As the smallest building blocks of protein, amino acids have a number of indispensable tasks…
Amino acids can be divided into various categories. Have you ever heard of essential and non-essential protein building blocks? This distinction is based on which amino our body forms itself and which does not.
The protein building blocks can also be classified according to their chemical properties. The following article explains what constitutes acidic and alkaline building blocks.
The properties of acidic and alkaline protein building blocks
Amino acids which serve to build up the body’s own protein, are called proteinogenic. We often talk about protein or protein building blocks. These amino acids are of great importance because they form the genetic code of the human being. The protein building blocks can differ in their chemical-physical properties.
Some of them are acidic, others alkaline. This affects, among other things, the influence the respective amino can have on certain metabolic processes. Both acidic and alkaline components are important for our health. The important thing here is to get the right balance.
The pH value and the neutral blood
The pH value is a measure of whether an aqueous solution has an acidic or alkaline character. The value 7 is neutral. Values below 7 stand for acids, values above 7 for bases. The pH value of human blood is about 7. Blood has a neutral pH value. Gastric acid has a pH value of 2 and urine in healthy people has a value between 5 and 7. Saliva is normally also neutral and has a maximum pH value of 7.1.
If the usual standard values in different parts of the body deviate from the normal pH values, health problems may result.
In the organism, environments with chemical-physical properties are provided for certain metabolic processes. If, for example, the gastric juice loses its acidic character, digestive problems can occur because the food is no longer broken down properly. Predominantly, our body has an alkaline to a neutral level.
The acid-base balance
The acid-base balance is a complex regulatory system that is designed to counteract imbalances in pH values. Especially the blood, the connective tissue, the kidneys and the lungs are integrated into this system. Various external influences, for example through the intake of food, affect this regulatory system and can cause acidic conditions in the body.
If the system is overstrained, some nutritionists and naturopaths see the danger of over-acidification of the organism. They assume that our diet, in particular, could overload the buffer systems of the regulatory organs.
Protein and some amino acids can form acids when they are broken down and metabolized. Other protein building blocks can, in turn, contribute to the balance between acids and bases. Each amino acid has its place and its area of responsibility, whether acidic or alkaline. Problems can arise when individual building blocks are missing or when certain acids and other substances predominate.
Aminos with and without double nature
Most protein building blocks cannot be clearly described as alkaline or acidic. This is due to their chemical structure. They each have an acidic and an alkaline component. However, certain proteinogenic building blocks still form a lateral line in their structure, which gives them an acidic or alkaline character. One can take advantage of their respective specific properties in a balanced and conscious diet.
Aspartic acid and glutamic acid
These protein building blocks already bear their acidic character in their name. They react chemically as acid and in this reaction, they become the salts aspartate and glutamate. Both are neurotransmitters. These are messenger substances that promote or suppress certain reactions in the human nervous system. In addition, both building blocks are needed for the body’s own protein.
Aspartic acid – Aspartate
This amino is found in various foods such as cod, tofu, soy and in egg white. Together with glutamate, the building block is said to work as a messenger substance in the majority of synapses in the human nervous system. The synapses form the connections between different nerve cells.
Furthermore, the protein building block also has a function in the urea cycle. The urea cycle is an important metabolic process. It is also interesting to note that aspartic acid is the basis for the production of aspartame. Aspartame is a well-known but not undisputed sweetener.
Glutamic acid and glutamate
Glutamic acid is found in various foods such as beef, chicken, salmon, chicken egg and cow’s milk. Glutamate has an exciting (activating) function as a messenger substance. This neurotransmitter is also active in the retina of the eyes. It promotes muscle building and is said to support the immune system. As a food additive, glutamate has a taste-enhancing effect.
Lysine, histidine and arginine
This triad forms the alkaline representatives of the protein building blocks. Lysine is also an essential amino acid. It is not produced by the organism itself but must be supplied again and again with the food. Arginine and histidine are semi-essential protein building blocks.
Lysine has a variety of functions in the body. The protein building block is involved, among other things, in:
- muscle building,
- the structure of other protein building blocks,
- bone growth,
- the cell division
- and the healing of wounds.
It is particularly interesting because it builds up collagen. Collagen is a special form of tissue, it forms the basis of the connective tissue. Lysine is mainly found in foods of animal origin such as meat, eggs, fish and dairy products.
There is evidence that lysine can help keep herpes viruses at bay. The viruses of the herpes family rest in the nerve cells after a person has been infected with them. Under certain circumstances and due to certain factors they can become active again. Then, among other things, the typical herpes blisters can appear on the lips, for example.
Whether lysine can actually inhibit the reactivation of the herpes viruses has not yet been scientifically proven. However, it seems possible that there is an interaction with the other alkaline amino acid arginine. Arginine and lysine occupy similar receptors in the human nervous system. Although the exact connections are not yet known for arginine, it is said to promote the activation of herpes viruses.
Arginine has many vital functions. It is for instances involved in nitrogen metabolism. Nitrogen metabolism is an important system on which, among other things, the condition of the blood vessels depends.
Arginine has a vasodilating function. This effect is also used by various food supplements and even medicines. For example, arginine is said to be used for erectile dysfunction and to lower blood pressure. Final research results in this area are still pending. Also, bodybuilders like to make use of the pumping effect of arginine.
Studies have also shown that arginine has an antioxidant effect. Antioxidants fight so-called free radicals in our body. These are oxygen molecules that bind well. They can have a cell-damaging effect and are blamed for many negative phenomena such as wrinkles.
Histidine is the precursor of several other important substances such as histamine. Histamine, in turn, has an important function in the human immune system. Histidine also plays a part in blood formation via the haemoglobin, a blood pigment, and the incorporation of iron in this process.
Every amino has its place
When comparing the different protein building blocks, it would be wrong to say that the acidic representatives are less important or even harmful. All of the amino acids presented here have an important function and play an important role in the balance of the protein building blocks.
It is noticeable that the acidic amino acids form salts such as glutamate and aspartate. Some nutrition experts are critical of their additional intake in excess. Examples are the sweetener aspartame and the use of glutamate as a flavour enhancer. Here a very high concentration of these acids is produced, which may not be good for everyone. However, if these amino acids are taken up together with other building blocks, they perform their normal functions in various metabolic processes.
As for the alkaline amino acids, some of them, like arginine, can also be used as solo supplements. Not all effects have been scientifically substantiated, but many people already benefit from an additional intake. With all amino acids as well as the balance between acids and bases you should note that it depends on the interaction of all amino acids. Those who take up more arginine should not forget lysine.