Category Archives: Other Health Issues

How Does Methionine Affect Bone Fractures?

According to previous studies, an elevated level of the protein amino acid homocysteine (in a condition called hyperhomocysteinemia) can hinder fracture healing. Because the essential amino acid methionine is a precursor of homocysteine and an important component in the biosynthesis of cysteine, researchers at the University of Saarland in Germany investigated if excess levels of methionine would also affect rate of bone repair.

Methionine also plays a key part in the biosynthesis of carnitine, taurine, lecithin, phosphatidylcholine and other phospholipids. An error in the conversion of methionine can lead to atherosclerosis, when fatty materials accumulate on artery walls and can cause inflammation.

For the experiment, researchers Joerg Holstein et al. divided 25 mice into two groups. One group received a diet high in methionine while the other group received a control diet that was equivalent in calories. Three weeks after methionine supplementation, the researchers anesthetized the mice using ketamine and xylazine.

They then fractured the right femur of each mouse. Four weeks after fracture, the researchers analyzed the healing process using histomorphometry and biomechanical testing. Blood samples were also taken to determine level of serum homocysteine.

The effect of amino acid methionine on bone healing

At the end of the study, Holstein, et al., found an increased level of homocysteine in the methionine group when compared to the control. Results from biomechanical testing showed no significant difference between the groups in bending stiffness of the healed bones. Results from histomorphometry analyses also did not show any significant difference between the two groups in size or tissue composition of the callus.

Based on these findings, the researchers conclude that excess methionine intake does not have a significant effect on bone repair in mice.

They further suggest that hyperhomocysteinemia does not pose a risk for inhibited fracture healing and that dietary methionine may even help regulate osteoblasts, cells that are responsible for bone formation.

They believe that additional testing will reveal the role methionine plays in bone healing.

Source:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23197225

Phenylalanine for Pain Relief and Other Health Benefits

Phenylalanine is an essential amino acid, in which “essential” means you must get it through your diet or supplementation since your body cannot produce it on its own. Phenylalanine also is known as nature’s pain reliever. 

Interestingly, Phenylalanine is used in psychotropic drugs such as morphine, codeine, papaverine, and even mescaline because it is such an effective pain reliever.

Phenylalanine: How is it used in the body as a pain reliever?

Phenylalanine is one of the three aromatic amino acids, which include the other two, Tyrosine and Tryptophan. Phenylalanine is also the precursor for Tyrosine, and like Tyrosine, Phenylalanine is the precursor in the human body of catecholamines, which include dopamine, epinephrine, norepinephrine, and tryamine.

Dr. Winston Greene at DC Nutrition explains what catecholamines are and why we need phenylalanine, and how much: “Phenylalanine is a precursor of the neurotransmitters called catecholamines, which are adrenalin-like substances. … is highly concentrated in the human brain and plasma. … and requires biopterin, iron, niacin, vitamin B6, copper and vitamin C. An average adult ingests 5 g of phenylalanine per day and may optimally need up to 8 g daily.”

Phenylalanine essential amino acid comes from food and levels affect pain relief

You can get Phenylalanine from protein foods such as beef, chicken, fish, eggs, dairy products, and wheat germ. Dr. Greene shows that not only is this amino acid good as a pain reliever, but also that it is low in people who ingest caffeine. Interestingly, depressed people often seek out stimulants like caffeine drinks as a “pick me up” but may be doing themselves further harm since Dr. Greene says they’d found that “about 10 percent of depressed patients have low plasma Phenylalanine, and phenylalanine is an effective treatment in these cases.”

When someone gets an infection, however, Phenylalanine levels increase in the body to help aid any pain that might be associated with it, again acting as nature’s pain reliever. This amino is used in “premenstrual syndrome and Parkinson’s may enhance the effects of acupuncture and electric transcutaneous nerve stimulation (TENS). Phenylalanine and tyrosine, like L-dopa, produce a catecholamine effect. Phenylalanine is better absorbed than tyrosine and may cause fewer headaches.”

The bottom line is that Phenylalanine can be a great natural source for pain relief for numerous problems from infection to PMS to diseases such as Parkinsons. The health benefits are numerous, but always be sure to check with your doctor prior to any supplementation or changes to your diet when working to include this amazing amino acid for pain relief.

Reference:

http://www.biology.arizona.edu/biochemistry/problem_sets/aa/aromatic.html

http://www.dcnutrition.com/AminoAcids/Detail.CFM?

Acetyl-L-Carnitine: Grade-A Energy Producer

Acetyl-L-Carnitine (also called N-Acetyl-L-Carnitine) is one of the body’s basic building blocks, an amino acid that is involved in the production of energy, good heart and brain function, muscle movement, the metabolism of cells and many other bodily processes.

The body is capable of converting Acetyl-L-Carnitine into the closely related L-Carnitine, a substance that turns body fat into energy. It is also able to convert in the other direction. Your body makes both of these substances in the liver and kidneys, and they are packed away for future use at various sites around the body: in skeletal muscles, brain, heart and sperm, for instance. L-Carnitine, which sometimes is less available as a nutrient than Acetyl-L-Carnitine, is very important in the body, and having a more accessible version around helps with basic bodily function.

As a supplement, this amino acid reacts on the mitochondria in the cells of the human body. Because they are so vitally involved in the production of energy, boosting their production may lend an overall increase to physical and mental health.

Acetyl-L-Carnitine also has great potential as a treatment of many forms of disease. When taken in greater amounts than normally produced in the body, according to the Internet Drug Index, it has shown itself possibly effective against a wide variety of symptoms. It might be beneficial in loss of cognitive function and loss of memory in the elderly (such as those resulting from Alzheimer’s Disease or dimentia), for instance, as well as helping to rehabilitate stroke victims. It may also help with diabetes-induced nerve pain, male infertility and age-related testosterone issues.

Overall, this vital amino acid is very important to the body’s proper function, and when used in larger doses, may even provide a preventative against many symptoms of age and poor health. To read more about Acetyl-L-Carnitine, head to Dr. Weil’s Vitamin Library.

Can Lowering Homocysteine via Vitamin B Improve Cognitive Impairment?

As we age it’s common for cognitive functions to decline due to the increased rate of brain atrophy. According to previous studies, the amino acid homocysteine increases with age and is a marker for cognitive impairment, brain atrophy and dementia. High levels of homocysteine has also been associated with cardiovascular disease.

Because plasma concentrations of homocysteine can be reduced by dietary intake of B vitamins, researchers at the University of Oxford in England set out to test whether vitamin B supplementation would slow the rate of brain atrophy in elderly participants with mild cognitive impairment.

For the randomized, double-blind experiment, researchers David Smith et al. recruited 646 participants over the age of 70 who had mild cognitive impairment. The subjects were split into two groups and were either treated over the course of 24 months with high doses of folic acid (0.8 mg/d), vitamin B12 (0.5 mg/d) and vitamin B6 (20 mg/d), while the control group was treated with placebo.

Adherence to treatment was determined by measuring plasma vitamins and counting returned tablets. MRI scans were done at the start and end of the trial on a subset of the participants to assess the rate of atrophy.

The effect of vitamin B and homocysteine levels on brain atrophy in the elderly

Of the 168 participants that took part in the MRI scan, brain atrophy was found to be 0.76% per year in the vitamin B group and 1.08% per year in the placebo group. The trial supported the notion that homocysteine levels was associated with rate of atrophy.

They found that the rate of atrophy in participants with homocysteine levels greater than 13 µmol/L was reduced by 53% for the vitamin B group. Cognitive test scores were also shown to be higher for participants with lower rate of atrophy. Based on these results, Smith, et al., conclude that increased rate of brain atrophy in elderly individuals with mild cognitive impairment can be slowed by vitamin B intake.

Since Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia, starts with mild cognitive impairment, the researchers believe additional studies should be conducted to determine whether vitamin Bs will delay development of the disease.

Source:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2935890/

Lysine Deficiency in Vegans and Vegetarian Diet

Lysine is an amino acid that is very often found in deficient levels within vegetarians, and especially vegans. Lysine is found in abundance within meats and other protein foods, such as beef, turkey, pork, lamb, chicken, as well as fish and eggs. Since vegans and vegetarians do not typically consume animals or their products, the levels of lysine are sometimes dangerously low. How can this be helped?

Vegetarian foods that are highest in lysine

Although meat contains all 22 common amino acids, including lysine, it is not a product that vegetarians—and especially vegans–consume, Below are some suggestions for a high-lysine diet and the kind of protein foods that can provide this important amino acid.

Lysine from protein foods should include eating 1.0 to 1.1 grams/kilogram of body weight daily (for adults). This is especially important if you are over the age of 60. Vegetarian sources of lysine-containing foods, for the vegetarian that allows no mammals, but do allow some animal products, include these…

Ovo-vegetarians can eat eggs, which have all 22 amino acids, including plenty of lysine.

Pescetarians eat fish, which is also an excellent source, plus have heart-healthy oils for cardiovascular health.

Lacto-vegetarians eat milk / dairy products, which contain lesser amounts of this amino acid, but definitely more than vegetable sources.

Vegan foods high in lysine

There are definitely some high-lysine vegan foods that are available for people who do not eat any animal products whatsoever. Vegetable sources for lysine, which should be eaten daily, include:

Legumes
quinoa
seitan
pistachios

Legumes include soybeans, and products of soybeans (such as tempeh, tofu, soy milk, soy protein, etc.), and beans (garbanzo, pinto, black beans, and other dry beans) and their products (refried beans, hummus, falafel), and peas (split, green peas, black-eyed, etc.).

Nine essential amino acids cannot be produced by the body, so must be taken in via food or through supplementation. Legumes and seitan—per serving—have the highest amount of lysine. In fact, the highest vegan foods also include tempeh, tofu, soy meats, lentils, and seitan.

Lysine is also found in fairly decent quantities within quinoa and pistachios.

The US RDA recommendation for lysine from proteins is about 1g/kg protein for children, and .8g/kg for people aged 18-59, and up to 1.3g/kg protein for people over 60.

Lysine, since it is an amino acid, can also be taken as a dietary supplement from the health food store or drug stores. Overall, there is no reason why one has to give up their vegan or vegetarian lifestyle just because they are deficient in this aminio acid. There are ample ways to include it via foods or supplementation into your daily regimen.

Reference:

http://www.veganhealth.org/articles/protein

Part 1: Aspartic Acid and Phenylalanine in Aspartame

What are aspartic acid and phenylalanine, and what are their roles as ingredients in the manmade product called aspartame? Is aspartame dangerous or linked to cancer? Many claims exist, but here are some facts and information on the subject, which you might want to consider.

First of all, aspartame is an artificial sweetener; it is known as NutraSweet® and Equal® as well as Spoonful, and Equal-Measure, and is claimed to be up to 200 times sweeter than sugar. Aspartame was, in 1981, approved for use in dry goods, and later in 1983 approved for carbonated beverages. Aspartame basically has three main ingredients: aspartic acid, phenylalanine, and methanol.

I will go briefly over these three ingredients below and then discuss their use in aspartame…

Aspartic acid

Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins, and aspartic acid, also known as asparaginic acid, is a non-essential amino acid. “Non-essential” means that it is not necessary to get this amino acid from food or supplements since the human body makes it on its own. Our bodies need and use aspartic acid within cells to help the body work, especially regarding nervous system functioning, and hormone production/release.

Phenylalanine

Phenylalanine is also an amino acid, but an essential amino acid, which means it can only be gotten from food (our body does not make it on its own). Phenylalanine is the precursor for the amino acid tyrosine, which acts as a neurotransmitter in our brain for signaling dopamine, norepinephrine (noradrenaline), epinephrine (adrenaline), and melanin (skin pigment).

Phenylalanine is also found in breast milk and is a necessary nutrient for newborn babies, which is why it is added to baby formulas. Phenylalanine is a nutritional supplement in food and drink products and is known for its antidepressant and analgesic effects.

All 22 common amino acids, including aspartic acid and phenylalanine, can be gotten from protein foods such as meats, fish, and eggs, and smaller amounts from dairy, legumes, nuts, and vegetables.

Methanol

Where aspartic acid and phenylalanine are natural substances, and needed for proper bodily functioning, methanol is toxic to the human body. Methanol is known as wood alcohol, methyl alcohol, wood naphtha, or wood spirits and is a chemical produced mostly as a byproduct of the destructive distillation of wood. Modern methanol is produced industrially from hydrogen, carbon monoxide, and carbon dioxide. Methanol is simple as alcohols go, flammable, volatile, colorless, and sweeter than ethanol (drinking alcohol). Methanol is used for producing biodiesel, as a fuel, denaturant for ethanol, and is a greenhouse gas.

Ingesting large quantities of methanol causes it to be metabolized to formate salts and formic acid. These may cause coma, blindness, or even death, because they are poison to the central nervous system. Special emphasis on “large quantities.” Why? Keep reading…

CONTINUE TO Part 2: Aspartic Acid and Phenylalanine in Aspartame

References:

http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/002234.htm

http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2011/11/06/aspartame-most-dangerous-substance-added-to-food.aspx

http://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancercauses/othercarcinogens/athome/aspartame

http://andevidencelibrary.com/topic.cfm?cat=4089&auth=1

Amino Acids as Anti-Inflammatory Pain Relief

Did you know that amino acids can be used for pain relief? People often will take over the counter painkillers like acetomenaphen (e.g., Tylenol), or anti-inflammatories like ibuprofen (e.g., Advil), but a natural source of analgesics with some anti-inflammatory effects include amino acids. Amino acids are known as the building blocks of proteins, but they serve many functions in the body, especially to the organs and brain, or even the muscles and nerves. Taking amino acid supplements can sometimes aid the body to ward off pain and inflammation, just like a natural painkiller.

There are a couple of studies that tested amino acids like L-isoleucine, which can act as an agent for pain relief, and so prostaglandin was studied to see the effectiveness of L-isoleucine for the analgesic (painkilling) and anti-inflammatory properties. In order to understand how this works we must understand how prostaglandin works…

Prostaglandins are lipid compounds that work on-site like Aspirin; however, they are enzymatically derived (from fatty acids). Although prostaglandins work in a variety of ways, one of them is by acting as an analgesic, or natural pain reliever. Analgesics help your body achieve analgesia—relief from pain.

When there is an injury or you are will, the prostaglandins (whether due to amino acids or medicine) do not get secreted from the gland, but instead are chemically made on-site so they can be used exactly where they are needed, such as to control or reduce inflammation.

Amino acids studied as analgesics (pain relievers)

One study by E Ricciotti and GA FitzGerald regarding prostaglandins showed that they can act as a natural painkiller and help reduce the anti-inflammatory response. The researchers said, “prostaglandins may function in both the promotion and resolution of inflammation.” But amino acids may also cause a bodily anti-inflammatory response.

In a different study, four amino acids were investigated. The scientists RN Saxena, VK Pendse, and NK Khanna “Orally administered L-isoleucine, DL-isoleucine and L-leucine [which] exhibited anti-inflammatory activity in many test models of inflammation except formaldehyde-induced inflammation. L-beta-phenylalanine inhibited carrageenan-induced oedema only.”

Interestingly, it was the L-isoleucine that showed an extended analgesic (painkiller) result. Meanwhile, DL-isoleucine did have a short-lasting effect.

Unlike some supplements, the amino acids did not cause gastric ulceration nor did it promote acute toxicity in the doses that suppressed inflammation effectively. The researchers’ assessment on the painkilling amino acids included that the “anti-inflammatory activity seems to be related with interference with the action and/or synthesis of prostaglandins and deserves further intensive study.”

Of course, it depends on the problem and which amino acids you can use to act as a natural painkiller against it, so more research will continue in this area as time progresses.

References:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/6335992

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21508345

L-tyrosine for Treating Depression Symptoms

Alleviating depression can sometimes be daunting, even with pharmaceutical antidepressants prescribed by your doctor. But there are some natural things you can do to help with depression, too, says researchers. Tyrosine, also known as L-tyrosine, is a viable option as a natural-source antidepressant.

In fact, amino acids help play a role in many diseases, and can be used as a tool to predict such diseases since the biological compounds involved in the normal functioning of humans can be involved in the pathogenesis of these same diseases.

W Krzysciak at the Department of Medical Diagnostics at the Jagiellonian University in Poland, talks about aromatic amino acids like tyrosine, and that some of the diseases that are tied to amino acids include the diagnosing and treating of “social disorders, such as cancers; psychiatric disorders: depression, anxiety states, schizophrenia, bipolar affective disorders; neurodegenerative, and cardiovascular diseases; chronic kidney insufficiency or diabetes.”

L-Tyrosine for Depression

There are three aromatic amino acids commonly used to treat or diagnose disorders: tyrosine, tryptophan, and phenylalanine. Where phenylalanine is a pain reliever, and tryptophan promotes sleep, it is tyrosine that acts as an antidepressant.

Dr. Greene (at DC Nutrition) also has information about L-tyrosine, and explains how this aromatic amino acid works to treat depression, saying, “Tyrosine is an essential amino acid that readily passes the blood-brain barrier. Once in the brain, it is a precursor for the neurotransmitters dopamine, norepinephrine and epinephrine, better known as adrenalin. These neurotransmitters are an important part of the body’s sympathetic nervous system.”

L-tyrosine also relieves pain—both emotional pain and physical pain.

Dr. Greene says, “Tyrosine therapy is very useful in a variety of clinical situations. … An average human dose equivalent of 500 mg of tyrosine given intravenously reduces susceptibility to life-threatening ventricular fibrillation in experimental animals. More tyrosine is needed under stress, and tyrosine supplements prevent the stress-induced depletion of norepinephrine and can cure biochemical depression.” The exceptions would include psychosis (since antipsychotic drugs work by inhibiting L-tyrosine metabolism).

Larger doses of L-tyrosine may help reduce hunger as well as alleviate depression symptoms in obese patients. Low doses actually stimulate the appetite, however.

Dr. Greene says that even physicians at Harvard Medical School have used between 1-6 grams of tyrosine to effectively treat depression that was medication-resistant, saying, “The minimum daily requirement for adults of tyrosine and its precursor, phenylalanine, is 16 mg/kg a day or about 1000 mg total. Hence, 6 g is at least six times the minimum daily requirement.”

Please have a discussion with your doctor or naturopath to see if L-tyrosine might be able to help with depression.

References:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22175049

http://www.dcnutrition.com/AminoAcids/Detail.CFM?RecordNumber=129

Vegan Sources of Lysine Amino Acid

It is well established that vegetarians and vegans are often deficient in the amino acid lysine, which can lead to diminished health. Lysine typically comes from protein foods like meats (beef, pork, turkey, chicken, etc.), eggs, fish, and even dairy. However, since vegans do not eat animals or their products of any kind, the deficiencies are worse than for vegans than pescetarian vegetarians (who eat fish), lacto-vegetarians (who consume dairy), or ovo-vegetarians (who eat eggs).

Making sure you have adequate protein intake is the key to getting enough lysine, but are nuts and legumes (including soybeans) enough to provide lysine to a vegan diet? What if you are allergic to nuts? What if legumes do not agree with your system? What other choices are there, and which sources of vegetables or fruits or other vegan foods are highest in lysine?

Vegan foods high in protein

According to a Vegan registered dietitian (RD) a man was thinking about eating eggs again to ensure he had enough protein (including lysine) and fat in his diet, and admitting that he may have been nutrient-deficient, it was suggested that he could get equivalent amounts of protein and fat from vegan sources. For instance, a large egg has about 5 g of fat and 6 g of protein, but so does eating a 1/2 C of beans (topped with 2 Tbsp avocado) OR 1 C quinoa (topped with 1 Tbsp chopped nuts), along with 1/4 C tempeh.

This same vegan RD suggest that vegans can get enough protein (and therefore lysine) by eating a minimum of 3 servings/day of legumes. Servings means 1/2 C of beans or soyfood, or 1 C soymilk; this amount is generous.

There’s no need to be obsessive about lysine, as long as you get enough protein. Your daily regimen should include legumes and soyfoods to ensure your lysine intake.

Protein requirements for adequate lysine intake

Protein requirements and lysine requirements are figured differently. You pounds when doing the figuring below…

Protein requirements:

Multiply your (ideal) weight by 0.45

Lysine requirements:

Multiply your (ideal) weight by 2.5

Lead body mass is what protein needs are based on, so using your ideal weight (rather than actual weight) help calculate the proper requirements. For example, a person who should weight about 140 lbs should need approximately 3010 mg of lysine and 63 g of protein.

1/2 C cooked legumes/beans = 485-625 mg lysine / 7-8 g protein

1/2 C soybeans = 575 mg lysine / 14 g protein

1/2 C firm tofu = 582 mg lysine / 10-20 g protein

1 oz veggie meats = (varies) mg lysine / 6-18 g protein
1 C soymilk = 439 mg lysine / 5-10 g protein
1/4 C peanuts = 310 mg lysine / 8 g protein
1/4 C other nuts* = 80-280 mg lysine / 2-6 g protein
1/2 C grains** = 55-85 mg lysine / 2-3 g protein
1/2 vegetables = 60-165 mg lysine / 0.5-2.5 g protein
* Note that 1/4 C pistachios have 365 mg lysine and 6.5 g protein
** Note that quinoa is higher compared to other grains, with 220 mg lysine and 4 g protein
As you can see, it is not all that hard to find lysine in protein foods as long as you maintain an adequate amount of servings and protein grams each day.

References:

http://www.theveganrd.com/2011/01/vegan-food-guide-protein-and-new-book.html

Diazepam Alternative? – Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid

Gamma amino butyric acid (GABA) is a natural sedative, sometimes referred to as natural valium. It may also serve as an alternative to those who cannot take drugs like Diazepam. In fact, Diazepam works by increasing the effect of gamma-aminobutyric acid, so taking GABA as a supplement can help accomplish a similar effect without the same side effects of Diazepam.

What is Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA)?

GABA is a non-essential amino acid, which acts as a neurotransmitter in the brain. It works by soaking up extra adrenaline, plus brings relaxation as well as smoothes out activity in the brain.

Gamma-aminobutyric acid has GABAergic effects and the GABA receptor (GABAR) involvement is why anti-anxiety and anti-seizure drugs work, although scientists still don’t understand all the reasons why, but its connection to the suppressing the functions and nerves is well known.

Gamma-aminobutyric acid can be purchased as GABA supplements in most health food or supplement stores; however, doses may vary for use in medical situations and anyone attempting to use it for more than as a sleep aid should consult their physician first.

What is Diazepam?

The common or generic name for Diazepam is Valium. Diazepam is often used to treat acute alcohol withdrawal symptoms, anxiety, and seizures or muscle spasms.

Diazepam belongs to the drug class of benzodiazephines, which affect the brain and central nervous system, so has a calming effect.

Diazepam works by enhancing the natural GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) chemical in the body.

Connection between GABAARs and Diazepam-like drugs

According to a study by Andrea N Beltran Gonzales, Pablo E Pomata, et al., titled Benzodiazepine modulation of homomeric GABAAρ1 receptors: Differential effects of diazepam and 4´-chlorodiazepam the “GABAA receptors (GABAARs) are ligand-gated ion channels that mediate inhibitory neurotransmission in the central nervous system … Many GABAARs receptor subtypes are allosterically modulated by benzodiazepines (BDZs), which are drugs extensively used as anxiolytics, sedative-hypnotics and anticonvulsants.”

In their research they said that “human homomeric GABAAρ1 receptors were expressed in Xenopus oocytes and GABA-evoked responses electrophysiologically recorded in the presence or absence of BDZs. … Diazepam produced potentiating effects on GABA-evoked … currents and … diazepam induced biphasic effects depending on the GABA concentration.”

They concluded, “Our results suggest that GABAAρ1 receptor function can be selectively and differentially modulated by BDZs.”

GABA receptors and drugs like Diazepam work by enhancing the gamma-aminobutyric acid effects in the human brain.

Reference:

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S001429991400661X

http://www.webmd.com/drugs/2/drug-6306/diazepam-oral/details