Tag Archives: leucine

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.




Amino Acids and Vitamins Improved Health in Elderly

As we age, it is generally believed our immune system deteriorates. It is considered a fact of life. Japanese researchers did a study to investigate the effects of supplementing amino acids and vitamins for both unhealthy and healthier older people for both inpatients and outpatients.

From the article, “Amino acid and vitamin supplementation improved health conditions in elderly participants”, Japanese researchers studied one bedridden inpatient group and one outpatient group.

Daily, a mixture of the amino acids containing leucine (1200 mg/day), glutamine (600 mg/day), and arginine (500 mg/day), plus 11 kinds of vitamins were administrated for 8 weeks. In both groups, general blood biomarkers such as C-reactive protein levels, white blood cell count, and natural killer (NK) cell activity were measured.

The study involved thirteen bedridden inpatients (7 males, 6 females; mean age, 81.8 ± 8 years) and eleven outpatients (7 males, 4 females; mean age, 74 ± 12 years) from the Sansei Hospital (Hyogo Prefecture, Japan).

These same amino acid and vitamins were administered to the inpatients as the outpatients with water twice daily, immediately after dinner and before sleeping.

Results from clinical study on Amino Acids and Vitamins

The researchers found that supplementation of the three amino acids arginine, glutamine, and leucine, and 11 kinds of vitamins had beneficial effects on the health of older people in poor health. The aging process in humans results in a condition called sarcopenia, which involves decreased skeletal muscle mass and function which is associated with metabolic diseases such as obesity and type 2 diabetes.

In this study, immune parameters were also evaluated. Of these, NK cell activity, an index of innate immunity, increased in both outpatients and inpatients. In the immune system, NK cell activity is thought to be one of the important indices for monitoring immunity because innate immunity is the first line of defense against infections. For those inpatients who were administered amino acids, their condition was stable due to increased NK cell activity.

To conclude, this study suggested that “dietary supplementation with the amino acids arginine (500 mg/day), glutamine (600 mg/day), leucine (1200 mg/day), and 11 kinds of vitamins for the elderly in poor health increased NK cell activity, irregardless of the presence of a primary disease and the amount of the daily nutrient intake.”

It was also observed that supplementation with more than 1 g/day of vitamin C enhanced immunity in healthy adults. In addition, vitamin E fostered the immunity for both unhealthy subjects (750 mg/day) and in healthy elderly subjects (800 mg/day).




Connection between Folic Acid and Amino Acid Homocysteine

There is a connection between folic acid and amino acid homocysteine, but what is it? Folic acid and amino acid (homocysteine, one of the 22 amino acids) functions are quite different, but the former does affect the latter. In fact, blood levels of homocysteine in the body are lowered in the presence of folic acid.

Folic acid is also known as folate; however, folate is slightly different. Folate—a bioavailable and natural form of vitamin B9—comes from the word ‘foliage’ because it is found in leafy greens, such as spinach and other greens, but also from fortified/enriched cereals and animal foods like eggs or liver, as well as plant foods like broccoli, brussel sprouts, lentils, beans, asparagus, cantaloupe, and bananas. Folic acid is merely the synthetic form of folate, and is found in supplements.

Folic acid/folate (vitamin B9) helps the body produce energy, is needed for mental and emotional health, and helps prevent neural tube birth defects like spina bifida, which occurs during the first month of pregnancy, especially in high risk pregnancies. Folic acid deficiencies can occur in people due to alcoholism, celiac disease, and inflammatory bowel disease.

The terms (and products) folic acid and amino acid are two different things; where folic acid is vitamin B9, and amino acids like homocysteine, cysteine, leucine, lysine, carnitine, and so on, are simply the building blocks of proteins. All 22 common amino acids are found in protein foods such as meats (chicken, pork, beef, etc.) as well as fish and eggs. Eggs, then, are actually a good source of both folic acid and amino acid content.

So what is the connection between folic acid and amino acid homocysteine?

Although amino acids are necessary for health, sometimes it is not good to have too much of a good thing; homocysteine is one of these amino acids where elevated blood levels of the amino acid can actually cause health problems.

According to Dr. Weil, elevated homocysteine levels are “linked to an increased risk of heart attacks and strokes. Elevated homocysteine levels are thought to contribute to plaque formation by damaging arterial walls. High levels may also act on blood platelets and increase the risks of clot formation; however, whether high levels of homocysteine actually cause cardiovascular disease has yet to be agreed upon. … In addition, some evidence suggests that people with elevated homocysteine levels have twice the normal risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.”

The folic acid and amino acid connection is affected by diet as well. People who eat a lot of meat in comparison to leafy greens (that have folate/folic acid) or fruits tend to be highest in homocysteine levels. B vitamins and folic acid help reduce homocysteine levels. Additionally, says Dr. Weil, “homocysteine is also produced in the body from another amino acid, methionine. One of methionine’s main functions is to provide methyl groups for cellular reactions. … Typically, homocysteine then receives another methyl group from either folic acid or vitamin B6 to regenerate methionine.”

Folic acid supplements usually come in .4 to .8 grams, but prescription strength is at 1 g/day, although older pregnant women or high risk moms can take up to 4+ g/day (doctor prescribed). If you are low in folic acid and amino acid levels supplements can be taken for either. High stress and increased coffee consumption can also raise homocysteine levels, however. Homocysteine levels can also be elevated due to psoriasis, kidney disease, or even low thyroid hormones.

Other than talking with your doctor, one of the best ways to deal with the folic acid and amino acid connection, especially if there is an issue, is to eat healthy, get enough exercise, and make sure your daily diet includes plenty of leafy greens and fresh fruits and vegetables and less meat and fried foods, which may also reduce cholesterol and aid cardiovascular health as an added bonus.




Help COPD with Amino Acids for Lung Disease

According to some researchers and there are a few amino acids for lung disease that exist and may help such issues. COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) is one of these lung conditions may be aided by amino acid supplements; in particular, those with even severe COPD. This lung disease affects the ability to breath and also reduces energy levels in those who have it. COPD may have different causes, but it can be a result of smoking cigarettes long term, as well as conditions such as emphysema. 

According to one study by RW Dal Negro, A Testa, et al., in Italy it was amino acids for lung disease that helped the patients with COPD. By supplementing COPD patients with certain essential amino acids they were able to determine if pulmonary rehabilitation might have improved health status and produce higher rates of physical performance.

Essential amino acids are several of the 22 commonly known amino acids. “Essential” means that they have to be gotten through diet since the body cannot produce them on its own. The list of essential amino acids may include: Valine, Threonine, Methionine, Leucine, Isoleucine, Phenylalanine, Tryptophan, Lysine, and Histidine.

Amino acids for lung disease – chronic COPD

A total of 88 COPD out-patients who had a 23 BMI (body mass index) or less were selected randomly to receive essential amino acids for lung disease (COPD) for a period of three months. After 12 weeks of the test period the patients receiving amino acids for lung disease had showed significant improvements in physical performance.

Also, the COPD patients scored higher on the SGRQ score (which measures breathing). Additionally, other areas were affected positively, as compared to the placebo group, who had taken the essential amino acids for lung disease (COPD), including improvements in: fat-free mass, serum albumin, increased muscle strength, oxygen saturation, and cognitive dysfunction.

The results produced greater confidence levels in the patients and the researchers for improvements in these symptoms that COPD usually negatively affects its patients. Essential amino acids may, then, help reduce symptoms of COPD, so it is clear that amino acids for lung disease can aid the patient in breathing easier as well as help their physical performance in a number of areas.



All About Protein for Kids

What are proteins? If you are a kid or just want to learn all about protein in a simple way, then below is a simple explanation of what proteins are and why you need to eat them. Proteins help your body stay strong and builds muscle and other tissues (like organs and immune system) in your body. Some foods contain protein, such as beef, pork, fish, eggs, dairy products (like milk or cheese), nuts (like peanuts or peanut butter, almonds, walnuts) and seeds, as well as legumes (beans, lentils).

Your body knows all about protein because it uses specialized protein molecules to do certain tasks. For example, your body uses protein to make a part of your blood (red blood cells) that carries oxygen through your veins to all the other parts of your body; this part of the red blood cells is called hemoglobin. Another special part that protein is used for is to help keep the cardiac (heart) muscle strong. Proteins make your body parts–like legs and arms and organs–moving and keeps your immune system strong so you don’t catch diseases or get sick.

About protein and amino acids

If you eat protein, like a hamburger patty, then your digestive juices from your stomach and intestines start working to break the protein down into smaller parts called amino acids. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. Then these amino acids can be used to make more proteins that help maintain your muscles, blood, bones, and organs.

At Kids Health they describe proteins as being like “long necklaces with differently shaped beads. Each bead is a small amino acid. These amino acids can join together to make thousands of different proteins.” There are over 200 different kinds of amino acids (“beads”) but only about 22 amino acids are common. About 13 of these amino acids are called non-essential amino acids because your body makes them automatically, but the other nine amino acids your body must get from food, so these are called essential amino acids (like arginine or leucine).

About protein types – complete and incomplete proteins

Complete proteins that have all nine essential amino acids come from animal sources, like meats and dairy. Vegetable sources of protein tend to be incomplete, however. If you want to know about protein sources that are both from vegetables and that are complete proteins you simply need to mix certain types of foods. Combining certain foods helps vegetarians (people who do not eat meat) get all their essential amino acids without eating animals or their products.

For example, some protein-rich vegetable-source foods that can be combined includes eating beans a rice, which are a staple food around the world for many developing countries. Another example is eating whole-grain bread and peanut butter together.

About proteins – how much do you need?

If you know how much you weigh then you can figure out just how much protein your body actually needs. Kids need about a half of a gram of protein for each pound (.5 kilograms) they weigh. That means they need a gram for every two pounds. If you weight 70 lbs then you need about 35 grams of protein each day. Adults usually need about 60 grams each day of protein.

Make sure you eat a balanced diet and if you want to see a chart about protein grams in food you can check this one out from the Moms Who Think website: http://www.momswhothink.com/diet-and-nutrition/high-protein-foods.html




Leucine Supplements Repair Heart Damage In Third Degree Burn Patients

An animal study investigated the effects of administering the amino acid leucine in reversing the heart damage caused by third degree (full thickness) burns.

Serious burns affect the heart as well as the skin. Burns range from superficial–first degree burns–to fourth degree burns. First degree burns heal very well over about ten days, but fourth degree can lead to amputation and death. Third degree burns, or full thickness burns, extend right through the skin. These burns can also lead to amputation.

These serious burns affect the cardiovascular system, too. Burns affect the heart’s ability to produce vital proteins, which it needs in order to pump effectively.

Most burns are caused by fire and hot liquids. These are known as thermal burns, and include scalding. Scalding is caused by hot liquids or gases. Thermal burns are common injuries, particularly in children.

Researchers (CH Lang, N Deshpande, et al) from the Department of Cellular and Molecular Physiology, Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine, USA, developed an animal study into burn-induced heart injury and the amino acid leucine.

The researchers knew that leucine stimulates the initiation of protein in skeletal muscles. They hoped the leucine would also stimulate protein in cardiac muscles.

Leucine is an essential amino acid, which means we must get it from our food. It’s particularly important in promoting muscle growth.

Would leucine reverse the heart damage caused by third degree burns?

In the animal study, anaesthetized rats were given a 40% total body surface third degree scald burn. Some were given leucine after 24 hours. The leucine group was compared to a control group, and there was also a non-burn control group.

The hearts of the burned rats suffered damage. The necessary protein was not synthesized in their hearts. However, the hearts of the burn rats given leucine showed a reversal of this cardiac damage.

The study concluded that leucine supplementation could repair the heart defects caused by serious burn injuries.



EGGS: The Raw Food Anti-Aging Superfood with Amino Acids

Eggs for anti-aging? Wasn’t the last thing we heard that they had too much cholesterol and were bad for cardiovascular health? According to Dr. Mercola who wrote “Top 7 Food That Slow Your Aging” eggs are one of the superfoods, and he insists that there is no link between consuming eggs and heart disease, to boot. Why? There is a whole list of reasons… some of which include essential amino acids (like arginine, leucine, phenylalanine) and  that raw whole eggs contain.

First of all, says Dr. Mercola, they need to be raw, and organic. This means they also need to be as fresh as possible to reduce the risk of contamination or infection. Furthermore, a single egg contains 9 essential amino acids. This is a fantastic raw item for raw foodists.

Aside from the “highest quality protein you can put in your body,” and that proteins are necessary for building and maintaining your body tissues (skin, muscles, and internal organs), eggs are also important for your hormones and immune system.

Besides the 9 essential amino acids in raw, organic eggs, they include these health benefits:

Zeaxanthin, and Lutein (for your eyes)
Choline (for your brain, cardiovascular- and nervous systems)
Vitamin D

How to choose the best eggs – amino acids, nutrition, omega-3’s, and allergies

Dr. Mercola says that not do we need the 9 essential amino acids in eggs for their anti-aging effects, but we should eat them raw for maximum benefits.

Allergic reactions, he insists, are usually caused by changes in the eggs due to the cooking process. Raw eggs, such as how muscle-builders take in their morning protein shakes, help preserve the highly perishable nutrients that eggs contain.

Raw egg whites contain avidin, a glycoprotein that binds biotin (a B vitamin), which some believe may lead to biotin deficiency; however, although cooking the whites deactivates the avidin, although it also impairs the proteins in the egg. Realize that the yolks also have plenty of biotin, some of the highest found in nature, so if you eat the whole egg raw, you should not be deficient. Eating only the whites may ensure a biotin deficiency.

Avoid omega-3 eggs, says Dr. Mercola, because “they typically come from hens fed poor quality omega-3 fat sources that are already oxidized.”

Be sure to buy organic and TRUE free-range chicken eggs, and preferably locally produced eggs from a pasture farmer. Dr. Mercola suggests requesting them at your local health food store or do a search in your area by visiting www.eatwild.com or www.localharvest.org.

Overall, the amino acids and other health supporting properties of local organic eggs, show many benefits to human health, especially when eaten whole and raw.



Amino Acids and Proteins – Dr Weil’s Diet Advice

Dr Weil’s diet advice has been becoming extremely popular. His book shows what you can eat, how the diet works, and what to avoid. It’s a simplified book on basic human nutrition, and tells how we get energy from the food we eat. 

Dr Weil’s diet book advice covers things like fiber and protein and amino acids (like leucine, phenylalanine, or carnitine) are discussed, as well as ethnic intolerances to certain foods. For instance, this famous MD recommends that we have at least 40 grams of fiber each day. This is easily achieved if you eat vegetables (beans in particular), fruits (especially berries), and whole grains.

Dr Weil says to avoid dairy products

Dr Weil’s diet advice also suggest that we avoid milk altogether, and only eat limited amounts of cheese or other dairy products. Many people are lactose intolerant, particularly if you are of African-American or Asian decent, since people of these ethnic background tend to have problems digesting dairy products (lactose intolerance is usually inherited).

Still others may yet be allergic to milk protein, even mildly, and may not even know it. Only a particular group of European decent have the adaptation to be able to tolerate dairy products. Even then, there are plenty of other—better—sources for protein, calcium, and amino acids in the diet.

Take calcium, as an example… Dr Weil’s diet includes wonderful non-dairy sources of calcium by eating things like sardines, leafy greens, various sea vegetables (dulse, nori, and kombu), broccoli, plus tofu, calcium-fortified orange juice, fortified soy milk, and sesame seeds are wonderful sources of this mineral.

Dr Weil’s diet advice doesn’t mention it, but ounce for ounce, raw unhulled sesame seeds contain more calcium than any other food on earth! Try liquefying them with water in a blender for a few minutes, add real maple syrup to taste, and then strain it through a fine-meshed 1-gal sized plastic paint strainer (yes, you read that right!), and wala! You have super-calcium sesame milk!

Dr Weil’s diet on amino acids and more

Proteins build and repair and even maintain the body, plus they can be converted to glucose, which the body needs for energy. This is where amino acids come in. Altogether there are 22 amino acids available to the human body, some of which the body makes, but others must be gotten from food.

If you eat too much protein it makes it harder on the digestive system and puts strain on the kidneys and liver. If you eat too little protein you risk malnutrition, infection susceptibility, and maybe even an early death, says Dr Weil’s diet information.

Other Dr Weil’s diet advice includes limiting carbohydrates (sources of glucose) to low-glycemic index varieties, such as sweet potatoes (rather than white potatoes), other vegetables, plus unrefined grains. Fats and oils should also be limited. The last note is that when implementing Dr Weil’s diet be sure to get an adequate amount of exercise.



Exercise and Branched-chain Amino Acid (BCAA) Supplements Prevent Cardiac Atrophy

Cardiac atrophy–the wasting of the heart muscles–can lead to a variety of cardiovascular conditions. But supplementing with branched-chain amino acids (BCAA), along with a program of exercise, can restore the heart and promote circulation again.

Cardiac atrophy is usually caused by prolonged bed rest, though astronauts living in microgravity are affected by atrophy.  People with congenital heart disease may also develop cardiac atrophy.

This atrophy means the heart muscles are deteriorating. They shrink, and the heart loses volume. As the muscles waste, the heart loses strength, and blood pressure is affected. This weakens the entire cardiovascular system. The reduced blood pressure results in orthostatic hypotension, where the brain isn’t getting enough blood, often resulting in dizziness, lightheadedness, and even fainting. But can BCAA supplements help?

Prolonged bed rest therefore is not good for the heart. However, it is prescribed for several medical conditions, including some complications in pregnancy. Coma and stroke patients, too, often spend long periods supine. BCAA supplementation was tested in a study for cardiac atrophy.

TA Dorfman, BD Levine, et al, researchers at the Institute for Exercise and Environmental Medicine, Presbyterian Hospital of Dallas, USA, developed a study to examine the effects of exercise and nutritional supplementation of proteins and branched-chain amino acids (BCAA) on women with cardiac atrophy.

Healthy volunteers were recruited. Their heart volumes were measured, then they were subjected to 60 days of 6 degrees head-down tilt bed rest. They were divided into exercise and BCAA supplement groups, and a control group.

Does BCAA help prevent cardiac atrophy?

The control group all suffered cardiac atrophy due to the prolonged bed rest. Both left ventricular and right ventricular volumes in their hearts were decreased. The exercise group, who used a supine treadmill, had no atrophy. The protein and BCAA supplement group also saw no reduction in either left or right ventricular mass. However, with the group who received only BCAA supplementation, and no exercise, the heart did lose some volume.

In conclusion, exercise is absolutely vital to prevent cardiac atrophy in long-duration bed rest. BCAA supplements are beneficial, especially when combined with an exercise program.



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.