Amino acids are a vital component to good health and play many important roles in the human body.  They build cells, help produce enzymes and hormones, form antibodies to fight bacteria and viruses and help with tissue repair.   Heavily researched for their effects on health and wellness, it has been shown that amino acids support weight loss, metabolism, heart health and more!

Considered to be the building blocks of protein, there are twenty (or possibly more) amino acids that combine in varying chains to form roughly 50,000 different proteins within the body.  They are responsible for three quarters of human body mass, which means every part of the body depends on amino acids for good health.

The human body naturally produces ten amino acids called non-essential amino acids. These are alanine, asparagine, aspartic acid, cysteine, glutamic acid, glutamine, glycine, proline, serine and tyrosine.

There are ten essential amino acids that adult bodies do not produce – these must be supplied by the daily diet.  They are arganine (required only by children), histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan and valine.  As opposed to fats and carbohydrates, the body does not store excess amino acids for later use – they must be ingested daily.

With information being released regularly on the positive health effects of amino acids, supplementation has become a popular practice.  Here are a few amino acids often used as a natural alternative to prescription drugs.

Carnitine for Weight Loss, Metabolism and Memory
It has yet to be determined whether carnitine is technically an amino acid.  Derived primarily from meat and dairy foods, carnatine looks and behaves like an amino acid, and it is known for its ability to improve metabolism and act as a fat catalyst.  This means it transports fat molecules to cells for conversion to energy.

Many researchers are interested in carnitine as a natural remedy for weight loss.  It is also being studied for energy boosting effects, specifically in people suffering from long-term ailments. The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine is currently looking to see if carnitine can boost the energy levels of patients undergoing cancer treatment.

Carnitine may also have potential as a natural treatment to enhance memory, especially in combination with acetic acid.  Many studies have suggested that the pairing (acetyl-L-carnitine) reduces symptoms of early Alzheimer’s disease, particularly in people under 65 years of age.

Arginine for heart and sexual health
This amino acid raises levels of nitric oxide which improves blood flow, enhances arterial pliability and expands blood vessels.  According to a few small studies, supplementation with arginine resulted in improved symptoms of congestive heart failure.  Other research suggests that arganine may reduce cholesterol and blood pressure in those with mild hypertension.

New studies are examining arginine as a natural supplement to replace Viagra for treating impotence in men and as a natural treatment for sexual dysfunction in women.  One blind study looked at 50 men with erectile dysfunction.  Half of them took five grams of arginine per day while the other half took a placebo.  After six weeks, more men in the “arganine” group reported enhanced sexual performance. A similar study examining postmenopausal women with low libido levels found that a group taking six grams of arginine per day as opposed to a placebo reported a greater improvement in sexual response than the placebo group.   It is important to note that raising nitric oxide levels can be dangerous for people with kidney disease or cancer, and it can trigger outbreaks in people who have herpes virus.

These are just two amino acids that are said to enhance human health.  Other healthful amino acids are glutamine, which helps protect the muscles and taurine, which boosts energy levels in the body.  Also, GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid derived from glutamic acid) is said to help relieve anxiety.  If you are looking to improve health in any of the areas above, it might be wise to further investigate amino acids as a natural treatment.

Note:  Many experts recommend alternation with supplemental amino acids to avoid imbalance.  Therefore, always consult a health-care provider before using.  Also, as some amino acids (aspartic acid, glutamic acid and homocysteine) are toxic in large quantities, always follow recommended dosages.