Amino acids: an acid test of good health

Amino acids, essential for health

Amino acids, essential for health

 

After water, protein makes up the greatest part of body weight. An inherent part of every living cell in the body, proteins are essential for the growth, repair and healing of bones, tissues and cells, or to maximise muscle growth in exercise. In its various forms protein participates in the vital chemical processes that sustain life and also helps provide energy.

However, the body cannot directly use proteins found in foods, rather it depends upon amino acids, the chemical units that make up protein. Dietary protein is broken down into its constituent amino acids, which become the essential nutrients. Indeed, amino acids also enable vitamins and minerals to perform their function in the body correctly.  In fact, vitamins and minerals absorbed and assimilated in the body can only become effective if necessary amino acids are present.

Good sources of essential amino acids are: meat, fish, poultry, eggs, buckwheat, quinoa, soy and dairy products.

The dangers of amino acid deficiency

A lack of protein will lead the body to drawing on its own tissue proteins, including healthy muscles, to meet its need for amino acids. This can lead to some obvious effects, including:

  • hair loss
  • reduced energy levels
  • depression
  • skin problems

Other problems can include sleeping disorders and general poor health, with sustained unbalanced eating regimes, for example diets high in empty carbohydrates that may be protein deficient upsetting the body’s fluid balance causing oedema (water retention).

More serious symptoms of amino acid deficiency are:

  • obesity
  • malnutrition
  • a build-up of wastes in the bloodstream

Clearly a balanced intake of amino acids is extremely important, while it’s also necessary to replenish essential amino acids on a daily basis, as they are not stored in the body.

Note of caution: Before debating amino acid supplementation always consult with your doctor.

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          About the author
Iris is the driving force behind No Targets and a dedicated campaigner for real foods. Having spent years reading research on food she believes what we eat is more important than the calories we consume or burn. “It's about calculating nutrition, not counting calories.”

Iris is the driving force behind No Targets and a dedicated campaigner for real foods. Having spent years reading research on food she believes what we eat is more important than the calories we consume or burn. “It’s about calculating nutrition, not counting calories.”

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