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Essential and semi-essential amino acids – what you should know!

Have you ever dealt with the topic of amino acids and protein? Then you have probably already heard of essential and semi-essential representatives of this group of substances.

Perhaps you have already asked yourself what the classification as essential and semi-essential means in this context. Or what the distinction between the different amino acids can mean for your nutrition.

We have compiled the most important information on this topic for you.

Amino acids, their functions and different types

Amino acids are also known as protein or protein building blocks. From them, proteins and peptides are formed by chaining them together in different lengths.

Protein is generally also the synonym for albumin. You probably know protein as one of the macronutrients along with fats and carbohydrates.

Proteins and the protein building blocks are the group of substances in the body that are subject to constant transformation processes. Therefore, protein building blocks also have many functions in the human organism.

You can find some of them here:

They …

  • work as building materials and form the basis of every physical tissue.
  • serve as starting materials for the formation of enzymes – important substances that promote reactions between other substances.
  • are the basis for the formation of hormones.
  • are transformed into neurotransmitters and messenger substances.

Therefore, hardly any function in the human organism depends in some way on certain protein building blocks.

The different amino acids

Some amino acids can be produced from other substances in the human organism – often other protein building blocks – by the body itself. Others have to be constantly supplied through our diet.

The latter group consists of the indispensable (i.e. non-essential) protein building blocks. There are also protein building blocks that cannot be produced by our body itself in certain situations or at a certain age.

Hence, they are sometimes essential and sometimes dispensable. Therefore they get the prefix “semi“, which describes the intermediate state well.

We also speak of conditionally dispensable or semi-essential protein building blocks.

Semi essentielle Aminosäuren im Vergleich zu essentiellen

The essential amino acids

Among the indispensable protein building blocks for our body:

  • Lysine
  • Valine
  • Leucine
  • Isoleucine
  • Phenylalanine
  • Tryptophan
  • Methionine
  • Threonine.

We have to ingest it with food. As a rule, only animal foods contain all the representatives of this group in the right proportions and in the right quantities.

Vegetarians and even more vegans may, therefore, have challenges in providing themselves with sufficient amounts of the essential building blocks. If you are a vegan, you should pay special attention to the composition of your food components.

The need for protein in general and also for protein building blocks increases in certain life situations, such as old age. Therefore, some nutrition experts recommend an additional intake of especially the indispensable protein building blocks via dietary supplements.

The semi-essential amino building blocks

This group is formed from the protein building blocks

  • Arginine
  • Asparagine
  • Cysteine
  • Glutamine
  • Glycine
  • Proline
  • Tyrosine.

For Arginine, Asparagine, Glycine and Proline there is no uniform assessment in the literature as to whether they are semi-essential. However, the majority of experts today consider even these 4 protein building blocks to be semi-essential and not dispensable altogether.

Sometimes also Histidine is counted among this group. This building block cannot yet be produced by the body itself, especially in newborns during the first days of life.

The amino acid pattern

The indispensable protein building blocks are also regarded as important for the human organism because they are proteinogenic (i.e. they produce protein).

Proteinogenic amino acids are the building material of our body. More than 99% of the 8 essential representatives of the group are converted into the body’s own protein.

From this reason, especially the US-American scientist Professor Dr. Luca-Moretti concluded that these eight building blocks form the human amino acid pattern. He believes that each mammal forms its own characteristic pattern of, particularly well utilisable protein building blocks.

Only if these building blocks are available to the organism at the same time and in the right proportion to each other is the formation of the body’s own protein ensured.

What is the importance of semi-essential protein building blocks?

Perhaps you have concluded from the article so far that semi-essential protein building blocks are less important for you. You may now be of the opinion that these building blocks are less important than the essential ones.

However, the term “conditionally dispensable” only refers to the fact that you do not necessarily have to take these building blocks with your food. It says little about the important and sometimes vital tasks that this group of protein building blocks performs in your body.

Welche Funktion hat eine Aminosäure?

Two concrete examples:

  1. Arginine

The amino acid Arginine is involved in the so-called NO cycle (“nitrogen monoxide cycle“) in the human body. Among other things, it ensures that nitrogen is formed. Nitrogen is closely connected with the health of the blood vessels. Arginine can contribute to vascular dilatation.

The protein building block can, therefore, influence the

  • blood pressure,
  • male erection,
  • muscle building,
  • performance of the muscles and their regeneration.
  1. Tyrosine

The amino acid Tyrosine is the basis for the formation of vital messenger substances such as Dopamine, DOPA and Thyroxine.

Thyroxine is the starting material for the formation of the thyroid hormone T3. Dopamine has a very important function as an excitatory neurotransmitter in the central nervous system. Among other things, it also has an effect on our mood.

It is assumed that this substance influences the increase of drive and inner motivation of the human being.

DOPA, in turn, is the basis of other neurotransmitters such as Adrenaline, Noradrenaline and Dopamine.

Serious diseases such as Parkinson’s disease are associated with a lack of Dopamine. This can show us the importance of these messenger substances for our health.

Is it recommended to supplement semi-essential amino acids as well?

Supplementation with indispensable protein building blocks is nowadays more frequently used by orthomolecular physicians in

  • athletes,
  • older people and
  • recommended for certain diseases.

What is the situation for semi-essential amino acids?

Can you also benefit from an additional supply of these protein building blocks – for example in an appropriately composed amino acid solution?

To answer this question, let us look at two assumptions:

In order for us to be sufficiently supplied with semi-essential protein building blocks at all times,

  1. our body needs all other important starting materials for the formation of these building blocks at any time and in sufficient quantities.
  2. we assume that our need for semi-essential amino acids does not change in our lives.

We cannot guarantee both.

Maybe you suffer from high blood pressure in old age.

An additional supply of Arginine could help to adjust your blood pressure after consultation with your doctor. This does not mean that this semi-essential amino acid becomes essential.

It means that more Arginine can support you in this health situation.

Arginine is also contained in various foods. The protein building block is also synthesised by the body from the substances Ornithine and Aspartate.

Users of appropriate food supplements report that Tyrosine, supplied in an amino acid solution, gives them a balanced state of mind and more inner motivation. Tyrosine is formed from the essential protein building block Phenylalanine.

At this point, you may notice the connection between the semi- and essential amino acids. If there is already a lack of essential protein building blocks, this can hinder the formation of some semi-essential building blocks.

The higher our need for protein and protein building blocks, the more difficult it is to supply us with the right amount of semi-essential amino. We need more protein because of stress, physical strain and sports or our age, among other things.

The interaction of the different substances is very complex.

Sollten Sie semiessentielle & essentielle Aminosäuren ergänzen?

Conclusion: Supplementation with semi-essential protein building blocks can be useful

If you would like to supplement your diet with an amino acid solution, make sure you also think about the semi-essential protein building blocks.

Indispensable and conditionally dispensable amino acids have different functions in our body and are also connected to each other.

The essential acids are partly the starting point for the formation of the semi-essential representatives. If our need for these protein building blocks increases in certain life situations, they can quickly become indispensable protein building blocks.

Basically all amino acids are important for vital processes in the human organism. Due to their special functions, one or the other semi-essential amino acid can also offer you valuable support for your health and well-being. This is exactly why we have developed amino4u.

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