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Glutamine Deprivation May Slow Pancreatic Cancer

Tumor growth in pancreatic cancer patients may be slowed using glutamine. Glutamine is an amino acid, which is one of the building blocks of proteins. Although it is typically considered a non-essential amino acid (meaning the body may make it on its own), glutamine is technically a conditionally essential amino acid. The term “essential” means that it must be gotten through the diet, so this amino acid is—in certain circumstances—acquired via intake of food.

Glutamine, which is the most abundant amino acid in the human body, plays a role in cancer tumor growth; so depriving the cancer cells of glutamine may hold the key to slowing the spread of cancer of the pancreas, a study shows.

Study on pancreatic tumor growth and glutamine

At the Division of Genomic Stability and DNA Repair, Department of Radiation Oncology (part of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute) in Boston, Massachusetts, a group of researchers and doctors, J Son, CA Lyssiotis, et al., have investigated just how the amino acid glutamine is involved with the KRAS-regulated metabolic pathway, which is part of the cause of tumor growth within the pancreas itself.

The researchers studied the metabolism of cancer cells and glutamine dependencies since, unlike normal cells, the cells within cancer tumors maintain their own type of metabolism. They said that “an increased use of the amino acid glutamine to fuel anabolic processes. Indeed, the spectrum of glutamine-dependent tumors and the mechanisms whereby glutamine supports cancer metabolism remain areas of active investigation.”

Because human pancreatic cells use a non-standard pathway, which identifies ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) cells, most cells use “glutamate dehydrogenase (GLUD1) to convert glutamine-derived glutamate.” What this means is that the PDAC cells “are strongly dependent … as glutamine deprivation or genetic inhibition of any enzyme in this pathway leads to [a] series of reactions [that] results in a pronounced suppression of PDAC growth in vitro and in vivo.”

The scientists established that because the glutamine metabolism is reprogrammed and “mediated by oncogenic KRAS, the signature genetic alteration in PDAC [represses] key metabolic enzymes in this pathway.”

With the PDAC pathway and pancreatic cells being dispensable, the glutamine in normal cells then becomes a possible new therapeutic approach in treating pancreatic tumors in humans. Hopefully more will be forthcoming on this new technique in the near future.



Chronic Liver Disease Shows Amino Acid-Sulphur Deficiency

Turns out that your liver can benefit from the sulphur-containing amino acids methionine and cysteine. Health benefits of amino acids such as these are excellent, but this is especially true for those with liver disease. As it turns out, those with chronic liver disease actually show a pattern of sulphur deficiency, so both cysteine and methionine may help with this.

Advanced liver disease and methionine / cysteine amino acids

In advanced or chronic liver disease, the metabolism of the sulphur-containing aminos, such as methionine and cysteine, are is impaired (no difference in the amino acid taurine, however).

In a study by P Almasio, G Bianchi, et al., at the Clinica Medica R, Università di Palermo, in Italy, the researchers published their discoveries based on 60 people who had chronic liver disease. The results show a pattern of amino acid deficiency in these patients.

10 of the subjects were used a control because they were healthy, but the other 50 patients had chronic liver disease, which was proven via biopsy.

The breakdown of their liver disease impairments

Hypermethioninemia (an extreme amount of methionine) was present in only these cases:

10 cases compensated cirrhosis
10 cases decompensated cirrhosis

Plus there were:

30 cases chronic hepatitis

The results of this clinical trial showed cysteine, a metabolite of methionine metabolism, was “markedly reduced in patients with compensated chronic liver disease, while in advanced cirrhosis its concentration was within the normal range.”

Methionine is an essential amino acid, which means you can only get it through diet, particularly protein foods such as meats (chicken, beef, pork, lamb, plus fish and eggs). Also, cysteine is a non-essential amino acid, which means the body can produce this amino acid on its own. No differences were observed (in plasma levels) for the amino acid taurine between groups.

What was observed was how sulfur-containing amino acid metabolism was deranged and “possibly located at various steps along the trans-sulphuration pathway, is also present in mild forms of chronic liver disease.”

What this means is that a key marker for those with chronic liver disease is that sulphur-containing amino acids are deficient. This can be true for people suffering from decompensated cirrhosis), or hepatitis.

The study did not explain whether supplementing intake with cysteine or methionine would affect the—chronic liver disease–patients in a positive way or not, but it is good to know that both of these amino acids are in ample amounts when associated with healthy livers, yet levels are abnormal in diseased livers.



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.




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.







Part 1: Alzheimer’s Prevention? Special Foods and Cysteine and Glutathione Levels

The amino acids cysteine and glutathione play a role, it seems, in preventing the onset of Alzheimer’s. Evidently, according to a study by SS Karuppagounder, JT Pinto, et al., in their study on “Dietary supplementation with resveratrol reduces plaque pathology in a transgenic model of Alzheimer’s disease” from the Department of Neurology and Neurosciences, at the Burke Medical Research Institute, in White Plains, New York, the amino acid levels of cysteine and glutathione are affected in Alzheimer’s patients by the same types of chemopreventive agents (cancer-preventing foods) that cancer patients would eat to help prevent cancer.

One food constituent in particular was studied by the researchers—Resveratrol. Resveratrol is a polyphenol that is found in peanuts, pomegranates, soybeans, and especially red wine. People have heard for years about resveratrol being good for the heart, but evidently it is good for the brain as well, including other neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease.

Even though resveratrol was fed to the hosts for forty-five days, it was not detectable in the brain, yet plaque formation in the regions of the brain were diminished. The majority of the diminished brain-plaques were “observed in medial cortex (-48%), striatum (-89%) and hypothalamus (-90%). … However, brain glutathione declined 21% and brain cysteine increased 54%.”

Cysteine and Glutathione’s role in chemopreventive agents

There is a list of foods, called chemopreventive agents, which help prevent cancer, that also may help with oxidative stress, destroying free radicals that also cause DNA damage, or help prevent plaques in the brain of people who may otherwise be developing Alzheimer’s disease (AD). I will cover some of these agents first:

According to one source, there are two such agents that have carcinogen-detoxifying activity that “might be achieved by combination of an agent such as N-acetyl-l-cysteine (NAC), which provides substrate for glutathione (GSH) synthesis, with agents such as oltipraz or garlic/onion disulfides, which enhance GSH S-transferases (GST).”

The food constituents will be listed further in our next section…

CONTINUE TO Part 2: Alzheimer’s Prevention? Special Foods and Cysteine and Glutathione Levels 






Glutamate and GABA and How They Relate to Seizures

What do Glutamate, GABA, and Glutamine have in common? The former two amino acid have antiseizure properties, but although L-glutamine is an amino acid, it is sometimes confused with glutamate. What is the difference and how do these relate to seizures?

GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) is a non-essential amino acid used for aiding sleep and anti-anxiety or seizures.

Glutamate (glutamic acid) is a proteinogenic non-essential amino acid and is an important neurotransmitter and is connected to seizures. I will go into this more later.

Glutamine is a conditionally essential amino acid and also the most abundantly fee amino acid. Glutamine is often used for treating trauma, burns, and for wound healing, but not necessarily for seizures.

Now that we know what glutamine is, we will move on to GABA and glutamate and how they have the role of being antiseizure agents.

GABA and glutamate for treating seizures

According to Dr. J., glutamic acid (glutamate) is the principal neurotransmitter, but that “MSG (monosodium glutamate), whose parent protein is glutamic acid, is used as a flavor enhancer due to it neurostimulating effect on the taste buds. When it reaches the brain, it induces migraines, seizures, the ‘MSG rush’, and lowers the pain threshold (e.g. people with fibromyalgia or other chronic pain syndromes).”

In cases of epilepsy, Dr. J. reports that one woman stopped seizing once on The GARD (Glutamate & Aspartate Restricted Diet) only after she stopped eating cashews, which are known to be a source of glutamate. He says, “It is ‘interesting’ that some of the new anticonvulsants work by blocking glutamate.”

GABA is well known as the amino acid with GABAergic and GABA receptor properties and is consistently correlated with reduced functional responses, which is why it is used to help induce sleep, relaxation, is anti-anxiety and antiseizure in its effects.

In a study called “Associations of regional GABA and glutamate with intrinsic and extrinsic neural activity in humans—A review of multimodal imaging studies” the researchers Niall W. Duncan, Christine Wiebking, and Georg Northoff studied the modalities for multiple imaging of the human brain.

The researchers admit that the neurotransmitters GABA and glutamate are particularly excellent amino acids for such studies because the transmitters exist throughout the brain’s cortex in the inhibition/excitation balance, but they say, “How these transmitters underly functional responses measured with techniques such as fMRI and EEG remains unclear.” Hence, the study.

They report that the literature available showed consistent negative correlations “between GABA concentrations and stimulus-induced activity” as well as “positive correlation between glutamate concentrations and inter-regional activity relationships, both during tasks and rest.”

The scientists concluded that both biochemical and functional imaging of human brains show a combining of information, which does “require a number of key methodological and interpretive issues be addressed before can meet its potential.”

Overall, both GABA and glutamate are correlated with suppression or elimination of seizures in epileptic and other patients, but more research is needed as to just how this works.





BCAA’s: Branched-Chain Amino Acids To Treat Muscle Control

Supplements containing branched-chain amino acids are taken to treat a wide variety of conditions. They are perhaps best known for their effect on muscle formation and control, but are also often taken to improve nutrition.

Amino acids are naturally occurring molecules which combine to create protein. Protein is an essential part of our nutrition: needed for our internal organs, our brains, our muscles, and also our immune system.

We get some amino acids—essential amino acids–from food, and others—non-essential amino acids–are synthesized in our bodies. A healthy diet must contain amino acids.

Branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) are essential amino acids. They are found in meat, dairy products, eggs, soy protein, and legumes. Vegans must therefore make sure they are getting enough BCAAs if their diets do not contain any animal proteins. BCAAs are also available as supplements.

BCAA supplements for muscle control

Athletes sometimes use branched-chain amino acids to improve performance, as the amino acids prevent muscle breakdown during intense exercise.

The muscle control properties of BCAAs mean that they are also used for people with advanced liver disease. Advanced liver disease can cause a reduction in muscle control. Similarly, some antipsychotic medications affect muscle control, and BCAAs may be taken by patients to reduce these unwanted muscle movements.

BCAAs are sometimes taken by people confined to bed, as BCAAs prevent muscle wasting.

Warnings for BCAA supplements

You should not take supplements without discussing them with you doctor, particularly if you are taking any medications. Some BCAAs could interact with your medications. For example, BCAAs could lower blood sugar, which could interact with diabetes medications.

Levodopa also interacts with BCAAs, so if you are taking this drug (for example, for Parkinson’s disease) you must consult with your doctor before taking BCAA supplements.

Sources: WebMD Branched-chain amino acids

Part 2: Alzheimer’s Prevention? Special Foods and Cysteine and Glutathione Levels

CONTINUED FROM Part 1: Alzheimer’s Prevention? Special Foods and Cysteine and Glutathione Levels, where we covered the research done on Alzheimer’s patients that found Resveratrol affected cysteine and glutathione levels, raising the former, and reducing the latter, and their connection to reduced brain plaques. 

Chemopreventive agents that help cancer patients may also help Alzheimer’s patients…

Chemopreventive agents (food constituents), cysteine, and glutathione

Food-derived chemopreventive agents may help when used by normal-risk populations with long-term use. According to a study by GJ Kelloff, JA Crowell, et al., and their assessment, there are 40 promising agents and food combinations “being evaluated clinically as chemopreventive agents for major cancer targets including breast, prostate, colon and lung. Examples include green and black tea polyphenols, soy isoflavones, Bowman-Birk soy protease inhibitor, curcumin, phenethyl isothiocyanate, sulforaphane, lycopene, indole-3-carbinol, perillyl alcohol, vitamin D, vitamin E, selenium and calcium.” Many of these agents are available to purchase online from supplement vendors such as: GNC.com and Vitaminshoppe.com

Additionally, some natural sources that have anti-cancer, antioxidant, anti-tumor, antibacterial, antifungal, and anti-viral constituents includes a huge variety of medicinal mushrooms like reishi, maitake, cordyceps, shiitake, and so on. Lion’s mane mushroom (Hericium erinaceus), in particular, boasts boosting of cognitive function, memory, and learning in those who take them regularly, as well as immune-enhancing health benefits.

Many amino acids are also known to be brain food. Cysteine and glutathione were the aminos that were implicated in the first study mentioned above, although it was the higher levels of cysteine and lowered glutathione that helped the plaque in Alzheimer’s patients.

Cysteine is a semi-essential (normally listed as a non-essential) amino acid. When it is used as a food additive, it has the E number “E920”. In rare cases this amino acid may be important for infants or the elderly, or for people with malabsorption syndromes or metabolic disease. As long as enough methionine is available, cysteine can usually be synthesized by the body.

Cysteine is found in protein foods like: beef, pork, poultry, eggs, and dairy, and in lesser amounts in plant sources such as garlic, onions, broccoli, red peppers, Brussels sprouts, granola/oats, wheat germ, or lentils.

The non-essential amino acid glutathione works as an important antioxidant in animals and plants, fungi and some bacteria, as well as archaea, preventing free radicals and peroxides damage. However, glutathione is not considered an essential nutrient since it can be produced by the body (outside of food) from the amino acids L-cysteine, L-glutamic acid, as well as glycine.

Interestingly, the sulfhydryl (thiol) group of the amino acid cysteine is actually the amino acid responsible for glutathione’s activity in the body. This is why they are connected. Cysteine limits glutathione synthesis in cells since glutathione is rare in foodstuffs.

Remember that in the original study on Alzheimer’s patients and reduced brain plaque formation, it was the connection of increased cysteine and decreased glutathione that may be the link. That study, according to the researchers, “supports the concept that onset of neurodegenerative disease may be delayed or mitigated with use of dietary chemo-preventive agents that protect against beta-amyloid plaque formation and oxidative stress.”

With this in mind, be aware of the fact that chemopreventive foods like Resveratrol in red wine, or garlic, not only may help prevent cancer or improve cardiovascular health, but also are connected to a reduction in Alzheimer’s disease rates due to how it affects amino acids cysteine and glutathione levels. Please check with your doctor before altering your diet.






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






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.