Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Amino Acids Part I

General structure of L -amino acidsImage via Wikipedia
Amino acids are critical to life, and have a variety of roles in metabolism. One particularly important function is as the building blocks of proteins,  which are linear chains of amino acids. Every protein is chemically defined by this primary structure, its unique sequence of amino acid residues, which in turn define the three-dimensional structure of the protein. Just as the letters of the alphabet can be combined to form an almost endless variety of words, amino acids can be linked together in varying sequences to form a vast variety of proteins.
Amino acids are very important in nutrition.Humans can produce 10 of the 20 amino acids. 
The others must be supplied in the food. Failure to obtain enough of even 1 of the 10 essential amino acids, those that we cannot make, results in degradation of the body's proteins—muscle and so forth—to obtain the one amino acid that is needed. Unlike fat and starch, the human  body does not store excess amino acids for later use—the amino acids must be in the food every day.
The 10 amino acids that we can produce are alanine, asparagine, aspartic acid, cysteine, glutamic acid, glutamine, glycine, proline, serine and tyrosine. Tyrosine is produced from phenylalanine, so if the diet is deficient in phenylalanine, tyrosine will be required as well. The essential amino acids are arginine (required  for the young, but not for adults), histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine. These amino acids are required in the diet. Plants, of course, must be able to make all the amino acids. Humans, on the other hand, do not have all the enzymes required for the biosynthesis of all of the amino acids.
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