Health and nutrition: benefits and sources of amino acids
A brief article about the eight essential amino acids and mentions of the other fourteen non-essential amino acids.

Amino acids are critical to having a healthy body. The stomach will take a piece of protein and break it down into around 22 amino acids. Eight of the amino acids are called essential because the body cannot make them for itself. The other twenty-two are non-essential since with proper eating, the body can make them. They are also found in a healthy diet. Amino acids builds and repairs cells and tissue, carry oxygen and are part of the enzyme system. There are also many other body functions they perform, including regulating every biochemical reaction.

Most of the amino acids in body proteins are branched-chained. They play a critical role in building organs and repairing wounds. Valine works to detoxify ammonia and prevent muscle wasting. Leucine helps the body use insulin. It may also prevent protein wasting in injury and stress situations. The other branch-chained acid is isoleucine. Along with leucine, it provides the ingredients for making other essential biochemical parts used for energy.

Methionine is necessary for the body to produce taurine. Taurine is a non-essential acid that is important for heart function and nerve transmissions. Methionine, along with cysteine and cystine, are amino acids containing sulphur. It breaks down fats and is an antioxidant. Methionine also works to prevent problems with the hair, skin and nails.

Free form essential amino acids are tryptophan, lysine, phenylalanine and threonine. Tryptophan is a natural relaxant. Turkey is a source high in tryptophans, giving a scientific reason for napping after Thanksgiving dinner. It is used in the process of making serotonin. Lysine is used by the body to make another non-essential acid called carnitine. It is used to help metabolize fats. Lysine is needed to create collagen and elastin. It also helps the body to absorb calcium. Phenylaline is part of what makes adrenalin and noradrenalin, which are neurotransmitters. It helps to regulate blood pressure and along with tyrosine, a non-essential acid, works to help depression. Threonine is an essential amino acid that is converted into glucose by the liver. This acid is important when recovering from an injury or high stress.

The other non-essential amino acids are made in the adult body from the essential eight as well as other nutrients. One non-essential amino acid is histidine and essentially only for children. A deficiency in babies and young children can cause eczema and other problems. A well-rounded diet, rich in legumes, seeds, vegetables, fruits and grains will supply all necessary eight amino acids. While animal protein is considered a complete protein, there are differences in the amounts of amino acids. Usable protein can range from as low as 60 % to as high as 85%.

The non-essential amino acid glutamic acid or glutamate helps to improve mental capabilities. Arginine aids in improving the immune response to viruses and harmful bacteria. Serine provides storage for glucose in the muscles and liver. Care should be taken with this acid as it is found in many foods that cause allergies such as peanuts and soy products. Proline works in the proper functioning of joints and tendons, as well as maintaining the heart muscle.