What is Amino Acid? What are its harms?
Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins, which are essential for the growth, repair, and maintenance of tissues in the body. There are 20 different types of amino acids that can be found in proteins, each with a unique chemical structure and function. Amino acids are also involved in the production of hormones, enzymes, and neurotransmitters, and play a crucial role in the metabolism of nutrients.
While amino acids are essential for the proper functioning of the body, there are some potential harms associated with their consumption. In this article, we will explore what amino acids are, how they are used in the body, and what potential harms they may pose.
What are Amino Acids?
Amino acids are organic compounds that contain an amino group (-NH2) and a carboxyl group (-COOH) attached to a central carbon atom. The side chain of each amino acid is what gives it its unique chemical properties and determines its function in the body.
There are two types of amino acids: essential and non-essential. Essential amino acids cannot be synthesized by the body and must be obtained through the diet. Non-essential amino acids can be synthesized by the body and do not need to be obtained through the diet.
The 20 different types of amino acids can be classified into three categories based on their side chain properties: non-polar, polar, and charged. Non-polar amino acids have hydrophobic side chains and are typically found in the interior of proteins. Polar amino acids have hydrophilic side chains and are typically found on the surface of proteins. Charged amino acids have either a positive or negative charge and are involved in protein-protein interactions and enzyme catalysis.
How are Amino Acids Used in the Body?
Amino acids are used in the body to build proteins, which are essential for the growth, repair, and maintenance of tissues. When proteins are broken down during digestion, the amino acids are absorbed into the bloodstream and transported to the liver. The liver then converts the amino acids into glucose, which can be used for energy, or into other amino acids, which can be used to build new proteins.
Amino acids are also involved in the production of hormones, enzymes, and neurotransmitters. For example, the amino acid tryptophan is used to produce serotonin, a neurotransmitter that regulates mood, appetite, and sleep. The amino acid tyrosine is used to produce dopamine, a neurotransmitter that is involved in motivation, reward, and pleasure.
What are the Harms of Amino Acids?
While amino acids are essential for the proper functioning of the body, there are some potential harms associated with their consumption. Here are some of the potential harms of amino acids:
1. Kidney Damage
Excessive consumption of amino acids can put a strain on the kidneys, which are responsible for filtering waste products from the blood. When the kidneys are overloaded with amino acids, they may not be able to remove all of the waste products, which can lead to kidney damage over time.
2. Digestive Problems
Consuming large amounts of amino acids can also cause digestive problems, such as nausea, diarrhea, and bloating. This is because the body may not be able to digest and absorb all of the amino acids, which can lead to an imbalance in the gut microbiome.
3. Allergic Reactions
Some people may be allergic to certain amino acids, such as phenylalanine, which is found in aspartame, a common artificial sweetener. Allergic reactions to amino acids can range from mild to severe and may include symptoms such as hives, swelling, and difficulty breathing.
4. Interference with Medications
Some amino acids can interfere with the absorption and effectiveness of certain medications. For example, the amino acid tyrosine can interfere with the absorption of levodopa, a medication used to treat Parkinson’s disease.
5. Increased Risk of Cancer
Some studies have suggested that high levels of certain amino acids, such as methionine, may increase the risk of cancer. This is because methionine is involved in the production of a compound called homocysteine, which has been linked to an increased risk of cancer.
Amino acids are essential for the proper functioning of the body and play a crucial role in the growth, repair, and maintenance of tissues. However, excessive consumption of amino acids can lead to kidney damage, digestive problems, allergic reactions, interference with medications, and an increased risk of cancer. It is important to consume amino acids in moderation and to consult with a healthcare professional before taking any amino acid supplements.