How Amino Acids Can Make a Difference in Your Health
How could mice running around some lab in Italy possibly have an impact on your personal health and fitness?
Plenty, according to a study reported in the October 2010 issue of Cell Metabolism. Last year, researchers in Milan, Italy began providing mice with a special cocktail laced with branched-chain amino acids, specifically, leucine, isoleucine, and valine.
The animals in the study were middle-aged, male mice (equivalent to the typical guy you see at the gym straining on the free weights, trying to hang with the younger alphas). These guys were used to chowing on your run-of-the-mill mouse food (whoppers and fries, if this was a human case study). The mice involved in the study that were given the amino acid power shakes increased their life span more than 12%, from a median age of 774 days to 869 days. If that difference could be replicated in humans, that would be the equivalent of tacking on 9 years to the average lifespan of a man from 76 to 84.
In addition, and here is where your fitness and health comes in, the mice experienced an increase in mitochondria (known as the powerhouses of our cells) in cardiac and skeletal muscles and an increase SIRT1 activity (that’s the longevity gene) as well as an improvement in defending free radicals. The mice on amino acids could endure exercise better and they exhibited better motor coordination.
In short, these mice were feeling better, acting better, and living longer, happier lives (for mice, that is).
While the article cautioned that the effects of amino acids in mice could not be directly correlated to human health, Enzo Nisoli of Milan University did say the supplementary drink could be beneficial “for those who are elderly or ill” and could be used as a preventive measure for those looking to improve health as aging occurs.
“The mice were not sick,” he added. “They were just aged.”
Middle-aged mice, he could have added.
What Are Amino Acids Anyway?
Look in any medical dictionary and you’ll find this definition:
“Amino acid: One of the 20 building blocks of protein. The sequence of amino acids in a protein and, hence, the function of that protein are determined by the genetic code in the DNA.”
Amino acids are, in essence, proteins and they are grouped into essential and non-essential groups. The essential amino acids are found in the supplements that the mice use and that many bodybuilders and fitness freaks use to supplement their workouts.
You don’t have to be a fitness fanatic to use these nutritional supplements, in fact, according to the Italian research study, those who would benefit most are middle-aged, not necessarily, young, fit alpha males.
How You Can Supplement
If you want to be like the mice and try adding a healthy supplement of amino acids into your system, you can either introduce foods rich in these substances into your daily diet or you can go with supplementary products to augment your diet.
The mice were given straight supplements that did come with a caloric cost, but you might want to try a combination.
Isoleucine, Leucine, and Valine
The supplements the mice were given – Isoleucine, Leucine, and Valine – all are branched amino acids that are needed for maintaining healthy muscle tissue, preserving stores of glycogen (a form of energy that the body uses), and for guarding against the breakdown of muscle protein when exercising.
Foods that are rich in these three amino acids include dairy products, red meat, and whey products. You’ll have to measure your intake carefully when it comes to these foods.
It’s best to choose low-fat dairy and lean red meats, both introduced in moderate amounts, since these foods tend to be high in calories and can cause unwanted gain as well as linked to high cholesterol and heart disease. However, in small measures, these foods can boost your amino acid levels, providing you with some of the health benefits our Italian mice enjoyed.
As mentioned, the mice were given branched-chain amino acids (BCAA) nutritional supplements rather than dietary supplements and Nisoli suspects, “nutritional supplements may prove to be particularly helpful for people with heart failure, the muscle-wasting condition known as sarcopenia, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or other conditions characterized by energy defects.”
There are several BCAA nutritional supplements on the market now, ranging from $10 to $30 per bottle. The supplements can be taken in powder form or capsule form.
Another amino acid that is used as a popular supplement is Phenylalanine. This acid comes in two forms -L-phenylalanine (LPA) and D-phenylalanine (DPA). LPA helps elevate and assists in keeping you awake and result result as well as reducing hunger pains. DPA has been used as a drug to combat Parkinson’s but can also treat chronic pain. If you are middle-aged and still want to work out hard, this might be a great away to increase your energy levels or reduce pain.
You can add Phenylalanine to your diet through foods such as eggs, low-fat milk, bananas, and meats such as pork, red beef, poultry, and fish. Soy is a particularly good source of LPN, including soybean flour, tofu, and the soy protein isolate, as well as in yogurt and cheese. You can also find high amounts of LPN in aspartame, an artificial sweetener.
LPN and DPN supplements can commonly found in the marketplace with general consumption recommended for LPN supplements at 3.5 grams per day and DPN supplements at 2.25 grams per day. Most of these supplements can only be taken with a physician’s recommendation and, though LPN can be found in foods, DPN can only be found as a supplement
And More . . .
Another essential amino acid is called Lysine, which helps maintain the body’s nitrogen balance. Lysine is also helpful in absorbing and conserving calcium, forming collagen (which makes up bone cartilage and connecting tissues), and helps in the production of antibodies. Foods high in Lysine include egg whites, soy, pork, beef round, parmesan cheese, and seaweed. Lack of Lysine has been linked to symptoms such as tiredness, irritability, and anemia so, if you are looking for a little pick-me-up or a way to gain some energy, try some seaweed or perhaps include extra pork or beef round in your diet.
While these supplements may not directly impact your lifespan, like it did with the mice in the research study, they can be good sources of preventive aid and can help if you are suffering from disorders ranging from Parkinson’s disease to heart disease.
So, like the middle-aged mice in Milan, you can find a way to feel better, act better, and live longer by supplementing your daily diet with some amino acids.