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  • Amino Acids

  • Amino Acid Definitions

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         Conditions & Symptoms

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    These claims have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.
    DS products may not include statements that they diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent disease.

    Amino Acid Health Benefits Claims Notes
    Nonessential (synthesized in the body)
    Alanine Inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain; component of cell walls; glucose can be made from alanine in the liver or from muscles when energy is needed; part of some intestinal bacteria Increases excitation (i.e., in epilepsy); maintains blood sugar level; helpful in treating hypoglycemia; helps those with suppressed immune systems No scientific evidence supporting these claims
    Serine Component of nerve coverings and brain proteins; involved in metabolism of purines and pyrimidines (part of RNA and DNA); important information of cell membranes and creatine synthesis    
    Proline Major amino acid in collagen; involved in formation of bone, skin, and cartilage Aids in tissue repair after injury, wound healing, and maintaining joints and tendons  
    Asparagine Formed from aspartic acid; helps in the metabolic function of brain and nervous system cells    
    L-arginine Effects on several major endocrine hormones; plays a large role in muscle growth and healing; helps regulate and support key components of the immune system; important in male fertility (is essential in children) Boosts immunity; fights cancer; builds muscle and burns fat; promotes healing of burns and wounds; protects liver and detoxifies harmful substances; enhances male fertility Effects on several major endocrine hormones; plays large role in muscle growth and healing; helps regulate and support key components of the immune system; important in male fertility (is essential in children)
    L-ornithine Shares arginine's properties; is also capable of stimulating growth hormone release Can increase the weight and activity of the thymus gland, possibly enhancing the immune system response; shown to have liver-regenerating effects in animals  
    L-aspartic Acid Involved in formation of ammonia and urea for disposal; excitatory function in the brain Treatment of chronic fatigue, "aerobic enhancers" to boost energy; may be helpful in overcoming opiate withdrawal Suggestions that it works in this way are preliminary; used clinically to treat fatigue and depression
    L-cysteine Precursor of glutathione, a major antioxidant in the body Said to inactivate free radicals and therefore protect and preserve cells; extends lifespan via DNA repair; burns fat; builds muscle; protects against various toxic substances; combats arthritis More work needs to be done re: extending lifespan; need more research on protection from toxins and pollutants; preliminary study on arthritis claim but needs more study
    L-glutamine and L-glutamic Acid Glutamine is a derivative of glutamic acid; important in brain function; precursor of important neurotransmitters in nervous system Glutamine may help curb alcohol craving, speed healing of peptic ulcers, energize the mind, inhibit senility, counter depression; glutamic acid is claimed to boost IQs of mentally retarded people Studies have consistently contradicted one another; recent animal work on alcohol claim and its possible favorable effects, more work is needed; used in alcoholism clinics as it decreases the craving for alcohol, may do so for sugar as well, not proven yet though
    Glycine Helps save glucose for energy by facilitating glycogen storage; involved in brain metabolism; necessary for synthesis of hemoglobin and collagen May help dampen overactive brain processes that produce certain forms of spastic movement; helps heal wounds; reduces gastric acidity More work is needed
    L-histidine Essential in children for growth; involved in production of blood cells and histamine May be helpful in treating arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis More work is needed
    L-tyrosine Synthesized from phenylalanine; involved with important brain neurotransmitters; can cause large short-term increase in levels of dopamine, epinephrine and norepinephrine in the blood Psychic energizer and stress reliever; antidepressant; effective in treating PMS; addictive drug detoxifier; diminishes pain; improves memory; increases sexual interest; appetite suppressor; treats Parkinson's disease Studies suggest that it may be an energizer and antidepressant; anecdotal evidence and accumulating clinical data for PMS relief; favorable reports on detoxifying addictive drugs
    Amino Acid Health Benefits Claims Notes
    Essential (not synthesized in the body)
    Threonine Important constituent in many proteins; essential in formation of elastin, collagen, and tooth enamel protein; minor role in controlling fat buildup in the liver Helps some cases of depression No evidence that it treats depression
    L-leucine, L-isoleucine, L-valine   Promoted as potent anabolics (muscle builders) and energizers; help restore muscle mass in those who have liver disease or who have had trauma; useful in treating liver damage; helpful in some neurologic disorders and Lou Gehrig's disease Little scientific evidence to support claims of muscle building and energy enhancing; appears useful for effects of chronic liver disease
    L-lysine Promotes tissue repair and growth; involved in production of hormones, enzymes and antibodies Inhibits herpes; builds muscle Studies have reported positive and negative findings; only anecdotal evidence on building muscle
    L-methionine and Taurine Taurine and cysteine, important amino acids, depend on methionine for biosynthesis in the body; helps regulate nervous system and muscle system Help eliminate fatty substances that might otherwise clog the arteries; may be essential for growth of adolescents, children and infants Shown to have a depressant effect on the central nervous system and may impair short-term memory; otherwise, little research has been done
    L-phenylalanine, D-phenylalanine, DL-phenylalanine Involved in a number of biochemical processes related to brain synthesis of various neurotransmitters Claimed to increase mental alertness; help control addictive substance abuse; promote sexual arousal and releases hormones to control appetite; alleviate chronic pain; treats Parkinson's disease DL- no scientific support for pain relief, analgesic, and anti-inflammatory effects shown; some anecdotal, experimental evidence that L-increases alertness; no evidence on appetite suppression or sex stimulation; preliminary evidence re: addictive behavior
    L-tryptophan Important in the biosynthesis of serotonin, a brain neurotransmitter thought to be an inducer and regulator of certain stages of sleep Natural sleeping aid; mood regulator; may reduce sensitivity to pain and have tranquilizing effects; appetite suppressor and reduces cravings for alcohol and some other drugs; helps prevent panic attacks Appears to work well for sleeping and jet lag; in preliminary studies, acts as a mood regulator and prevents panic attacks; some studies say does relieve pain; results in humans re: appetite suppression mixed; alcohol craving suppression not directly investigated


    Proteins are taken as DS products because they are believed to aid in the maintenance of a positive nitrogen balance in muscles, post-exercise recovery, building of muscles, and to increase energy.

    Proteins do not have specific medical or biological names; therefore they are marketed simply as "protein" supplements and the name attached to the label is the company's choice.

    They come in a variety of forms from powdered drink mixes and energizing shakes to capsules and tablets.

    Other Supplement Products Not Elsewhere Classified

    A variety of other products are marketed as DS products and claim to have numerous beneficial impacts on human health and physical well-being.

    They may be available as capsules, liquids, tablets, powders, and as constituents of multivitamin/mineral preparations.

    A few of the more widely available products are described below (HealthWorld Online, 1998d).
    • Acidophilus: bacterium found in yogurt and other products. It helps maintain bacteria balance in the lower intestines.

    • Algae: green or blue-green freshwater, one-celled organisms. The three main algae products are chlorella, spirulina, and blue-green manna. All these products are high in protein and contain large amounts of vitamins and minerals. Blue-green algae products contain all the amino acids and are marketed as body rejuvenators, which improve energy levels, decrease appetite, and increase mental energy. These products are commonly used for weight loss and fasting and are sold in powdered or tablet form.

    • Bee pollen: microscopic male seed of flowering plants. No beneficial effects have been proven.

    • Bioflavinoids: chemical constituent of pulp and rind of citrus fruits, green pepper, apricots, cherries, grapes, papaya, tomatoes, and broccoli.
      Intake of these treats a rare bioflavinoid deficiency and prevents vitamin C and adrenalin from being oxidized.

    • Brewer's yeast: supplies B vitamins, proteins, and minerals and is a good source of enzyme-producing vitamins. It helps regulate sugar metabolism via the chromium it contains and provides bulk to prevent constipation.

    • Coenzyme Q: part of mitochondria of cells. It is found in beef, sardines, spinach, and peanuts and helps control the flow of oxygen within individual cells.

    • Dietary fiber: makes up cell walls of plants. Because it passes through the digestive tract without being absorbed, it lessens the chances of constipation, helps to control blood-sugar levels in diabetics, and helps reduce cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood.

    • Gamma-linolenic acid: an oil found in evening primrose plant (see Herbals and Botanicals).

    • Inositol: (also called myo-inositol) made synthetically and found in beans, nuts, oats, pork, rice, veal, wheat germ, whole-grain products, cantaloupe, calves' liver, citrus fruits, chickpeas, lentils, and lecithin. It helps move fats out of the liver.

    • Lecithin: made synthetically and also found in all animal and plant products and in cabbage, eggs, green beans, lentils, rice, and split peas, among other natural sources. It protects cells from damage by oxidation, is a major source of choline, and is found in chemicals that aid the passage of nutrients into cells from the bloodstream.

    • Nucleic acids: large molecules that are encoded with genetic instructions and are part of each living cell. Nucleic acids taken orally are not effective and have no impact, as they are changed or destroyed in the intestinal tract before they can be absorbed. There is no deficiency for nucleic acids, and the oral tablet and capsule forms are nontoxic (Griffith, 1988; HealthWorld Online, 1998d).

    • Royal jelly: substance secreted by salivary glands of worker bees. It has no known effects in the human body.

    • Spirulina: (Spirulina geitler, S. maxima, S. platenis) algae. It has no known or proven effects

    • Superoxide dismutase: enzyme associated with copper, zinc, and manganese. The oral forms have no effect, as they are destroyed in the intestines before being absorbed.
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