AUTHOR Dr. Carlos Orozco (BSc, MSc, ND, MD, PhD, FPAMS).
Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins. They are divided into essential and non-essential amino acids. The 12 non-essential amino acids are produced by the human body:
Functions of non-essential amino acids
The following list includes the 12 non-essential amino acids. Included is a some of the functions and benefits and side effects (if any) of the amino acids.
Amino acids are molecular structures that work together to build proteins in the body, vital for its proper function. Non-essential amino acids are those that can be synthesized by the body and are different from essential amino acids that are obtained from food. The term ‘nonessential’ does not infer that those amino acids are any less important, however. The body is simply capable of creating them on its own; therefore it is not necessary for it to attain them from an outside source. These nonessential amino acids serve many functions to create optimal health.
During exercise, muscle tissue breaks down and toxins are released. Alanine works to remove these toxins so the liver is able to metabolize them and eliminate them from the body. Alanine may also help to keep healthy cholesterol levels.
A requirement in amino acid transformation, asparagine helps the nervous system maintain its equilibrium. It also acts as a detoxifier in the system and regulates metabolism.
Similar to asparagine, the aspartic acid helps to elevate metabolic levels. Due to its effect on cellular energy, it is sometimes used to combat fatigue and depression. Aspartic acid also acts as a synthesizer for other amino acids.
Like alanine, cysteine works as a detoxifier in the body, but also performs as an antioxidant, combating free-radicals. It also strengthens stomach lining and is essential to healthy hair, skin, and nails.
Created from the formation of two cysteine molecules, and therefore regarded as a more stable amino acid, cystine also works as a powerful antioxidant and helps to form strong connective tissues. Cystine is one of the amino acids responsible for the creation of glutathione, a vital liver detoxifier, and has been used in topical treatments to maintain youthful-looking skin.
Also aiding in the production of glutathione, glutamine is the most abundant amino acid in the bloodstream. Proper brain function and digestion require glutamine as does the immune system. Studies have also shown glutamine may possibly help to suppress hunger.
Made up of cystine, glutamine and glycine, glutathione is an amino acid that is found within all cells and affects virtually every system in the body. It has anti-aging properties, improves brain function and protects cells from oxidative stress. Glutathione may also lower blood pressure, improve sperm count in males and help in the treatment of certain types of cancer.
A glucogenic amino acid, glycine supplies beneficial glucose the body needs for energy. It is essential for proper cell growth and function, and is also crucial to digestive health. Glycine makes up a large portion of collagen which helps skin retain its elasticity and healing properties.
Important in the production of red and white blood cells, histidine helps to repair body tissue. Histamine is produced by histidine during an allergic reaction, and also is responsible for sexual arousal. Like many other amino acids, histidine is also a detoxifier.
In order for the body to create new, healthy cells, it produces proline. This amino acid helps in the regeneration of skin and helps to reduce sagging and wrinkles. Also a proponent of collagen and cartilage, proline helps keep muscles and joints pliable.
Also derived from glycine, serine is essential to brain function, particularly the chemicals that determine mood and mental stability. Serine, found in all cell membranes, also aids in muscle formation and immune health.
Like glutamine, Taurine is a free amino acid that travels through the bloodstream and is also a detoxifier and digestion aid. It has also been shown to improve brain function and athletic performance.
A protein balance in the body, threonine helps to form tooth enamel, stabilize blood sugar levels and assists in healthy liver function. It also acts as a stress reducer and skin rebuilder.
Sources of Non-Essential Amino Acids
Although these nonessential amino acids are readily available in a healthy human body, they can also be found in whole foods like nuts, grains, meats, fruits, and vegetables, or can be added to the body through supplements should there be a deficiency.
The essential amino acids are not produced by the body and therefore they need to be taken from a food source.