Essential Amino Acids – Why We Need Them
AMINO ACIDS are ……. “without doubt the most important of all the known substances in living matter and without it, life would be impossible on our planet”. (Genrald Johannes Mulder, Dutch Chemist). AMINO ACIDS are required for a great many important functions of the human body.
The role of AMINO ACIDS, for long neglected, is today gaining recognition as an important aid in the return and support of good health.
AMINO ACIDS are a vital part of nutrition and are associated with numerous functions in the human body. Any deficiency of AMINO ACIDS would adversely affect the smooth functioning of the human body. It is therefore important to have a clear understanding of AMINO ACIDS in order to recognize their importance as nutrients.
AMINO ACIDS are the building blocks of proteins. Every one knows that proteins are important. However, one important aspect often overlooked is that – “THE ROLE OF PROTEIN IN FOOD IS NOT TO PROVIDE BODY PROTEIN DIRECTLY, BUT TO SUPPLY THE AMINO ACIDS, FROM WHICH THE BODY CAN MAKE ITS OWN PROTEINS”.
Of the 23 AMINO ACIDS known to be important for man, 8 are termed as ESSENTIAL AMINO ACIDS. They are: – Methionine, Threonine, Isoleucine, Valine, Tryptophan, Lysine, Phenylalanine, and Leucine. These 8 AMINO ACIDS cannot be made by the body at all or fast enough to meet the body needs. It is essential that they be supplied from outside. If one of these AMINO ACIDS is supplied in an amount smaller than is needed, the total amount of body protein that can be synthesized from the others will be limited. The other 15 AMINO ACIDS, termed as non-essential, are synthesized by the body in the presence of essential AMINO ACIDS or energy nutrients and a nitrogen source.
AMINO ACIDS are absorbed from the intestine from where they enter the blood stream and circulated freely in the body. Such AMINO ACIDS circulating freely is termed as the “AMINO ACID POOL”. These AMINO ACIDS are in a state of dynamic equilibrium between the cells and extra cellular fluids. Individual cells and tissues utilize AMINO ACIDS as and when they need them. The AMINO ACIDS may be linked together in a great variety of ways to form protein inside the body.
The main elements of immuno competence of the body are Anti-bodies, Immunoglobuins & White Blood Corpuscles. Antibodies are giant protein molecules and act as a defence against viruses, bacteria and other foreign proteins. WBC’s being cells require AMINO ACIDS for their formation. Prolonged deficiency may lead to a phagocytic dysfunction.
TISSUE MAINTENANCE & REPAIR
Each cell in the body has a certain life span. E.g. the intestinal lining cells live only for one and a half day or RBCs for 120 days. This means that cells have to be constantly replaced, which requires the presence of AMINO ACIDS. In the case of trauma wherein cells are damaged, repair of the tissues would also depend on the availability of AMINO ACIDS.
ENZYMES & HORMONES
The various types of enzymes present in the body are all proteins which are made up of AMINO ACIDS. The fact that enzymes are so fundamental to all life process highlights once again the important role that AMINO ACIDS play in the body. Most hormones being pure proteins require AMINO ACIDS for their formation.
AMINO ACIDS are needed for the growth of all body tissues. As each type of tissue is made up of different proteins, the presence of all ESSENTIAL AMINO ACIDS is vital. During growth the body must synthesise more cells than that are lost (e.g. Pregnancy, Childhood). Thus AMINO ACIDS play a vital role in growth.
AMINO ACID deficiency states may be associated with:
IMPROPER DIET; FAILURE TO DIGEST OR ABSORB ADEQUATELY; STESS CONDITIONS; TRAUMA; DRUG USAGE
IMBALANCE OR DEFICIENCIES INVOLVING OTHER NUTRIENTS SUCH AS MINERALS OR VITAMINS; AGE & IT’S ASSOCIATED DYSFUNCTION, etc. Supplementation of appropriate AMINO ACIDS may result in restoration of normalcy in conditions resulting form any of these causes.
AMINO ACIDS IN STRESS
In today’s modern would where the pace of living is so rapid the onus is on performance. One has to compete fiercely and strive hard to produce results within a time frame. In such a situation more and more people experience stress which manifests as rundown conditions, weakness, inability to concentrate, etc. Patients under stress tend to eat irregularly and inadequately, thereby developing a poor nutritional status. Physical and mental stress demands an increased quantity of nutrition, especially AMINO ACIDS, so that the body can cope with the stress situation. It is reported that “STRESS CAN CREATE A SITUATION IN WHICH AMINO ACIDS CANNOT BE ADEQUATELY PRODUCED TO MEET THE BODY NEEDS”. AMINO ACIDS supplementation helps the patient to cope better with stress.
AMINO ACIDS IN CANCER
Cancer therapies with radiation or chemotherapeutic agents also tend to suppress the immune system of patients rendering them more vulnerable to infections. Infections in turn can aggravate the malnourished status of the patients. Parental and Enteral Nutrition including AMINO ACIDS, helps the patient tolerate cancer therapy better, improves immuno competence and enables the patient to withstand the stress of cancer, both physiologically and psychologically.
AMINO ACIDS IN DIABETES MELLITUS
Diabetes Mellitus is a metabolic disorder that results in an imbalance of blood glucose homeostasis. In the two major types of diabetes – Insulin Dependent Diabetes (IDDM or Type I) and Non Insulin Dependent Diabetes (NIDDM or Type II), there is an increased utilization of AMINO ACIDS and gats as energy sources, owing to the impaired glucose metabolism. This utilization of AMINO ACIDS for energy leads to a depletion of AMINO ACIDS from the Amino Acid Pool of the body.
In spite of the special diets prescribed for diabetics, they very often tend to take imbalanced and inadequate diet, which adds to the problem, causing poor nutritional status. Thus most diabetics spend their lives in a state of marginal (sub-clinical) AMINO ACIDS deficiency. There are also some reports which show that certain AMINO ACIDS tend to increase the production of insulin. The supplementation of AMINO ACIDS and other nutrients helps restore the AMINO ACID pool and improve the nutritional status of diabetic patients.
AMINO ACIDS IN PAEDIATRICS
It is reported that “CHILDREN WHO ARE MALNOURISHED HAVE A LOW I.Q., POOR SCHOOL PERFORMANCE AND BEHAVIOURAL DEFECTS”. In addition such children are more prone to infection, as their body resistance is poor. Studies have shown that deficiency of LYSINE in children results in reduced ability to concentrate. This in turn affects their school performance. Supplementation of AMINO ACIDS and other nutrients results in accelerating physical and mental alertness, faster tissue synthesis, proper growth and development.
QWELLCOR International Limited, a distributor of quality neutraceutical and pharmaceutical products, offers its branded AMINO ACIDS & VITAMINS formulations which are well suited for supplementation of all essential and non-essential AMINO ACIDS. The first two key products in the line of AMINO ACIDS formulations are Astyfer Capsules and Astymin Forte Capsules. A specialized Paediatric formulations called Astymin-C Drops combines essential AMINO ACIDS with 100 mg of Vitamin-C in a form convenient to be administered to formula fed and low birth weight infants and to picky eaters in the toddler age range.