Category Archives: Phenylalanine

Phenylalanine amino acid: Importance of PKU Screening in Newborn Babies

In the United States a heel stick test (using a needle prick on the baby’s heel for a small blood sample) is done at the ripe old age of 3 days old to test for Phenylketonuria (PKU) and other disorders. PKU is a metabolic disorder that shows up when the gene is inherited from both parents of the newborn, which is an enzyme deficiency that is needed for proper metabolism of the amino acid phenylalanine.

People with PKU must avoid foods that contain phenylalanine altogether from birth, however, in order to survive since side effects can include pigmentation loss in the skin/eyes/hair, a “mousy” odor, muscles pains and aches, seizures, and mental retardation.

Newborn screening and phenylalanine-restricted diets for PKU patients

Phenylalanine is an essential amino acid that is in foods, including proteins like meats, dairy products, beans, eggs, tofu, nuts, and many others, including aspartame (the sugar substitute in diet soda). An “essential” amino acid means that the body cannot produce this amino acid on its own so it must be gotten from food. Aminos phenylalanine and tyrosine are both associated with PKU and are tested for in all newborn babies at clinics and hospitals.

According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, it is Dr. Richard Koch from the University of Southern California School of Medicine in Los Angeles, California, who promotes that repeat testing should occur in any child that tests positive for PKU. The amino acid phenylalanine in foods should be avoided and a special diet should begin from birth so as to prevent mental retardation.

Koch says, “Occasionally, cases of PKU are missed by newborn screening. Thus, a repeat PKU test should be performed in an infant who exhibits slow development.”

Phenlyketonuria (PKU) is a recessive defect in the enzyme phenylalanine hydroxylase

Koch discusses the enzyme deficiency: “Phenylketonuria (PKU) is caused by an autosomal recessive defect in the enzyme phenylalanine hydroxylase, which is required for converting phenylalanine to tyrosine. (Five percent of natural protein is composed of phenylalanine.)”

PKU is caused by a mutation that is located on chromosome 12, although the specific type of mutation may vary, which results in severity that is variable among those with the PKU disorder. Phenylalanine containing foods should be avoided in all of these cases. Of course, normal people who do not have PKU need phenylalanine and should have a diet consisting of enough proteins to provide this essential amino acid.

References:

www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/001166.htm

http://www.aafp.org/afp/1999/1001/p1462.html

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?

Part 1: Eating Insects for Your Daily Amino Acids?

Pull up a chair and have a plate of bugs for breakfast?! Although this is not unrealistic or uncommon in most of the world, entomophagy (eating insects for food) brings a feeling of disgust for many in western societies, and a sourpuss face along with it! But eating insects is common to animals (insectivores), even other insects, as well as humans, and for good reasons.

Eating insects of many kinds brings to light the simple fact that they are full of protein and nutrition, and help sustain life. Vitamins, minerals, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, oleic acid, and amino acids are only part of the full story.

In fact, bugs may wind up being a part of the human diet in the future, as it is currently in many countries, and has been prehistorically commonplace for hominids, hominins (human line), throughout time.

The big questions about eating insects include…

What amino acids are present in bugs and are they available to the human body? Exactly what nutritional content is covered for human requirements by consuming edible insects? Eating insects may be good for you, but do they taste good?

According to my daughter, who went to Peru with my mom and some friends and ate a large white grub that is a common to the area for consumption, it tasted lovely, just like an almond. She said, “It tasted good!” However, she also nearly gagged and spit it out. Why? The texture was “too mushy,” she said. The last thing she was thinking about was the amino acid content of the grub! *smiles*

Eating insects raw, such as her raw grub from Peru, are not always necessary. Most people around the world eat them raw as well as roasted, baked, smoked, fried, boiled in salted water, and dried or sun-dried. Of course, most Americans have heard of chocolate covered ants or grasshoppers as a delicacy dessert (or given as a joke, although is a serious meal in other countries). Each method of preparation makes eating insects a different experience, taste, texture, and can be the difference between it tasting good or wanting to spit it out on the ground from whence it came.

Who wants to eat bugs anyway? Lots of people, especially considering they are as easy to scavenge as they are to grow and raise for food, and is easier than gardening or raising small livestock. It is also cheaper than buying food at the grocery store, although bugs-on-a-stick (or loose) of many varieties can be purchased at local markets in many countries, like is often seen in China or Thailand.

The fact is that many grubs, larvae, grasshoppers, caterpillars, termites, palm weevils, mealworms, and other bugs are packed with nutrition such as potassium, calcium, sodium, magnesium, phosphorous, zinc, manganese, and copper according to the FAO. Eating insects can also supply you with necessary iron and amino acids like lysine, things that vegans and vegetarians are often deficient in.

CONTININUE READING Part 2: Eating Insects for Your Daily Amino Acids?

Reference:

http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2FBF00805837

http://www.organicvaluerecovery.com/studies/studies_nutrient_content_of_insects.htm

http://www.fao.org/docrep/018/i3253e/i3253e06.pdf

Prevent Prostate Cancer with Three Amino Acids?

Three specific amino acids may aid in the prevention of prostate cancer according to a study. The three aminos include methionine, phenylalanine, and tyrosine. During protein synthesis by the body, the amino acids tyrosine, methionine, and phenylalanine are utilized. Restriction of these amino acids depends on glucose metabolism, which when altered aids in cell death of cancer cells within human prostate cancer, and may aid in preventing prostate cancer.

Study linking amino acids and prostate cancer prevention

YM Fu, H Lin, et al., did a study at the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences at Washington State University said that it is selective amino acid restriction of tyrosine and phenylalanine, plus methionine or glutamine that target mitochondria in cells that are linked to prostate cancer cell death.

Glucose metabolism modulation is tied to the process and “crucial switches connecting metabolism and these signaling molecules to cell survival during amino acid restriction” become target factors preventing prostate cancer, say the researchers.

Second study on prostate cancer and amino acids

Another study by YS Kim from Washington State University showed an identification of molecular targets regarding specific amino acid dependency and how it modulates specific kinds of prostate cancer cells. To find out how the amino acids can prevent prostate cancer, they investigated if restriction of tyrosine, phenylalanine, and methionine could inhibit the growth and metastasis of prostate cancer.

Kim progressed outward in this field of research because of the “underlying the anticancer activity of tyrosine/phenylalanine and methionine restriction. This is especially important research since there still is no satisfactory drug for treatment of androgen-independent, metastatic human prostate cancer.”

Even though further research is needed regarding the amino acids phenylalanine, tyrosine, and methionine for prostate cancer prevention, it has expanded avenues for antimetastatic, anti-invasive, apoptosis-based therapies for the preventing prostate cancer.

Prostate cancer, being one of the major cancers that kill men in the North American continent, is the reason why males should be regularly screened for this deadly disease.

Reference:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20432447

http://prevention.cancer.gov/funding/recently-funded/ca04004/1R01CA101035-01A1

Egg Protein Powder for Your Essential Amino Acids – the Superior Choice?

Egg protein powder has been on the market for years and although not as popular as whey protein, it should be a consideration for those who wish to get a near perfect protein with all the essential amino acids. Why? The pattern in the egg whites, the egg protein nearly matches human growth.

Even without the egg yolk to supplement the body with cholesterol and fats, the protein of the egg provides some amazing nutrient potential. A top quality egg protein powder, can provide a good source of vitamins A, B, D and E.

Egg white protein digests at a moderate pace. It also possesses a high level of sulfur which is essential to various hormonal pathways within the body which in turn, leads to increased muscle mass.

Egg white protein doesn’t cause nearly the problems of bloating as whey protein, and contains all the essential amino acids, unlike hemp or soy.  Egg protein possesses a bland to slightly salty taste and also can easily be made into custom mixes in a shaker or blender.

Of course there is a negative to every protein powder. All this egg protein goodness doesn’t come cheap and consumers should be wary of buying low-grade egg protein powders.

Cheaper products from factory-farmed eggs should be avoided, for chickens in “chicken factories” often live in polluted environments that may even be toxic.  Chickens and their eggs can carry diseases such as salmonella and infections. In addition, factory-farmed eggs may include low levels of antibiotics, or hormones, or other pharmaceuticals.

Is egg protein powder the superior alternative for amino acids?

Both whey and egg protein powders have all the essential amino acids, and if a person doesn’t mind consuming a little cholesterol at a lower price, whey protein is probably the standard from which all other protein powders are judged from.

Another popular plant based protein powder could be hemp. It is low in a couple of essential amino acids, particularly lysine.  But, hemp is also generally considered a superfood. It is high also in essential fatty acids which may sound bad, but actually is really good because of the high amount of Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids that many people are deficient in.

Soy protein powder also lacks two essential amino acids in sufficient quantities—methionine and lysine, which are particularly low. For overweight women, especially, soy powder may be great for soy is known for speeding up thyroid function which may be great for those who wish to shed a few pounds while reducing cholesterol. Soy protein powders also may be hugely beneficial for menopausal women, for the isoflavones can reduce hot flashes.

Having made all these comparisons in a nutshell, if you are looking for a zero-cholesterol, animal-based protein powder with all the essential amino acids, egg protein powder is tough to beat for many consumers today.

References:

http://superhumancoach.com/pros-and-cons-of-egg-protein-powder/

http://www.livestrong.com/article/481383-what-are-the-benefits-of-egg-white-protein-powder/

http://bestproteintoday.com/tag/amino-acids/

http://www.goodhempnutrition.com/content/68-what-is-hemp-protein

http://www.livestrong.com/article/467660-the-benefits-and-drawbacks-of-soy-protein-powder-in-women/

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

Is Taurine in Energy Drinks Safe? Maybe…

There is a lot of energy in the media and within consumers about the health benefits as well as dangers of energy beverages, including some warnings about the amino acid taurine in energy drinks, but is taurine safe? How much is okay versus too much? Are there any health implications or hidden issues with the taurine in energy drinks?

According to Dr. Oz, says the Herald Tribune, the number of visits to the emergency room have doubled in the last four years, and hit more than 20,000 in the year 2011. But are these super-charger energy drinks really to blame for some of the cardiac issues that some people have or are claiming? Is the taurine in energy drinks, or the caffeine, or sugar, or other supplements added to these beverages the cause of these heart issues?

How taurine in energy drinks affects your heart

In one study mentioned by the article mentioned above, which measured how 18 peoples’ (15 men, 3 women, around age 27) hearts reacted about an hour after consuming taurine in energy drinks (16 oz), the MRI showed a “significantly increased peak systolic strain” in the left ventricle of the heart.

Although black coffee or even caffeinated water was suggested (one might also consider green tea or white tea due to the enormous health benefits, since it also contains caffeine); however, real energy can come from 5-9 servings of fresh fruits and vegetables, eaten raw, steamed, or even made into smoothies. Plus raw foods are packed with enzymes, anti-oxidants, and other vitamins and minerals.

Do we really need taurine in energy drinks?

If the amino acid taurine in energy drinks may keep your left heart ventricle contracting too severely, sometimes causing palpitations, anxiety attacks, or other cardiac related issues, then is it really wise to consume them? Energy drinks may only say they have “amino acids” but they also may have creatine, lecithin, phenylalanine, tyrosine, choline, citicoline, plus taurine, of course.

Additionally, some of the main ingredients in energy or power drinks include: caffeine, glucuronolactone, guarana, B vitamins, ginseng, l-carnitine, ginkgo biloba, sugars, antioxidants, as well as trace minerals. According to one study even coaches have to advise their athletes about taking energy drinks because of the effects and risks associated with consuming them, even after exercise.

Overall the ingredients may be natural, or commonly found in food (amino acids, for instance, are in protein foods such as meat (beef, chicken, pork, etc.), eggs, and fish. However, a combined effect of all of these ingredients may have some serious health consequences if consumed regularly, or especially in excess.

Adverse effects of taurine in energy drinks or their other ingredients can include: restlessness, heart palpitations, irritability, anxiety, nervousness, dehydration, and increase blood pressure. Long term effects have not been established. Those with heart disease or cardiac issues, or children, should probably avoid taurine in energy drinks, or power beverages in general.

Positive information on taurine

Taurine, in and of itself, is an amino acid that the body needs for neurological development, and for regulating water levels and mineral salts within the blood. Taurine also has antioxidants, is found in breast milk, and can be purchased as a dietary supplement.

People with congestive heart failure who took taurine supplements 3x/day (for two weeks) did show an improvement in their capacity to exercise. Up to 3,000 mg of taurine per day is considered safe. Of course, these people were taking supplements, not drinking energy beverages.

Most people can consume up to 16 oz. (500 milliliters) in energy drinks per day and still feel good, although the sugars are high and so these things need to be weighed out in terms of what is actually healthy for the human body.

References:

http://health.heraldtribune.com/2014/01/07/dr-oz-avoid-energy-drinks-with-amino-acids-on-the-label/
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2966367/
http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/expert-answers/taurine/faq-20058177

Lower Blood Sugar – Essential Amino Acids and Diabetes

The question of whether essential amino acids and diabetes had a relationship was a question asked by researchers at the Biochemistry Research Department, part of the Vision Research Foundation in Chennai, India. What they wanted to look at was testing of free amino acids in type 2 diabetic patients to see if oral supplementation would affect these patients.

Diabetes is a disease where too much sugar (glucose) is in the blood. Some people can have type 1 diabetes from childhood, or get it later, but type 2 diabetes is more common, and is typically developed, chronic, and lifelong as well. Technically diabetes mellitus (DM) is a metabolic disease, where the body is unable to produce enough (or any) insulin, which causes these very high glucose levels in blood plasma of patients who have it.

In 2007, the amount of people diagnosed with diabetes, who were 20 years or older, equaled about 1.6 million. Today, in the United States alone, about 7.8 percent of the population—approx. 23.6 million people—have this serious and lifelong disease. The question of essential amino acids and diabetes comes into play because of glucose and insulin.

Insulin, the pancreas, and glucose

Insulin is a hormone created by the pancreas, which must be present in order for glucose to get into our cells (used by the body as food). However, with diabetes, the produces little to no insulin, so the cells do not respond properly, then glucose builds up in the blood and is excreted through the urine; therefore, even though the body has a large amount of glucose, all of that energy is lost. The hope, according to the scientists in India who wanted to test essential amino acids and diabetes, was that amino acids might help with blood glucose levels.

Essential amino acids and diabetes

In a pilot clinical trial the researchers, Sulochana K Natarajan, S Lakshmi, et al., had tested the glucose levels in the blood plasma of Streptozotocin-induced rats that were diabetic. Whether essential amino acids and diabetes, where the former would affect the latter, were related was the question, so they designed an oral test to determine if the effect of such amino acid supplements would help patients that had type 2 diabetes mellitus (DM).

77 subjects with type 2 diabetes participated for two months in a double blind pilot clinical trial. Both sexes, between the ages of 30-60, were involved in the trial and received oral antidiabetic tablets. The essential amino acids and diabetes link was examined by dividing the patients into two groups based on oral supplementation.

The supplements for essential amino acids and diabetes testing included:

1. Lysine

2. Essential amino acids

3. Amino acids and (fat-and-water-soluble) vitamins

4. Calcium phosphate (the control)

Regarding essential amino acids and diabetes, “essential” means that these aminos must be gotten from food or supplements since the body cannot produce them on its own.

Essential amino acids typically include:

Arginine
Carnitine
Histidine
Homocysteine
Isoleucine
Leucine
Lysine
Methionine
Phenylalanine
Taurine
Threonine
Trypthophan
Valine

The scientists tested the subjects who had essential amino acids and diabetes were examined for: fasting and post-prandial plasma glucose, plasma amino acids, glycosylated haemoglobin (HbA1c), fasting and post-prandial immunoreactive insulin, urea and creatinine in plasma and sugar, proteins and albumin, plus ketones and proteins.

The results of the trial “revealed a significant decrease in post-prandial plasma glucose (P<0.05) in group B when compared to groups C and D after 45 days. Plasma Arginine was increased in group C from 3.84 to 9.24 mg/dl.” Additionally, the patients having oral essential amino acids and diabetes (type 2) showed a “decrease … [in] plasma glucose without any change in plasma insulin levels, perhaps due to improved insulin sensitivity.”

Although this is good news regarding essential amino acids and diabetes, the long term effects of essential amino acids needs continued study.

References:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11887024

http://diabetes.niddk.nih.gov/dm/pubs/overview/

Amino Acids for Pregnancy Health

Being a mom does not just happen when you birth a new baby into the world, it starts with pregnancy. A healthy pregnancy means you need proper nutrition, such as vitamins, minerals, as well as things like folic acid, and even amino acids. There are common 22 amino acids that are important for health, and that bring with them their own respective health benefits, but some of these include alanine, tryptophan, tyrosine, cysteine, and even phenylalanine.

It is important for a pregnant mother-to-be to know that amino acids are the building blocks of protein, so this is important for the baby’s development. Proteins like muscles, organs, tissues, plus even the fetal brain, are all dependent upon the proper amount of amino acids in the mother’s body.

There are essential amino acids and non-essential amino acids. “Essential” means that they must be gotten through diet, while non-essential means that the body makes these aminos on its own. Protein foods like meats (chicken, beef, turkey, pork, etc.), plus fish and eggs, provide all 22 amino acids.

If a mother lacks enough amino acids then the developing fetus could suffer. Preeclampsia as well as spina bifida are associated with a lack of amino acids in a pregnant mom.

Lack of amino acids associated with preeclampsia and spina bifida

A study discovered that the amino acid L-arginine (also known simply as arginine) may protect against preeclampsia in pregnant women. About 5-8% of all pregnant women in the United States get preeclampsia, which shows protein levels in urine and can cause dangerously high blood pressure. If not treated it can cause low birth weight, preterm labor, or even death. Around the world 76,000-500,000 infants die because of preeclampsia in pregnancy and hypertension disorders. L-arginine amino acid helps alleviate the conditions associated with preeclampsia. Ask your doctor about how much to take.

In another study the amniotic fluid was tested to check concentrations of amino acids in pregnant women whose babies were already known to have spina bifida. Researchers said that their levels of “alanine, cystathionine, cysteine, phenylalanine, tryptophane, and tyrosine amino acids” were lower than the healthy fetuses from the control group. This suggested that the “loss of amino acids from the fetus through the spinal cord may contribute to the etiology of spina bifida.” Spina bifida, a congenital disorder affecting the spine of the fetus, can come from a lack of the mother having enough folic acid in very early pregnancy. Taking folic acid before conception is essential, as well as afterwards in order to decrease chances for the disorder up to 70%.

Be sure to get enough amino acids in your diet during pregnancy, which means not too much and not too little. This is especially important if you are vegan or vegetarian since most complete amino acids come from animals or animal products. You may want to discuss this with your physician.

References:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23157048

http://newhope360.com/blog/can-amino-acid-ensure-healthy-pregnancy