Amino acids are organic compounds that serve as the building blocks of proteins in our body. There are twenty (20) amino acids and they are categorized into two main groups: Essential and non-essential amino acids.
This classification is based on their nutritional aspects and how we require them to make up different proteins found throughout the body. Each of these grouped amino acids differs from each other by their unique side chains bonded to the center carbon atom.
DISTINGUISHING ESSENTIAL AND NON-ESSENTIAL AMINO ACIDS.
Essential amino acids are in other words called “Indispensable amino acids” because the human body cannot do without them. They must be acquired through proper diet as they cannot be produced or synthesized by the body.
Out of twenty (20) amino acids, Nine (9) of them are essential amino acids and they include:
Non-essential amino acids are also known as the “dispensable amino acids” because they can be produced by the body and can ultimately be excluded from our diets. Eleven (11) out of 20 amino acids makes up the non-essential amino acids and they include:
- Aspartic acid
- Glutamic acid
The human body can synthesize non-essential amino acids from essential amino acids. A typical example is the conversion of excess phenylalanine in the body into tyrosine through an enzyme- phenylalanine hydroxylase.
However, there is a case of considering non-essential amino acids like Arginine, cysteine, glutamine, tyrosine, glycine, proline and serine to be conditionally-essential amino acids because the body cannot synthesize them in sufficient quantities for individuals in certain health conditions and during physiological period of growth such as: Infancy, injury or (surgeries), pregnancy and recovery from trauma.
An example of a condition when a non-essential amino acid becomes essential is the disease called phenylketonuria disease (PKU).
FACTS ABOUT ESSENTIAL AND NON-ESSENTIAL AMINO ACIDS.
Essential and non-essential amino acids are all important in the body in their required amounts. Their distinct features are further broken down into ten (10) substantial views to enable you understand the place of these protein building blocks in your overall health.
However, the classification of essential and non-essential amino acids can vary depending on specific conditions.
|ESSENTIAL AMINO ACIDS
|NON-ESSENTIAL AMINO ACIDS
|1. Essential amino acids are a group of nine amino acids that are important to human health and must be obtained through diet.
|Non-essential amino acids are a group of eleven amino acids that the body can synthesize on its own, hence there is no need to obtain them through diet.
|2. They play a crucial role in protein synthesis and various physiological processes which are needed for growth, repair, and maintenance of tissues in the body.
|They are involved in a wide range of physiological processes, as they participate in energy metabolism, immune function and tissue repair.
|3. Some essential amino acids have specific functions. For example, Tryptophan acts as a precursor for the neurotransmitter serotonin, which regulates mood and sleep, while Lysine is necessary for collagen production and calcium absorption.
|Non- essential amino acids can be obtained from diet or through supplements in conditions where their production may be insufficient due to inability of the body to synthesize them.
|4. Essential amino acids can be got in sufficient amounts from Animal-based protein sources such as: meat, fish, eggs and diary products. Also from plant-based protein sources such as: legumes, grains, nuts and seeds, which can be combined to give a complete protein.
|They can be derived from various food sources. For example, alanine can be found in meat, fish, diary products and legumes. Glutamine is abundant in protein-rich foods such as beef, chicken, fish, diary and legumes.
|5. Inadequate intake of essential amino acids can lead to protein deficiency such as Marasmus and Kwashiorkor.
|Some non-essential amino acids have specific functions. For instance, arginine is involved in the synthesis of nitric oxide, a molecule that regulates blood flow and blood pressure. Glutamine is essential for the function of immune cells and intestinal health.
|6.Essential amino acids are not stored in the body, so they need to be consumed regularly to meet the body’s requirements.
|They can be conditionally essential under circumstances where the body may not be able to provide sufficient amounts to meet its needs.
|7. They can be obtained from variety of dietary sources. Excellent sources of essential amino acids include: lean meats, fish, poultry, eggs, diary products, chia seeds, hemp seeds, soy products, quinoa and buckwheat.
|Non-essential amino acid can be synthesized in the body through various biochemical pathways. For example, Glutamine can be synthesized from glutamic acid through a process called amidation. Alanine can be produced from pyruvate, a product of glucose metabolism.
|8. Vegetarians and vegans can meet their essential amino acid needs by consuming a variety of plant-based protein sources, combined with complementary proteins. A typical example is combining legumes (e.g., beans, lentils) with grains (e.g., rice, wheat).
|Even though non-essential amino acids can generally be synthesized by the body, their availability and production can be influenced by dietary factors.
|9. The recommended daily intake of essential amino acids varies depending on factors such as age, sex, weight and activity level.
|Some people may have higher requirements or decreased synthesis capabilities for non-essential amino acids.
|10. Athletes and individuals engaged in intense physical activity may have higher protein requirements, including essential amino acids, to support muscle recovery and growth. Protein supplements like whey protein, casein protein or plant-based protein powders can be used to meet these increased needs.
|Although they are not required from the diet, a balanced diet that includes all essential and non-essential amino acids is crucial for optimal functioning of the body.
Essential amino acids cannot be produced from the body and must be obtained from diets, while non-essential amino acids can be synthesized in the body and in some cases are conditionally essential.
This shows that a balanced diet that includes a variety of protein sources is important to ensure an adequate intake of all essential and non-essential amino acids.
The impact of essential and non-essential amino acids in our overall health can never be overemphasized. They are different from one another yet they come together to form a strong bond and carry out most physiological functions in our body.