Conditionally Essential Amino Acids: Definition And Why We Need Them

AminoAcidProducts | January 25, 2021 | Amino Acids

You need to get enough of all amino acids. They are like the building blocks that life itself hangs upon. Almost every process depends on their availability. However, there are two major types of amino acids. We have the essential amino acids and the non-essential amino acids. The essential amino acids are nine in number. Your body cannot produce them. You can only get them from your diet or through supplements. Non-essential amino acids, on the other hand, are naturally produced in your body. They are eleven in number. Seven of these are called conditionally essential amino acids. You would want to find out the conditionally essential amino acids definition.

Amino acids help to keep your body running the way it should. Some of these amino acids are produced in the body, so we usually do not have to bother about them. They are called non-essential amino acids. However, some things could affect their production in the body. Do you know that stress can affect the production of some non-essential amino acids? Are you also aware that certain disease conditions can also make otherwise non-essential amino acids to become essential? Non-essential amino acids that can become essential under certain conditions are called conditionally essential amino acids.

Conditionally Essential Amino Acids Definition

To start with, what are amino acids? Amino acids are organic compounds. They are found in the body and they make up proteins.

Every protein contains some specific amino acids. There are 20 amino acids in all that your body makes use of.

These 20 amino acids are in two groups. There are essential and non-essential amino acids.

Essential amino acids are the ones that your body can’t produce. You have to get them through the foods you eat. You can also get them from supplements.

Non-essential amino acids are the ones that your body can produce. You don’t have to bother about getting them from your food. They are a total of 11:

  1. Arginine
  2. Alanine
  3. Cysteine
  4. Glutamate
  5. Aspartate
  6. Glycine
  7. Proline
  8. Serine
  9. Tyrosine
  10. Glutamine
  11. Asparagine

All these 11 amino acids have their function in your body. However, 7 of them are referred to as “conditionally essential”. This is because they may become essential in some situations.

When can these amino acids become essential? This happens when you are under so much stress or if there is a disease. These may prevent your body from making these amino acids. They may also limit its ability to produce them.

In such a case, you will need to get these amino acids from food sources. You can also get them through amino acid supplements.

However, if you would take supplements, you should take it on an empty stomach. This is so that your body will absorb it well. If you take it after eating a protein food, the food may affect the absorption of the supplements.

This is a list of the seven conditionally essential amino acids:

  1. Arginine
  2. Cysteine
  3. Glutamine
  4. Glycine
  5. Proline
  6. Serine
  7. Tyrosine

What Makes These Amino Acids Conditionally Essential?

1. Arginine

On a normal day, your body makes all the arginine it needs by itself. But babies that are born preterm cannot yet produce arginine by themselves.

For such infants, arginine becomes an essential amino acid. They will need to get their arginine from supplements.

2. Cysteine

You can make your cysteine when your body is in a good state of health. However, you need methionine to make cysteine. If you don’t have enough methionine, your body would not be able to make enough cysteine.

Many infants and elderly people can’t produce enough cysteine. Those who have malabsorption syndrome or certain metabolic diseases may also not be able to produce enough cysteine. For these people, supplements are needed.

3. Glutamine

All things being equal, you should have no problems with glutamine. However, illness and injury sometimes put your body in a catabolic state. And catabolic states affect glutamine production. Under such a condition, it is necessary to get your glutamine from either food or supplements.

4. Glycine

Supplemental glycine is helpful for those that are getting well after surgery. If you are recovering from an injury or you’re suffering from an illness, you may also need to get glycine supplements.

Also, stress and certain drugs may limit your body’s ability to produce glycine. These are the reasons why non-essential amino acid glycine can become essential.

5. Proline

Your body naturally produces proline from glutamate. But extreme stress and illness can affect this production. In such cases, you will need to obtain your proline from either food or supplements.

6. Serine

Serine deficiency is a very rare occurrence. But it sometimes happens due to problems with biosynthesis. This is usually a result of an inherited metabolic disorder. This disorder can cause severe mental problems. If you have serine deficiency, taking oral supplemental serine may be beneficial for you.

7. Tyrosine

Your body makes its tyrosine by itself. However, this production process requires phenylalanine. However, a condition called Phenylketonuria (PKU) makes tyrosine production impossible.

If you have this condition, you must get tyrosine supplements. You may also need supplements if you do not obtain enough phenylalanine.

Role Of Conditionally Essential Amino Acids

Roles of Conditionally Essential Amino Acids in the Body

1. Arginine

  • Stimulates your immune function
  • Helps to fight fatigue
  • Boosts heart health

2. Cysteine

  • Needed for the production of collagen
  • Supports skin health

3. Glutamine

  • Supports metabolic processes in the body
  • Provides energy at the cell level

4. Glycine

  • Also a neurotransmitter
  • Supports brain health

5. Proline

  • Also present in collagen
  • Promotes joint health
  • Enhances metabolism

6. Serine

  • Needed for the metabolism of fats
  • Boosts immune function
  • Enhances muscle growth

7. Tyrosine

  • Aids in the synthesis of thyroid hormones
  • Needed for melanin production
  • Needed for epinephrine synthesis

Conditionally essential amino acids definition shows that they are not always essential. However, when they do become essential, you can get them from food or through supplements. This way, you can keep your body functioning the way it should regardless of the condition.

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