#Amino acids

December 28, 2011 by  
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Commonly referred to as ‘the building blocks of protein’, amino acids are needed to make almost all components of the body including enzymes, blood corpuscles, hormones, antibodies, hair, skin, bone and tissues.

Amino acids are generally linked together by peptide bonds, to form peptides. When ten or more are linked, these are known as polypeptides. Very large polypeptides are known as proteins. Amino acids are often classified according to whether they are ‘essential’ or ‘non-essential’. This is a potentially misleading description since it is sometimes assumed to mean that most amino acids do not play an essential role in the body. In fact the term ‘essential’ does not refer to the role of the amino acids but to the body’s ability to synthesize them. ‘Essential’ amino acids are those which the body is incapable of synthesizing and which must, therefore, be obtained from the diet. Although equally important, amino acids such as taurine, carnitine and tyrosine can, at least in healthy individuals, be synthesized from other amino acids and are therefore described as ‘non-essential’.

Some authorities have made statements that amino acid supplementation is valueless because most people in the western world already eat too much protein. However this fails to take account of individual biochemistry and possible errors of metabolism. Some people may be less capable than others of synthesizing ‘non-essential’ amino acids and would therefore benefit from supplementation, especially if they do not regularly consume animal products in their diet.

Amino acids can be divided into a number of categories according to their structure and functions:

  • Amino acids with important metabolites: lysine, carnitine, histidine
  • Aromatic amino acids: phenylalanine, tyrosine and tryptophan
  • Branched chain amino acids: leucine, isoleucine, valine
  • Glutamate amino acids: glutamic acid, GABA, glutamine, proline, hydroxyproline, aspartic acid, asparagine
  • Sulphur amino acids: cysteine, glutathione, taurine, methionine, homocysteine
  • Threonine amino acids: threonine, glycine, serine, alanine
  • Urea cycle amino acids: arginine, citrulline, ornithine

Glucogenic amino acids are those which, after losing their amino group, give rise to metabolic intermediate substances which form glucose. These are: alanine, arginine, aspartic acid, cysteine, glutamic acid, glycine, histidine, hydroxyproline, methionine, proline, serine, threonine and valine.

Amino acids can occur in two isomer forms known as the ‘D’ and ‘L’ forms. This is why you will often see them described as L-tryptophan or L-tyrosine for instance. The ‘D’ form of amino acids is not usually found in nature and, with the exception of D-phenylalanine, is not normally utilizable by the human body.

The so-called essential amino acids

  • Histidine
  • Isoleucine
  • Leucine
  • Lysine
  • Methionine
  • Phenylalanine
  • Threonine
  • Tryptophan
  • Valine

Information compiled by Linda Lazarides
Naturopathic Nutritionist, Author, Educator

#Health Issues Index

November 10, 2011 by  
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Alzheimer’s disease
Behavioural (behavioral) problems
Bipolar disorder
Birth defects
Blood disorders
Breast cancer
Breast lumps
Carpal tunnel syndrome
Chronic fatigue syndrome
Colon cancer
Common cold
Congestive heart disease
Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease
Crohn’s disease

Diarrhoea (diarrhea)
Down’s syndrome
High cholesterol
Fluid retention
Gall stones
Gum disease
Hearing problems
Heart disease
High blood pressure
Hypoglycaemia (hypoglycemia)
Immune system
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
Kidney disease
Learning difficulties
Macular degeneration

Manic depression
Measles complications
Motor neurone disease
Multiple sclerosis
Muscular dystrophy
Parkinson’s disease
Period pains
Premenstrual syndrome (PMS)
Prostate cancer
Prostate, enlarged
Raynaud’s syndrome
Rheumatoid arthritis
Senile dementia
Spina bifida
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE)
Ulcerative colitis


November 7, 2005 by  
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Acetaldehyde is a toxic substance produced in the body from alcohol and is one of the impurities found in cheap wine and ‘moonshine’ spirits. Its effects are often felt as a ‘hangover’. Acetaldehyde is also found in cigarette smoke, and is produced by the yeast Candida albicans, which may account for much of the malaise experienced by those with a heavy overgrowth of this yeast in their intestines, since the acetaldehyde will be absorbed from their intestines into the bloodstream, to be circulated throughout the body.

Alcohols and aldehydes are formed as intermediary metabolites during the body’s normal processes of detoxification. If the liver’s detoxification pathways are impaired, aldehydes can, instead of being converted to the next intermediate product, build up to harmful levels and cause much damage since they are often more toxic than the original substances from which they are derived.

Acetaldehyde is said to destroy vitamins B1, B6 and C. Supplements of these nutrients, together with the amino acid cysteine, may help the liver to detoxify acetaldehyde.

Information compiled by Linda Lazarides
Naturopathic Nutritionist, Author, Educator

Acetyl CoA

July 30, 2005 by  
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Acetyl CoA is an intermediate product in the production of energy. It can be formed from pyruvate (which in turn is formed from glucose or glycerol), or from fats or some of the amino acids. It enters the Krebs cycle where its energy is released by oxidation.

Also see Energy production

Information compiled by Linda Lazarides
Naturopathic Nutritionist, Author, Educator


January 28, 2004 by  
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Acetylcholine is a neurotransmitter – a chemical involved in the transmission of nerve impulses. It is made from a combination of acetyl with the nutrient choline, and is required for many functions, particularly memory and intestinal peristalsis.

Acetylcholinesterase (AChE), an enzyme which breaks down acetylcholine in junctions between nerve cells, is thought to maintain levels of acetylcholine within safe bounds. Organophosphate pesticides are known to inhibit this enzyme.

In Parkinson’s disease, acetylcholine-containing nerve cells appear to be improperly controlled. Drugs which inhibit the action of acetylcholine can ease the symptoms of parkinsonism.

Neurochemical examinations of the brains of individuals dying with Alzheimer’s disease show a significant reduction in acetylcholine and the enzymes associated with both its synthesis and destruction, in the parts of the brain most severely damaged by the disease.

Information compiled by Linda Lazarides
Naturopathic Nutritionist, Author, Educator

Achlorhydria and hypochlorhydria

September 20, 2005 by  
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Also known as hypochlorhydria, this describes a reduced ability to produce hydrochloric acid in the stomach. Since hydrochloric acid is a pre-requisite for protein digestion, and is also required to stimulate the next (pancreatic) stage of digestion, achlorhydria may result in significantly impaired digestion and absorption.

Dysbiosis and bacterial overgrowth of the stomach and small intestine may occur in achlorhydric individuals since hydrochloric acid is normally responsible for destroying micro-organisms in the stomach.

Information compiled by Linda Lazarides
Naturopathic Nutritionist, Author, Educator

Acid-alkaline balance

October 19, 2005 by  
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In healthy individuals the pH of the blood is maintained betwen 7.35 and 7.45. This balance is dependent on the excretion of carbonic acid (carbon dioxide in solution) through the lungs, and the excretion of an acid or alkaline urine by the kidneys.

Diet can contribute significantly to the body’s acid-alkaline balance. Fruits and vegetables are metabolized to an alkaline ash and are known as alkaline-forming, whereas high-protein foods are metabolized to sulphuric acid and phosphoric acid and are therefore acid-forming.

Although fruits yield citric acid and malic acid, these acids are oxidized by the body as part of its energy-production process.

Alkaline-forming foods

  • All fruits, most vegetables, honey, milk, wine and most nuts.

Acid-forming foods

  • Most meats, poultry, fish and sea food, lentils, brazil nuts, peanuts, bread and cereals, chocolate, eggs and cheese.

Failure to maintain the acid-alkaline balance can result in acidosis or alkalosis. An over-acid pH in the body has in the long term been linked with the development of degenerative diseases.

Information compiled by Linda Lazarides
Naturopathic Nutritionist, Author, Educator

Adipose tissue

February 5, 2005 by  
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This is another term for body fat. The adipose tissue stores energy and provides cushioning for body organs as well as body insulation. 95 per cent of adipose tissue is white, but about five per cent is brown. Brown adipose tissue can oxidize glucose and fatty acids from food, releasing their energy as heat.

Information compiled by Linda Lazarides
Naturopathic Nutritionist, Author, Educator

Adrenal glands

August 18, 2003 by  
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The adrenal glands rest like a cap on top of the kidneys. Each is a double gland consisting of the adrenal cortex and the adrenal medulla. The adrenal cortex produces so-called corticosteroid hormones, subdivided into:

  • Mineralocorticoids (mainly aldosterone) which control sodium, potassium and water balance in the body),
  • Glucocorticoids (mainly cortisol but also cortisone and corticosterone), which, among many other actions, have important effects on glucose metabolism, reduce inflammation and help maintain normal blood pressure,
  • Small amounts of androgens (sex hormones).

The production of glucocorticoids is increased during stress.

The adrenal medulla produces adrenaline (also known as epinephrine – the ‘fight or flight’ hormone) and noradrenaline (norepinephrine), which acts as a neurotransmitter and, like adrenaline, can constrict blood vessels and raise blood pressure.

Some of the nutrients on which the adrenal glands are particularly dependent include vitamin C, pantothenic acid (vitamin B5), the amino acid methionine, and zinc.

High-dose vitamin B5 supplementation results in an increase in the urinary excretion of 17,21 dihydroxy-20 ketosteroids – an unmistakable sign of a functional activation of the adrenal gland . [Fidanza A: Therapeutic action of pantothenic acid. Int J Vit Nutr Res, Suppl 24: In Vitamins in Medicine: Recent therapeutic aspects. A Hanck [Ed], 1983].

The adrenal hormones (and other hormones) are made of cholesterol esters, hydroxyl groups and methyl groups. Methionine and choline are required in adequate amounts every day to supply methyl groups for hormone synthesis. Some nutritionists believe that methionine deficiency is relatively common. Methionine may be particularly low in vegetarian diets which rely mainly on pulses (legumes) for protein.

Information compiled by Linda Lazarides
Naturopathic Nutritionist, Author, Educator

Adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH)

November 10, 2004 by  
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A hormone produced by the anterior pituitary gland, which stimulates the secretion of cortisol by the adrenal cortex.

Information compiled by Linda Lazarides
Naturopathic Nutritionist, Author, Educator

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