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What do amino acids do?

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Quick Answer

Amino acids are used in the human body to make proteins which help the body grow, repair body tissue and break down food. Amino acids help with muscle control, build muscle tissue and protect the body’s nervous system. They also increase the production of growth hormones in the body, such as testosterone.

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Full Answer

Amino acids are organic compounds made of amine and carboxylic acid functional groups. The key elements of an amino acid include oxygen, hydrogen, carbon and nitrogen. The human body produces nonessential amino acids such as glutamic acid, alanine and aspartic acid, but it does not produce essential amino acids, which must be obtained from food. Essential amino acids include leucine, histidine, lysine, phenylalanine, valine, threonine and tryptophan.

Amino acids help eliminate excess fat stored in the blood stream, stimulate parts of the nervous system that control metabolism and energy production, and aid in the synthesis of molecules. For instance, tryptophan is a precursor of the neurotransmitter serotonin.

Amino acids deficiency causes weight loss, diarrhea, changes in hair or skin, low energy and lack of mental alertness. Diseases and conditions such as kwashiorkor, decreased blood protein levels, decreased muscle mass, drop in blood cell numbers, slow growth and reproductive disorders are all associated with low levels of amino acids in the body.

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