The Low-Down on Conditionally Essential Amino Acids

Conditionally essential amino acids can be made by your body under normal conditions, but cannot be produced in sufficient quantities in times of severe stress, illness, or injury. They may enter essential territory and your body might require a boost of these aminos from diet or supplementation.

Conditionally essential amino acids

Conditionally essential amino acids are amino acids that can be made by your body under normal conditions, but in times of severe stress, illness, or injury, they may enter essential territory and your body might require a boost of these aminos from diet or supplementation.

Conditionally essential amino acids include:

  1. Arginine
  2. Cysteine
  3. Glutamine
  4. Glycine
  5. Proline
  6. Serine
  7. Tyrosine

Conditionally essential amino acids

Conditionally Essential Amino Acids Benefits

Arginine: Certain catabolic conditions may necessitate dietary support of arginine. Preterm infants, for example, cannot make arginine internally. Because arginine can help increase nitric oxide production and blood flow and reduce blood pressure, arginine supplements are sometimes recommended for those with hypertension and diabetes as a way to keep arginine levels stable. Arginine plays a key role in heart health and can be useful in treating angina and circulatory diseases, as well as erectile dysfunction in men. Arginine also helps remove ammonia from the body and enhance immune function.

Cysteine: In the presence of adequate methionine, cysteine levels should remain stable in the body, but in infants, the elderly, and people dealing with metabolic or malabsorption syndromes, cysteine supplementation may be needed. Cysteine is important for protein synthesis, detoxification, collagen formation, and other diverse functions. It is abundant in beta-keratin, the main protein in nails, skin, and hair. Cysteine produces the antioxidants taurine and glutathione, which neutralize free radicals and diminish oxidative stress. Glutathione is particularly important in detoxification processes in the liver and is thought to help mitigate hangover symptoms and liver damage from alcohol consumption.

Glutamine: During injury and illness, your body may not be producing enough glutamine to help synthesize proteins and lipids and carry ammonia out of the body. Athletes swear by glutamine supplements, believing they can help speed recovery after intense workouts and keep the immune system strong. Glutamine is normally the most abundant free amino acid in the muscle, and depletion of muscle glutamine is an indicator of “overtraining syndrome.” Muscle glutamine depletion is also the hallmark of muscle wasting in critical illness. Unfortunately, consuming more glutamine may not readily reverse glutamine depletion in the muscle, since the depletion arises from a metabolic response that tends to keep glutamine out of the muscle even when supplied in your diet.

Glycine: This amino acid acts as a neurotransmitter that helps calm the central nervous system and participates in the processing of motor and sensory information that permits movement, vision, and hearing. Glycine is a glucogenic amino acid, meaning it is a precursor for the production of glucose by the liver. We need to have a constant level of glucose in the blood, as this is the energy source of the brain and even a transient dip can result in a drop in brain function. Glycine is the second most common amino acid in human proteins. In addition to its role as a major component of most proteins, glycine helps break down ingested fats by regulating the secretion of bile acids from the gall bladder into the small intestine.

Proline: Normally synthesized from the essential amino acid glutamate, proline produces proteins like cartilage and collagen. In fact, almost one-third of the amino acids in collagen are proline. In healthy bodies, proline production increases during times of soft-tissue trauma, injury, and wound healing, such as muscle or tendon recovery, severe burns, and after surgery. Proline may also help prevent arteriosclerosis and regulate blood pressure.

Serine: Glycine or threonine convert into serine, which helps produce immunoglobulins and antibodies for a strong immune system, and also aids in the absorption of creatine. Creatine is a substance made from amino acids that helps build and maintain all the muscles in the body, including the heart. Serine is needed for the metabolism of fats and fatty acids and is also an important structural component of trypsin and chymotrypsin, two major digestive enzymes needed to break down protein from foods that we eat. Cell membranes rely on serine since it forms the phospholipids needed to encase cells throughout the body. Serine is essential to both physical and mental functioning, but it is especially important for proper functioning of the brain and central nervous system. Serine is often promoted as a treatment for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, Parkinson’s disease, and Alzheimer’s disease.

Tyrosine: Since tyrosine is made from the essential amino acid phenylalanine, if dietary phenylalanine requirements are not met, tyrosine availability is limited and may be required from food sources. Tyrosine plays a role in protein synthesis and is involved in the production of thyroid hormones and neurotransmitters such as dopamine, norepinephrine, and epinephrine that help manage stress and depression. Tyrosine is used as a safe therapy for a variety of clinical conditions including hypertension, depression, and chronic pain.


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Author: Amino Research

Experts in amino acid research, the Amino research team works tirelessly to give you the most up-to-date amino acid and health information available. We’re dedicated to helping you transform your body and mind using the power of amino acids and wellness best practices that enhance quality of life and longevity.

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