Amino acids are the building blocks used to make proteins and peptides. The different amino acids have interesting properties because they have a variety of structural parts which result in different polarities and solubilities.
Amino acids band together in chains to form the stuff from which your life is born. Think of amino acids as Legos for your life. It's a two-step process: Amino acids get together and form peptides or polypeptides. It is from these groupings that proteins are made. And there's not just one kind of amino acid.
A total of 20 different kinds of amino acids form proteins. The kinds of amino acids determine the shape of the proteins formed. Commonly recognized amino acids include glutamine, glycine, phenylalanine, tryptophan, and valine. Three of those: phenylalanine, tryptophan, and valine are essential amino acids for humans; the others are isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, and threonine. The essential amino acids cannot be synthesized by the body; instead, they must be ingested through food.
One of the best-known essential amino acids is tryptophan, which performs several critical functions for people. Tryptophan helps induce normal sleep; helps reduce anxiety, depression, and artery spasm risk; and helps produce a stronger immune system. Tryptophan is perhaps most well-known for its role in producing serotonin, which is what gets all the press at Thanksgiving time for putting you to sleep after the big holiday feast.
Amino acids make up 75% of the human body. They are essential to nearly every bodily function. Every chemical reaction that takes place in your body depends on amino acids and the proteins that they build. The essential amino acids must be ingested every day. Failure to get enough of even one of the 10 essential amino acids can result in protein degradation.
The human body simply does not store amino acids for later use, as it does with fats and starches. You can find amino acids many places in nature. In fact, more than 300 have been found in the natural world, from such diverse sources as microorganisms and meteorites.
Alanine - The second simplest amino acid, but used the most in proteins.
Beta-Alanine - The only naturally occurring beta amino acid.
Arginine - Amino acid often used at the active sites of enzymes.
Asparagine - Amide derivative of aspartic acid.
Aspartic Acid - Important intermediate in the citric acid cycle.
Carnitine - Unusual amino acid that carries fatty acids into mitochondria.
Citrulline - An amino acid that works to detoxify and eliminate unwanted ammonia.
Cysteine - Thiol containing amino acid involved in active sites and protein tertiary structure determination.
Cystine - Oxidation product of cysteine that holds proteins together.
Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid - Decarboxylated amino acid that helps you chill out.
Glutamic Acid - Negatively charged amino acid found on the surface of proteins.
Glutamine - The only amino acid with the ability to easily cross the barrier between blood and brain tissue.
Glutathione - Small peptide that helps dump free radicals.
Glycine - Simplest amino acid that also acts as a neurotransmitter antagonist.
Histidine - Amino acid responsible for histamine biosynthesis.
Hydroxyproline - Important amino acid used in structural proteins like collagen.
Isoleucine - Hydrophobic amino acid used almost exclusively in protein and enzyme construction.
Leucine - Another hydrophobic amino acid used almost exclusively in protein and enzyme construction.
Lysine - An essential amino acid with a positive charge on the aliphatic side chain.
Methionine - An essential amino acid that helps initiate protein synthesis.
Ornithine - Critical member of the amino acids in the urea cycle.
Phenylalanine - Most common aromatic amino acid found in proteins.
Proline - Cyclic aliphatic amino acid used in the synthesis of collagen.
Serine - Amino acid alcohol found in the active site of serine proteases.
Taurine - Mercaptan-containing amino acid that is involved in bile acid biochemistry.
Threonine - Amino acid alcohol involved in porphyrin metabolism.
Tryptophan - Aromatic amino acid used the least frequently in proteins.
Tyrosine - Hydroxyphenyl amino acid that is used to build neurotransmitters and hormones.
Valine - Hydrophobic aliphatic amino acid used to hold proteins together.
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