Free-Form Amino Acids
Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. They play wide-ranging roles and are crucial if the body is to function at an optimal level. First and foremost, their job is the synthesis of proteins. There are 20 “standard” amino acids used by cells in protein biosynthesis. Nine are “essential” and must be obtained via diet since the body cannot produce them. “Nonessential” amino acids, on the other hand, are produced in the body from other amino acids when given adequate supplies of nitrogen, carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. Yet, even some of these nonessential amino acids are necessary at certain life stages or situations, which is why some are considered “conditionally essential” (see Table 1).
Table 1: AMINO ACIDS A TO Z
|Essential Amino Acids||Conditionally Essential Amino Acids||Nonessential Amino Acids|
|Isoleucine||Cysteine or N-acetyl-cysteine (NAC)||Asparagine (Aspartic Acid)|
|Leucine||Glutamine (Glutamic Acid)||Ornithine|
While protein synthesis is their primary function, amino acids also serve as intermediates in metabolism and support the repair and maintenance of muscles, organs, nails, hair, skin, ligaments, connective tissues, glands, etc. A deficiency in even one can have detrimental effects on health and well-being. However, unlike fat and carbohydrates, the human body does not store excess amino acids for later use. They must be obtained either from the diet or via supplementation on a daily basis to meet the body’s needs.