What are Amino Acids?

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What are Amino Acids?
Amino acids are the basic and functional building units of proteins. The biological and chemical activity of an amino acid depends on its structure. In proteins amino acids are usually arranged in straight chains. An amino acid is made up of the elements Carbon, Hydrogen, Oxygen and Nitrogen. Amino acids are also characterized by the presence of two Carbon bonds. About 50 amino acids have been discovered by scientists till date. But only 20 of them are used in protein synthesis by human beings. Glutamine, lysine, valine, tryptophan etc are examples of amino acids.

Amino acids are classified into essential amino acids and non essential amino acids. Nine of them fall under the category of essential amino acids. They must be taken through food or some supplements. The human body lacks the ability to synthesize them. Essential amino acids are also termed as indispensable amino acids (IAA).Non essential amino acids or dispensable amino acid (DAA) need not be supplied by means of an external source because the body can produce them from the existing amino acids. Dairy foods, meat, legumes etc are rich in amino acid content.

Amino acids play a prime role in physiological processes. It is also essential for the proper growth of muscle tissues. Amino acids assist in losing the excess fat from the body. Amino acids are active metabolic intermediates of many biochemical pathways taking place in the human body.

Amino acids are subjected to a number of industrial uses. They are used in animal feeds and flavor enhancers in the food industry. Amino acid is an ingredient of drugs and cosmetics. Steps are being taken to develop amino acids into a component of biodegradable polymer.

Amino acids must be included in the daily diet. The body does not stock amino acids for future use unlike in the case of fats and carbohydrates. Lack of any one of the essential amino acids can cause several health problems. Functioning of the body becomes impossible in the absence of amino acids.

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