Why Can’t the Body Make Essential Amino Acids?

Did you know that amino acids make up proteins and are crucial for countless bodily functions? Earlier, we answered the question: how many amino acids are there: 20 or 21? The 21 amino acids discussed in that post branch into two categories: essential and non-essential.

The body cannot make essential amino acids as they are external nutrients your body needs to function. The body can synthesize most amino acids, but you will need a balanced diet to ingest the nine essential amino acids. Biology has its limits; we lack the metabolic enzymes and pathways to make essential amino acids.

So, what sets apart essential and non-essential amino acids? This post will discuss why your body can’t synthesize essential amino acids and the role of all amino acids. It will also cover the ways to incorporate essential amino acids into your diet.

Can Essential Amino Acids Be Synthesized by the Body?

The human body cannot produce essential amino acids due to its limited capacity for biosynthesis. So, why can’t the body synthesize these essential amino acids? The answer lies in the complexity of the biochemical pathways involved in their production.

Your body is a complex and intricate system that requires various nutrients to function properly. One such crucial nutrient is protein, the raw material for building and repairing tissues, enzymes, and hormones, which also helps to strengthen your immune system.

Proteins are technically molecules, and they vary in size and structure depending on their constituent amino acid building blocks. Here’s more on amino acids: what are they, and why do you need them?

The body has the biochemical pathways and enzymes to produce the majority of amino acids it needs by itself, where your cells use instructions from your DNA to build proteins. However, your body lacks the ability to produce essential amino acids, which support protein synthesis.

Your body requires specific enzymes and precursors to perform each amino acid synthesis step. In some cases, your body may lack the necessary enzymes to complete all the steps, while in others, certain precursors may not be available in sufficient quantities.

For instance, your body cannot produce these essential amino acids, so you need to include them in your daily diet. Some common dietary sources of essential amino acids include meat, eggs, dairy products, and certain plant-based foods like quinoa and soybeans.

What Role Do Essential Amino Acids Play in Muscle Growth and Repair?

Essential amino acids, especially leucine, trigger muscle protein synthesis. They help rebuild and repair muscle tissue after exercise or injury. Moreover, they maintain a positive nitrogen balance, which is crucial for maintaining muscle mass.

The Contribution of Essential Amino Acids to Physiological Processes

Apart from muscle-related functions, essential amino acids contribute to various physiological processes:

  1. Enzyme Function: Amino acids are building blocks for enzymes, crucial for biochemical reactions in the body.
  2. Neurotransmitter Synthesis: They are precursors for neurotransmitters that regulate mood, cognition, and overall brain function.
  3. Cell Signaling: Amino acids are involved in cell signaling pathways, regulating gene expression and cellular processes.

How Many Amino Acids Can’t Be Synthesized in the Body?

As stated earlier, the nine essential amino acids are external nutrients the human body can’t produce. These nine amino acids must be obtained from the diet. These essential amino acids include:

  1. Histidine: Plays a role in protein synthesis, immune response, and tissue repair.
  2. Isoleucine: It’s the oxygen carrier, essential for hemoglobin production and regulating blood sugar levels.
  3. Leucine: Involved in skeletal muscle growth, hormone regulation, and wound healing.
  4. Lysine: Necessary for calcium absorption, collagen production, and energy metabolism.
  5. Methionine: Important for healthy hair, skin, and nails, also detoxifying the liver.
  6. Phenylalanine: Used to produce neurotransmitters and is essential for cognitive function.
  7. Threonine: Plays a role in immune system function, fat metabolism, and collagen production.
  8. Tryptophan: Converted into serotonin, which regulates mood, appetite, and sleep.
  9. Valine: Important for muscle repair and growth and maintaining proper nitrogen balance.

Without essential amino acids, your body can’t execute vital processes like muscle repair and growth, immune system function, hormone regulation, etc.

What’s the Importance of Diet in Acquiring Essential Amino Acids?

It would be best to have a balanced diet to maintain your overall health and well-being. A meal or sequence of meals must include all the essential amino acids to qualify as a balanced diet. But it’s not just essential amino acids that you want for your diet to be balanced. 

Your body requires a combination of all nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, and other macronutrients like carbohydrates and fats. A balanced diet supplies the nutrients that your body needs to produce energy, also supporting multiple physiological processes.

Besides providing your body with necessary energy, you also need essential amino acids for muscle growth and repair. Your body relies on these amino acids to build new muscle tissue and repair damaged ones.

Adequate intake of essential amino acids also helps to boost your immune system, hormone production, and neurotransmitter synthesis.

What Happens When You Don’t Get Enough Essential Amino Acids?

Lacking enough essential amino acids can cause various health issues. As mentioned earlier, your body cannot produce these amino acids independently, so it relies on external sources to obtain them. 

If you don’t consume enough essential amino acids in your diet, your body may fail to carry out essential physiological processes. A deficiency in essential amino acids can have severe consequences, including:

1 Muscle Wasting

Your body can’t synthesize protein without essential amino acids, and your body requires protein to grow and repair your muscles. A deficiency can lead to muscle wasting and weakness.

2 Impaired Immune Function

Your body requires amino acids to produce antibodies and immune cells. A deficiency may compromise the immune system’s ability to combat infections.

3 Slow Wound Healing

Amino acids are involved in tissue repair and wound healing. Inadequate levels can impair these processes.

4 Hormonal Imbalances

Some amino acids are precursors to hormones. A deficiency can disrupt hormone production and regulation.

Scientific Advances and Synthetic Production

Scientific advancements have innovated the ability to synthesize essential amino acids. This process involves advanced chemical techniques and biotechnological methods, enabling large-scale production.

Companies like Advanced ChemTech specialize in synthesizing amino acids for research and pharmaceutical purposes. They ensure high purity and quality, providing these synthetic amino acids for various applications in drug development, nutritional supplements, and scientific research.

The Potential Benefits of Synthetic Essential Amino Acids

  1. Precision in Research: Synthetic amino acids allow researchers to control experiments, ensuring precise consistency and reliability in studies.
  2. Pharmaceutical Development: They serve as essential components in drug development, aiding in creating therapies targeting specific deficiencies or conditions.
  3. Nutritional Supplementation: Synthetic amino acids can be used in specialized diets or supplements to address specific health needs.

Final Thoughts

Whether through natural dietary sources or synthetic production, incorporating essential amino acids into your diet is crucial for maintaining optimal health. While the body can produce some of these amino acids, only food and supplements can provide the full spectrum of essential amino acids.

Here’s more on the 9 essential amino acids foods, detailing how they contribute to a healthy lifestyle. Also, take some more time to learn what are the differences between the amino acids and how they play a role in the human body.