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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 new 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.

There are 20 amino acids in the our standard genetic code, and the additional 2 aminos are outside this realm. These are comprised of the amino acids selenocysteine and pyrrolysine. These amino acids were discovered only about three decades and two decades ago respectively.

Nine essential amino acids act as the precursors to neurotransmitters in the brain and enzymes that help with bodily functions like digestion. These  amino acids are essential for health, and 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:

Essential – 9
Non-essential – 13

How Many Essential Amino Acids Are There?

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

Several essential amino acids are available in supplement mixes as BCAAs, or branch chain amino acids. The specific aminos included are often leucine, isoleucine, and valine. You can get BCAA powders from Beamzen.

How Many Amino Acids are Non-Essential

How many amino acids are “non-essential” (meaning your body makes them)? These are listed as: arginine, alanine, asparagine, aspartate (aspartic acid), cysteine, glutamate (glutamic acid), glutamine, glycine, proline, serine, tyrosine (interchangeable with phenylalanine), selenocysteine, and pyrrolysine. Although pyrrolysine is not used by humans.

Semi-Essential Amino Acids

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.

But haven’t we missed some? What about ornithine and citrulline? Just as phenylalanine and tyrosine are interchangeable, so are ornithine, citrulline, and arginine. Although they have different chemical structures, they have similar benefits and effects on the body and can be interchanged in the diet. For example, both arginine and citrulline act to increase nitric oxide in the body.

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

Recommended Daily Intakes for Essential Aminos

Here are the recommended daily intakes in milligrams per kilogram of body weight. These recommendations are made by the World Health Organization. Here is an in depth guide from the WHO on the calculations behind the recommended daily intakes.

  • Valine: 26mg per kg
  • Tyrptophan: 4mg per kg
  • Threonine: 15mg per kg
  • Phenylalanine and Tyrosine: 25mg per kg
  • Methionine and Cysteine: 15mg per kg
  • Lysine: 30mg per kg
  • Leucine: 39mg per kg
  • Isoleucine: 29mg per kg
  • Histidine: 10mg per kg

Reference:

http://aminoacidstudies.org/#sthash.51ThyP74.dpuf
Wikipedia’s Table of Amino Acids

GABA: New Treatment To Improve Recovery After Stroke

Can adjusting the levels of the amino acid GABA improve post-stroke recovery? Results are positive in this animal study, which has led to new hope for stroke patients.

Stroke is a leading cause of death worldwide. And even if the stroke victim survives, the disturbance in the brain’s blood supply—the stroke—can cause brain damage. While some people can and do make a near-complete recovery, many are left with disabilities such as the inability to understand or to speak, or the inability to move limbs on one side of the body.

This damage is often so severe that one third of stroke survivors are confined to nursing homes or institutions.

A Clarkson, B Huang, et al, researchers at the Department of Neurology, The David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, LA, USA, hoped to improve post-stroke recovery with drugs. They knew that, depending on the severity of the brain damage, the brain can repair itself after a stroke. The neurons in the brain re-map cognitive functions using non-damaged brain tissue.

The amino acid GABA is critical for this re-mapping process in the brain. GABA is the main neurotransmitter, which means it transmits the signals within the brain. GABA is actually synthesized in the brain, from the amino acid glutamate.

In this animal study, the researchers wanted to examine the brain’s ability to re-map if GABA levels were adjusted.

GABA studied in stroke trial

In this animal study, the researchers analyzed data from post-stroke mice. Stroke caused an increase in extrasynaptic GABA transmission. But when the GABA levels were decreased, the brains showed earlier, and more robust, motor recovery.

The researchers reported that timing is crucial when adjusting GABA levels. It can actually cause more brain damage if done too early. With the mice, the researchers found that delaying treatment until 3 days after stroke improved recovery.

The researchers concluded that targeting GABA helps the brain re-map its neural pathways, which enhances motor recovery. Targeting GABA is therefore a possible treatment in post-stroke recovery.

My personal experience with GABA

I love taking a GABA supplement and the benefits it proposes. It enhances my cognitive function and ensures that my brain is in optimal health. This study is more supporting evidence that brain supplements can be life changing to people all across the globe.

 

 

Sources:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21048709

Amino Acid Taurine Prevents Diabetic Kidney Disease

More evidence on the preventive effect of the amino acid taurine. S Lin, J Yang et al, from Shenyang Agricultural University, China, published some great news for diabetics. They developed an animal study to test the preventive effect of taurine on the kidney disease known as diabetic nephropathy. This may be the light at the end of the tunnel for many diabetics.

Taurine is known to have some preventive effects on type 2 diabetes and its complications, but can it also prevent the kidney disease diabetic nephropathy? Rates of type 2 diabetes have risen over the past few decades, just as obesity rates have increased. This is no coincidence, as obesity is one of the main risk factors for developing diabetes.

Diabetic nephropathy is caused by longstanding diabetes. It’s a disease of the blood vessels in the kidneys. It’s one of the most difficult diabetic complications to treat, and can lead to chronic renal failure. Kidney dialysis is often the only possible treatment, and even then diabetic patients are 17 times more likely to die of renal failure than non-diabetic patients.

Preventing the kidney disease diabetic nephropathy is therefore a very urgent issue.

Can the amino acid taurine prevent diabetic kidney disease?

The amino acid taurine is the building block of all the other amino acids. It’s the most abundant amino acid in our bodies, and has some preventive and even curative effects on diabetes. The researchers in this trial tested its effects on diabetic rats.

One hundred and ten rats were given various concentrations of taurine for the ten week trial, and their blood was tested for blood glucose, cholesterol, and lipid metabolism.

High blood glucose results in many diabetic complications, as nerve endings and small blood vessels are damaged.  Taurine was shown to decrease blood glucose.

Lipid metabolism disorder is another complication of diabetes. Great news: results indicated that taurine significantly decreased blood fat, and improved lipid metabolism.

The preventive effects of taurine were proven in this trial. Blood glucose was decreased, lipid metabolism improved, and kidney function increased. This gives very positive hopes for taurine to be used in more treatments for diabetes.

Sources:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20804623

Amino Acid: Glutamate in Stroke Treatment

Preventing brain damage after stroke is the primary goal for stroke treatment. Understanding the balance of brain chemicals—which include amino acids like glutamate (salt/ester of glutamic acid)—can help scientists develop new, successful treatments for stroke. 

Stroke is the second leading cause of death worldwide. This dangerous condition occurs when the supply of blood to the brain is disturbed. With ischemic strokes, blood supply is decreased (possibly by a blood clot), and rapidly leads to loss of brain function. Stroke can lead to permanent brain damage, when the neurons in the brain are destroyed.

Neurons are nerve cells which transmit information in our central nervous system, which includes our brain. Neuroprotection is the name for treatments which prevent, or slow, the progression of stroke by preventing the loss of neurons. It is also used to treat other central nervous system disorders, including neurodegenerative diseases, traumatic brain injury, and spinal cord injury.

Dr. Myron Ginsberg published an interesting review on ischemic stroke in Neuropharmacology. Dr. Ginsberg, from the Department of Neurology, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, in Miami, Florida, covered many experimental neuroprotective treatments, including glutamate antagonism.

The role of glutamate role in treatment for stroke

The amino acid glutamate—sometimes known as or associated with glutamic acid—is one of our brain’s our main excitatory neurotransmitters. Glutamate is involved in cognitive functions such as learning and memory.  But with stroke, excess glutamate can accumulate in the brain. This allows calcium ions to enter the cells. This process is called excitotoxicity, and it causes neuron damage and brain cell death.

Glutamate and other excitatory amino acids interact with receptor-classes, such as N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA). Animal studies suggest that treatments which block NMDA receptors could be successful in preventing brain damage after stroke, but only with very early administration. Human trials have not yet been completed.

As further research continues into the role of neurotransmitting amino acids and stroke, it’s possible that a successful neuroprotective treatment using glutamate could be developed.

Sources:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2631228/?report=classic

Arginine for Inflammation and Erectile Dysfunction

For men, arginine may pose as almost a miracle amino acid for inflammation and erectile dysfunction, but one should be wary that arginine combined with other amino acids, protein, and lifestyle changes are more likely the answer.

Arginine, has been getting a lot of attention for it can be an amazing anti-aging amino acid. It also may be useful for graying hair, loss of hair, heart disease, preventing heart failure, and possibly inflammation.

This is where pieces of the arginine amino acid puzzle starts to thicken.  Inflammation and erectile dysfunction are two problems often linked together as exemplified by the article “Reduction of Inflammation Improves Endothelial Function and ED” whereby “minimizing infection and inflammation throughout the body, including avoiding fat accumulation, should improve both vascular and erectile health.”

The link may be attributed to arginine being needed by the body to make nitric oxide.

Because nitric oxide is crucial for maintaining healthy blood pressure, it also helps prevent atherosclerosis, and plays a role in modulating immune system function. In addition, nitric oxide regulates several processes in the body, including fat and glucose metabolism.

Researchers found that inhibiting nitric oxide production was associated with fat gain while stimulating nitric oxide secretion was correlated with enhanced lipolysis, or fat breakdown, according to research published in the September 2006 issue of the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry.

The best part about nitric oxide is that it is readily available on a sunny day.

Is Nitric Oxide the Cure for Inflammation and ED?

There is some strong evidence that indicates nitric oxide may help both inflammation and ED. In the study, “Role of Nitric Oxide in Inflammatory Diseases” they concluded NO (nitric oxide) inhibitors “represent important therapeutic advance in the management of inflammatory diseases”.

Additionally, the amino acid L-arginine stimulates nitric oxide, which releases “growth hormone, insulin, and other substances in the body.” Prescription drugs also may contribute to maintain the nitric oxide in the body, which can also help prevent erectile dysfunction.

In conclusion, when it comes to adults, and particularly men of industrialized countries, the issue may not be so much about consuming enough protein and amino acids, the concern might be to see the bigger picture and rooting out the problem of inflammation and erectile dysfunction, instead of just ‘curing’ this challenge with a quick fix. Certainly stress is one factor, lack of sleep another, but also being mindful of our diets and exercise.

References:

http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/761122_18

http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2013/07/15/sun-exposure.aspx

http://www.livestrong.com/article/233939-l-arginine-weight-loss/

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18236016

http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-875-L-ARGININE.aspx?activeIngredientId=875&activeIngredientName=L-ARGININE

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?

Can threonine-encoding alleles reduce triglyceride levels?

High levels of triglycerides and triglyceride-rich lipoproteins are significant risk factors for cardiovascular diseases. Prevention plans to lower risk include reducing dietary total and saturated fat, but since lifestyle and genetics also play significant roles in developing heart diseases, researchers at the University of Minnesota examined the genetic variations in fatty acid binding proteins and lipid metabolism. Fatty acid binding protein 2 (FABP2) relates absorption and transportation of long chain fatty acids in the intestine. At codon 54 of FABP2, a DNA variation occurs where amino acid alanine is substituted with threonine in the protein. 

This allele of threonine at codon 54 (Thr54) can transport a greater amount of fatty acids than alanine, across the intestine into the plasma. Recent studies have found that the threonine allele have higher fasting plasma triglycerides than alanine variants.

Researchers Steven McColley, Angeliki Georgopoulos, Lindsay Young, Mindy Kurzer, Bruce Redmon and Susan Raatz hypothesize that a high-fat diet would reduce triglyceride-rich lipoproteins (TRL) and the threonine-encoding allele (Thr54) would respond by changing the transportation rate. Lipoproteins are the biochemical compounds containing both proteins and lipids that help transport fat inside and outside cells. One of their main functions is to emulsify fat molecules.

The effect of threonine-encoding alleles on triglyceride-rich lipoproteins

For the crossover study, the researchers used 16 healthy postmenopausal women as participants. The participants would undergo three different 8-week isoenergetic diet treatments: high fat, low fat, and low fat plus n-3 fatty acids.

The high fat treatment consisted of a diet where 40% of energy consumed is fat, the low fat treatment consisted of a diet where 20% of energy consumed is fat, and the low-fat plus n-3 fatty acids consisted of a diet where 20% of energy consumed is fat plus 3% as omega-3 fatty acids.

The treatments were assigned in a random order with a regular diet given 6-12 weeks between conditions. Blood samples were collected throughout the process to evaluate triglyceride levels and DNA analysis.

After assessing the data, researchers McColley et al. found that carriers of the Thr54 allele had significantly lower plasma triglycerides, chylomicron triglycerides, very low density lipoprotein and chylomicron remnant triglycerides after taking part in a high-fat diet. Participants with the Ala54 allele (alanine) did not demonstrate significant changes from baseline with any of the diets.

Source:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3156623/

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

L-Carnitine Supplement Could Treat Heart Disease

An animal study has identified a potential new therapeutic option for treating cardiac fibrosis: L-carnitine supplementation. Could L-carnitine prevent the development of heart failure?

Researchers (Y Omori, T Ohtani, et al), at the Department of Cardiovascular Medicine, Osaka University Graduate School of Medicine, Japan, developed an animal study to analyze potential new treatments for heart failure—specifically heart failure with preserved ejection fraction (HFpEF) in hypertensive heart disease.

Hypertensive heart disease is caused by hypertension, or high blood pressure. Hypertensive heart disease with heart failure is a serious condition, which can lead to ischemic heart disease and heart attacks. Heart disease is leading cause of death worldwide, according to the World Health Organization.

The researchers were aware that prognosis of heart failure with preserved ejection fraction is poor. They knew that hypertension causes decreased free-carnitine levels in the heart. Would L-carnitine supplements have an effect?

Carnitine is a non-essential amino acid, synthesized in the human body from the amino acids lysine and methionine. Carnitine is also found in food, especially red meat and dairy products. L-carnitine is simply the biologically-active form of carnitine.

Carnitine has a substantial antioxidant effect, which greatly benefits health by preventing free radical damage. The researchers hoped that the carnitine supplements would also combat hypertension.

L-carnitine treatment and heart failure study

Rats were given a high-salt diet, which models hypertensive heart failure. Their free carnitine levels were measured, and were found to be low in the left ventricle of the heart. The rats were then given L-carnitine supplements.

This L-carnitine treatment had a significant impact. It restored the levels of carnitine in the chambers of the heart, and even reversed fibrosis. Cardiac fibrosis is a thickening of the heart valves, which is often found in heart failure.

The affect L-carnitine has on reversing, or thinning, the level of cardiac fibrosis means that L-carnitine could become a therapeutic option for treating hypertensive heart disease in the future.

Sources:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22796714