Adapted from Eric Braverman's The Healing Nutrients Within
What do carnivores, vegetarians and omnivores all have in common? They all require protein in order to sustain and optimize life. Protein is the second most abundant substance in our bodies after water. It constitutes ¾ of the dry weight of most body cells. It is involved in the biochemical structure of genes, blood, tissue, muscle, collagen, skin, hair, and nails, and is a major constituent of all the many hormones, enzymes, nutrient carriers, infection-fighting antibodies, neurotransmitters and other chemical messengers in the body. This continuous process of building and regeneration is necessary for life and requires a non-stop supply of protein.
All protein is made up of different combinations of amino acids – essential or nonessential – that are consumed as part of our diet. The body breaks down these dietary proteins into individual amino acids and then reassembles them to build the specific structures needed within the body. Like carbohydrates and fat, protein is composed of hydrogen, oxygen and carbon, Yet, protein also contains nitrogen, which provides it with the ability of bodily repair and construction.
People do not realize how busy the human body is and to make it worse the need for quality protein intake often goes unrecognized in our hypercaloric environment. To illustrate, every second bone marrow makes 2.5 million red cells; every four days the lining of the gastrointestinal tract is renewed; and every 24 days a person has the equivalent of new skin. All this continuous repair work requires the building blocks of protein; amino acids.
The liver has the ability to produce about 60% of the amino acids we need, while the remaining 40% must be obtained from our diet. At present, the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for protein is between 44 to 56 grams per day. Yet, in America most people eat two to three times that amount and even vegetarians consume upwards of 80 to 100 grams a day!
So one would think that as long as we are eating adequate amounts of protein, containing the essential amino acids, we should be covered, right? The answer to that question is dependent on the individual person. The body’s requirement for essential amino acids is determined by our age group, degrees of stress, energy requirements, digestive capabilities, infection, trauma, environmental pollution, processed foods and one’s personal habits such as smoking and drinking. All these factors influence the need and availability of protein and its amino acid constituents. Additionally, one has to factor in nutrient deficiencies as there are multiple vitamins, namely pyridoxine (vitamin B6), riboflavin (vitamin B2) and niacin (vitamin B3), that act as cofactors (a substance important for the activity of the enzyme) which are instrumental in the metabolism of amino acids.
It is for these reasons that while we adequately meet our recommended daily amount of protein, it may by no means be broken down and used efficiently. This is extremely important to recognize when we understand that each amino acid is designed for a specific purpose and cannot be interchanged. If our diet fails to provide, or our lifestyle uses up, any given essential amino acid problems can arise. The following list is taken from Eric Braverman’s The healing Nutrients Within to illustrate how different amino acids play a large role in our overall health and wellness:
- Arginine has been shown to act similar to and in some cases replace viagra for restoring erectile function and a sagging libido. It has also been found to increase sperm count
- New research measuring the breakdown products of bone in hydroxyproline may prove more advantageous for assessing bone loss than the standard bone density test
- Scientific evidence shows that boosting energy levels in the brain with phenylalanine and tyrosine is key to weight loss
- Melatonin and tryptophan have established themselves as multipurpose nutrients to improve sleep, defuse anxiety and slow down the aging process. Recent studies show promise for the use of tryptophan in the treatment of autism
- Homocysteine has gained recognition as a major independent risk indicator for cardiovascular disease. New research suggests it may also pretend neural tube defects, sickle cell disease, rectal polyps, and liver failure, and may contribute to depression, dementia and loss of brain function in the elderly
- Tyrosine can help cocaine and alcohol abusers kick their habits and combat the effects of stress, narcolepsy, chronic fatigue, and ADD
- Amino acid blood levels are increasingly serving as important indicators of physical and mental illnesses. They provide major nutritional and biochemical clues for more effective treatment
- Carnitine has been shown to offer significant protection against the common side effects of Depakote (a popular drug used for seizures and psychotic disorders). Its derivative N-acetyl-carnitine may surpass the metabolic potency of carnation in the brain, where it has been found to slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease
- Scientific evidence continues to mount showing N-acetyl cysteine… to be perhaps the most powerful detoxifier in the body. It is now found in every emergency room as an antidote to overdose cases and as well can render harmless everyday environmental toxins.
- New, modified GABA compounds such as gabapentin (Neurotin) and tigabine (Gabitril) are producing improved uptake in the brain and appear to be important products in the control of seizures and anxiety disorders. Early studies indicate GABA may also be correlated to a decrease in benign prostatic hypertrophy.
- Research with serine compounds show that blocking serine metabolism may serve to prevent autoimmune activity present in psychoses
- Glutamic and Aspartic acids create additional neurotoxic damage in the brain following stroke. New drugs that block the action of the excretory amino acid transporters (EAATs) have recently been approved.
- BCAAs promote optimal muscle growth and improve performance… additionally they also offer promise for staving off muscle loss as we age.
As the research in the area of amino acid therapy continues to grow we can firmly apply the idea of Pfeiffers Law: if a drug can be found to do the job of medical healing, a nutrient can be found to do the same job.