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Amino Acid Nutrition

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Many of our most distinguished researchers in the eld of nutritional biochemistry still believe that our requirement for amino acids can always be satised by a diet rich in protein and essential amino acids. This thesis is incorrect. It is quite clear that many of us suffer amino acid deciencies. Roger Williams, the man who has probably contributed more to nutritional sciences than any other living scientist, said, "It should not be taken for granted, for example, that an individual getting plenty of good quality protein food is, ipso facto, well supplied with all the needed amino acids; but, as we have seen, problems involving biochemical individuality in digestive (or absorptive) enzymes may intervene. Amino acids as such are available and can be supplied direct." (Nutrition Against Disease)

Addiction, whether to LSD, heroin, coffee, cigarettes or foods can lead to nutritional deciencies. The chronic use of substances making unusual demands on the body dramatically increases the need for essential nutrients. According to an article in the Journal of Orthomolecular Psychiatry (December 1981), all the chronic addicts tested suffered from hypoaminoaciduria. It has been clearly documented that in alcohol addiction, there is a pancreatic insufciency and resulting amino acid decit.

Recently the relationship between simultaneous allergy and addiction states have become more generally accepted. According to William Philpott, M.D. and Dwight Kalita, Ph.D., after test exposures to allergenic substances, the pancreas is one of the rst organs to be affected. One of the consequences of hypopancreatic function is reduced production of proteases and the resultant digestive problems and frequent amino acid deciencies. (Brain Allergies; Keats Publishing, Inc.)

Another consequence of hypopancreatic function is an insufcient production of bicarbonate buffers; this leading to the further destruction of proteolytic enzymes in the small intestine which leads to further amino acid deciencies. One can see that a vicious cycle can be established; insufcient proteases, would lead to deciencies in amino acids, and with the limited supply of amino acids for building blocks, protein synthesis would become compromised, this very possibly exaggerating the protease deciency.

Elderly people are particularly susceptible to amino acid deciencies. Usually the caloric needs of the elderly is diminished and yet the need for the essential nutrients, i.e., vitamins, minerals and amino acids is the same. Studies in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (September 1977) indicate that over one third of men and women over the age of 60 have serum amino acid levels that were either decient or low.

Illness will frequently cause an increased demand for amino acids. During the disease process, the production of antibodies and the replacement of diseased tissue all require tremendous protein synthesis. Hence, extra amino acids. A special communication was published in JAMA (Vol. 244 #23, 1980), outlining the need to compensate for the increased protein demand during acute illness. "Not to provide such a metabolic support system is a failure of medicine of the most basic degree." Dr. W. P. Steffee tackles the question of how nitrogen depletion or malnutrition can occur. During illness the body also needs extra energy for healing. At this time appetites are poor; hospital food unappetizing and malnutrition is more common among long term hospitalized patients. When insufcient caloric consumption occurs, the body derives extra glucose from the cellular breakdown of amino acids. If extra amino acids are not available, the body will divert amino acids from the protein synthesizing pool in order to convert some of the amino acids to glucose. Disruption of protein synthesis is especially critical during illness, for the reasons already outlined. The protein from muscles and organs may ultimately be consumed and this may lead to the kinds of hospital malnutrition that is so commonly observed. Any major surgery seems to cause at least six weeks of nitrogen depletion because of protein breakdown due to gluconeogenesis, unless amino acids are provided in addition to the glucose electrolytes and water.

The rates of synthesis of serotonin, acetylcholine, and under certain circumstances, dopamine and norepinephrine by brain neurons depends to a considerable extent on the availability of the respective dietary precursors to the brain. This precursor dependence seems to be related to the fact that the enzyme catalyzing the rate­limiting step in the synthetic pathway for each transmitter is unsaturated with substrate at normal brain concentration. The availability rapidly changes after food consumption, and frequently depends on what is eaten. (Ann. Rev. Med., Vol. 32, 1981) It is unclear why the evolutionary process should have "allowed" the neurotransmission mediated by a variety of neurotransmitters to be inuenced by the vagaries of food choice.

The potential value in manipulating the precursor levels is signicant. Norepinephine containing neurons are involved in a very large number of physiological mechanisms, both inside and outside the brain. Dopaminergic neurons have clearly been implicated in the etiology of Parkinson's disease, schizophrenia and other brain disorders. Possibly the organism might benet by the use of these uctuations in neurotransmitter levels as "sensors" providing the brain with information about its metabolic state.

Various research studies indicate that variations of amino acids in the diet or in supplemental form, can affect behavior, mood, food consumption, drug and pain tolerance. Another study with rats indicated that amino acid supplementation can protect the nervous system and the lives of the animals against the harmful effects of ethanol and pentobarbital.

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