20 Amino Acids that Make Up Proteins

Roughly 500 amino acids have been identified in nature, but just 20 amino acids make up the proteins found in the human body. Learn about these 20 amino acids.

BCAA (valine, leucine and isoleucine)

Branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) are a group of three amino acids (valine, leucine and isoleucine) that have a molecular structure with a branch. BCAAs are plentiful in muscle proteins, stimulate muscle growth in the body and provide energy during exercise.

Glutamine

Glutamine is one of the most common amino acids in the body. Glutamine protects the stomach and gastrointestinal tract. In particular, glutamine is used to produce energy for the gastrointestinal tract. Glutamine promotes the metabolization of alcohol to protect the liver.

Aspartate

Aspartate is one of the amino acids that is most usable for energy. Aspartate is one of the amino acids positioned most closely to the tricarboxylic acid (TCA) cycle in the body that produces energy. The TCA cycle is like the engine that powers cars. Each cell in our bodies functions to produce energy.

Glutamate

The kombu stock used in Japanese cooking contains glutamate. Glutamate is the base of umami and free glutamates are found in kombu, tomatoes and cheese. Inside the body, glutamate is utilized as an important source of essential amino acids.

Arginine

Arginine plays an important role in opening up the veins to enhance blood flow. Nitric oxide that opens up the veins is made from arginine. Arginine is a useful amino acid for removing excess ammonia from the body. Arginine increases immunity.

Alanine

Alanine supports function of the liver. Alanine is used to make glucose that are needed by the body. Alanine improves the metabolization of alcohol.

Proline

Proline is one of the amino acids contained in collagen that makes up skin tissue. Proline is one of the most important amino acids to the natural moisturizing factor (NMF) that keeps skin moist.

Cysteine

Cysteine reduces the amount of black melanin pigmentation made. Cysteine is plentiful in head hair and body hair. ysteine increases the amount of yellow melanin made instead of black melanin.

Lysine

Lysine is one of the most commonly mentioned essential amino acids. Foods such as bread and rice tend to be low in lysine. For example, compared to an ideal amino acid composition, wheat is low in lysine. The United Nations University carried out the research about people in developing countries where they depend on wheat for protein, and found out the lack of lysine in their diet. Not having enough lysine and other amino acids can lead to serious problems such as stunted growth and severe illness.

Threonine

An essential amino acid that is used to make the active site of enzymes.

Asparagine

An amino acid that was discovered from asparagus. Both asparagine and Aspartate are positioned close to the tricarboxylic acid (TCA) cycle that produces energy.

Phenylalanine

An essential amino acid that is used to make many types of useful amines.

Serine

An amino acid used to make phospholipids and glyceric acid.

Methionine

An essential amino acid that is used to make many different substances needed in the body.

Glycine

A non-essential amino acid that is made in the body. Glycine is plentiful in the body. It acts as a transmitter in the central nervous system and helps regulate body functions such as locomotion and sensory perception. Glycine makes up one-third of collagen.

Tyrosine

Tyrosine is used to make many types of useful amines. Tyrosine is grouped as an aromatic amino acid together with phenylalanine and tryptophan.

Histidine

An essential amino acid that is used to make histamine.

Tryptophan

An essential amino acid used to make many types of useful amines.


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