Category Archives: Apartic Acid

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?


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 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.


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


Part 2: Aspartic Acid and Phenylalanine in Aspartame

In Part 1: Aspartic Acid and Phenylalanine in Aspartame, I covered what the amino acids “aspartic acid” and “phenylalanine” are, and the wood alcohol “methanol” is. Next will be whether any of these have a scientifically known link to cancer or not.

Dangers of aspartame and cancer?

According to some sources claiming aspartame causes cancer, as well as a host of other diseases and health problems, it is important to note that aspartame is made up of approximately 40% aspartic acid, 50% phenylalanine, and 10% methanol. Where some of these sources claim that aspartic acid and phenylalanine could be to blame for health issues, others think that methanol may actually be the culprit.

According to the experts at the American Cancer Society, there is no scientifically discovered proof that aspartame has been linked with cancer. A large study, says the ACS, discussed cancer rates in over 500,000 older adults and found that “compared to people who did not drink aspartame-containing beverages, those who did drink them did not have an increased risk of lymphomas, leukemias, or brain tumors.”

Putting aspartame’s ingredients into perspective

Bernadene Magnuson, PhD, from Cantox Health Sciences International, wrote Relationship Between Aspartame, Methanol and Formaldehyde Explained and put the reality of aspartame into perspective as thus:

“Aspartame is a dipeptide molecule produced by joining phenylalanine and aspartic acid. Aspartame itself does not occur naturally but is a manufactured substance. When aspartame is consumed, it is completely broken down by the enzymes in the digestive system (esterases and peptidases) into the two amino acids and a type of alcohol called methanol. The amounts of these are much less than found in foods. …

“It is important to understand that the human body is well-equipped to use small amounts of methanol produced from foods and beverages, as well as from aspartame. …

“First, the methanol from the intestinal tract goes to the liver via portal blood, where the liver enzyme alcohol dehydrogenase converts methanol into formaldehyde. The body very rapidly uses formaldehyde and so formaldehyde never builds up in the body. If the body doesn’t need it, formaldehyde is converted to formic acid within seconds. The formic acid will be either excreted in the urine or broken down to carbon dioxide and water. …

“The breakdown of formic acid is slower than the breakdown of formaldehyde, so if there is a very large dose of methanol (or formaldehyde) coming into the body, formic acid can build up and that causes the adverse effects seen in methanol poisoning.

“To put this into perspective, studies in healthy adults and infants consuming up to 200mg per kg of body weight (50 times the amounts Americans consume on average), showed no change in the levels of formic acid in the blood.”

Bottom line about aspartic acid, phenylalanine, and methanol

Although the jury is still out for some people on whether aspartame is dangerous, it is clear that aspartic acid and phenylalanine are typically safe for human consumption and needed by the human body.

However, whether small amounts of methanol are “safe” is a factor that some prefer to avoid in their diet, just in case, while others simply consume the poison in these minute amounts. Methanol is typically only poisonous in large quantities. It is really up to the consumer to do the research and decide, as well as seek out professional opinions on the matter.

Please ask your doctor as well, if you have further questions on whether aspartame (or its ingredients aspartic acid, phenylalanine, and methanol) might be safe enough to consume for you in your particular diet and circumstance.

Table of Amino Acid Abbreviations

Students and teachers come together with terms like “Amino acid abbreviations” – but scientists use these abbreviated forms to refer to the 20+ names of amino acids as well.

Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins, and they can be gotten from food. Before we get into the amino acid abbreviations you may want to know that there are two main types of amino acids (with a few exceptions)…

Essential and Non-essential amino acids

Essential amino acids does not mean they are “essential” as in necessary… it simply means that they can only be gotten from the food you eat so must be included through diet or dietary supplementation. Protein foods like meats (beef, chicken, pork, etc.) and eggs, as well as fish, are excellent sources of amino acids. Many meat-eating Americans actually eat an overabundance of protein compared with what the human body requires, which can lead to acidity (which leads to disease), cardiovascular and other diseases.

Non-essential amino acids are those that your body can produce naturally. Occasionally, someone is born with a deficiency in their body’s ability to produce the amino acids necessary for proper functioning, leading to diseases or disorders where people have trouble breaking down certain amino acids. An example of the latter is Maple Syrup Urine Disorder (MSUD) which is what newborn babies are screened for soon after birth.

There are 22 different amino acids in all (some of them semi-essential), but about 20 of them are more common. Their names, 3-letter, and 1-letter amino acid abbreviations follow.

Table of amino acid abbreviations

Amino Acid












Aspartic acid






Glutamic acid













































Aspartic acid or Asparagine



Any amino acid



Termination codon


For more information on amino acid abbreviations or more detailed information on amino acids in general, please see other articles at the Amino Acid Information Center. There are also many excellent resources on the Internet or in encyclopedias.


How Many Amino Acids are there – 20, 22, or 200?

For a while it was thought that there were only 20 amino acids, and many websites still reflect this today, but in fact, a couple of more rare aminos were discovered making a total of 22 amino acids. But how many amino acids are there really? 

The real question is how many amino acids exist beyond the 22 we know of SO FAR, and what about other types of amino acids? The reality is that amino acids, which are the basic building blocks of the body, are in abundance within the body. They are sources of energy such as carbohydrates and fats, except that amino acids contain nitrogen (N); because of this they play a role in forming muscles, tissues, organs, skin, and even hair.

Amino acids act as the precursors to neurotransmitters in the brain and enzymes that help with things like digestion. Amino acids are essential for health, and basically regulate the body’s metabolic processes. There are hormones that are made up of amino acids, antibodies too, so they affect the immune system. Plus they transport oxygen and nutrients in the body.

How Many Kinds of Amino Acids are there?

Different amino acids have different functions. How many amino acids, types, or kinds that exist depend on whether they are:


How Many Essential Amino Acids Are There?

How many amino acids are “essential” (meaning you must get them from food)? They are listed as: arginine, histidine, leucine, isoleucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, valine.

How Many Amino Acids are Non-Essential

How many amino acids are “non-essential” (meaning your body makes them)? These are listed as: alanine, asparagine, aspartate, cysteine, glutamate, glutamine, glycine, proline, serine, tyrosine.

However, how many amino acids from one of the above groups are actually conditional or “semi-essential” amino acids? These are: arginine, cysteine, glycine, glutamine, proline, serine, tyrosine.

There are 22 Amino Acids

These above are the 20 more well-known amino acids; however, just how many amino acids exist actually are counted as being over 200 in numbers, but the 22 proteinogenic amino acids are the ones that are commonly known.

These more commonly known aminos can be found in food (all meat such as beef, pork, chicken, seafood, and even eggs are excellent sources of all 22 amino acids). They can also be bought as amino acid supplements individually or as a complex of many in balanced forms for their health benefits.

How many amino acids have you had in your diet today?


Health Benefits – Amino Acids

Amino acids provide certain health benefits to the human body. They are the building blocks of proteins and help the body’s metabolic functions. Of the 22 amino acids known to science, only 9 are considered to be essential to the human body, with some sources claiming the number is 10.

List of amino acids include Essential, Non-essential, and Conditionally Essential

To avoid amino acid deficiencies and to experience optimum health you must consume the essential amino acids since they cannot be produced by the body. Some medical professionals, like Naturopath Dr. Eliezer Ben-Joseph, who advises his patients and the public on alternative health matters through his Natural Solutions Radio show, suggest a list of 10 amino acids to include in your diet, which include: Arginine, Histidine, Methionine, Threonine, Valine, Isoleucine, Lysine, Phenylalanine, Tryptophan, and Leucine.

10 of the remaining 22 non-essential amino acids, which your body can manufacture on its own include Alanine, Asparagine, Aspartic Acid, Cysteine, Glutamine, Glutamic Acid, Glycine, Proline, Serine, and Tyrosine. Dr. Ben-Joseph suggests that if you are stressed or have a disease then these amino acids are “conditionally essential”: Arginine, Glycine, Cystine, Tyrosine, Proline, Glutamine, and Taurine.

Amino acids help build cells and repair tissues as well as create antibodies to ward off viruses and bacteria. Additionally, they help with enzymes and they body’s hormonal system. Dr. Ben-Joseph suggests these 8 amino acids provide these health benefits:

Tryptophan: is a natural relaxant, alleviates insomnia, and reduces anxiety/depression

Lysene: helps the body absorb calcium

Methionine: supplies sulfur to help hair, nails, and skin

Histidine: repairs tissue, good for digestion/ulcers, blood pressure, nerves, sexual function

Phenylalanine: aids the brain to produce Norepinephrine, which helps the brain and nerve cells

Valine: calms emotions, helps with mental vigor and coordination of the muscles

Leucine & Isoleucine: helps the body manufacture other necessary biochemical components

You can never be certain that you are getting enough of the aminoc acids that your body needs.  It may be a good idea to incorporate amino acid dietary supplements in your health regimen.  Each one serves a different function so it is important to ensure your body obtains the necessary nutrients.  As with anything else, be sure to check with your doctor before taking amino acid supplements or any dietary supplements.