports liver function
  • Supports healthy immune system by promoting thymus response to illness
Tryptophan
  • Precursor to neurotransmitter serotonin (involved in muscle movement, alertness, mental activity, mood regulation) and melatonin (hormone for sleep regulation)
  • Regulates appetite
  • L-tryptophan and 5-HTP (5-hydroxytryptophan) useful in treating insomnia and depression

Best sources

  • Turkey, chicken, eggs, red meats, fish
  • Milk, cottage cheese, casein component of milk
  • Tofu, almonds, peanuts, dates, chocolate

Source and function notes

  • Requires Vitamins B6, C, Folic acid and Magnesium to metabolize tryptophan
  • Poor diet, lack of exercise, caffeine, alcohol, physical and emotional stress all effect serotonin and melatonin levels
  • Serotonin levels directly related to tryptophan intake and uptake
  • Tryptophan competes with other aminos for absorption especially tyrosine and phenylamine
  • Other aminos (especially BCAAs) get priority in entry to brain: they share the same carrier across Blood Brain Barrier
    • To promote tryptophan metabolism and entry to brain
      • Eat foods low in other aminos and tryptophan rich
      • Eat foods low in protein and rich in carbohydrate
Valine
  • BCAA
  • Fires up system
  • Works with IsoLeucine and Leucine to repair damage
  • Helps regulate blood sugar
  • Stimulates and regulates nervous system
  • Stimulates protein synthesis and maintenance of muscle tissue
  • Oxidized in mitochondria for energy
  • Acts as precursors for ketone bodies and lipids in the liver
  • Supports energy related disorders, stress, muscle building
  • Helps treat liver and gallbladder disease
  • Helps in treating addictions
  • Deficiency may affect myelin sheath of nerves

Best sources

  • High protein foods; red meat, dairy, fish nuts
  • Seeds, grains, grain flour and grain germ (eg wheat germ)

Function notes – in brain entry, BCAAs share transport mechanisms with tryptophan, phenylanine and tyrosine

Adapted from:

Murray, M. (2005). Encyclopedia of Healing Food. New York, N.Y.: Atria Books

Haas, E. (2006). Staying Healthy with Nutrition. Berkeley, CA: Celestial Healing Arts.

Bland, J., Costarella, L., Levin, B., Liska, D., Lukaczer, D., Schlitz, B., Schmidt, M., Lerman, R., Quinn, S., Jones, D. (2004). Clinical Nutrition: A Functional Approach, Second Edition. Gig Harbor, WA: The Institute for Functional Medicine.

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