I see a lot of people in my Functional Medicine Coaching practice that are not consuming enough protein. I can relate, as this as it is a daily struggle for me too! When I ask them to track their macronutrient (fat, carbs and protein) for a few days, a pattern of high fat, high carbs and lower protein often emerges. Not eating enough of the right amino acids, in the right quantities can result in weight gain, fatigue, poor methylation, oxidative load, poor neurotransmission, muscle and joint pain, poor detox and immune health. In fact, amino acids play a critical precursor role in many cofactors required for healthy genetic expression.
If you aren't asking these questions in terms of your diet and supplementation, then you could be missing an important piece in your "health puzzle".
What are "functional" amino acids?
"Functional" amino acids are amino acids are involved in key genetic and metabolic pathways such as protein synthesis, antioxidative reactions and oxidation of energy sources. A functional amino acid can be either a 'nonessential' or an 'essential' amino acid but what is more important is whether you have all these functional amino acids, at the right levels, in your body.
A summary of all amino acids in the body is called as amino acid pool. How is this pool formed? And how do we use it?
Amino acids as cofactors for gene expression
In order for amino acids to work optimally in your body, they need to be broken down (known as amino acid metabolism) for which vitamins and coenzymes, are needed. In other words when you eat animal or plant protein, your body needs to break this macronutrient down in order to remake human amino acids. So when evaluating your diet and supplementation for an optimal amino acid pool, you need to understand your amino acids as well as which nutrient cofactors act as precursors in amino acid metabolism. In short, just eating protein is not enough for optimal amino acid levels. You need to have an optimal supply of all the vitamin Bs, manganese, zinc, magnesium, selenium, potassium, and D3 in order for you to make the right levels of functional amino acids.
Your genes provide instructions for making proteins and enzymes, if there is a change/irregularity in these genes it can result in an abnormal build-up of amino acids or a deficiency in amino acids. This may signal that the body is not functioning as it should.
Research showed that genetic expression uses 4,187 proteins (of which 1,183 are cofactor-interacting proteins) and 21,333 interactions, which consisted of 1,057 interactions between cofactor-interacting proteins, 8,935 interacting between cofactor-interacting proteins and their neighbors and 11,341 interactions between neighbors. This is HUGE!
Here are some of the key genes that we test that use amino acids as cofactors. If you carry a medium to high impact genetic variation in one or more of these genes, then you need to know what your amino acid levels are in order to ensure the optimal genetic expression of these pathways.
If you don;t know what your genotype is for these key genes, you can get started by ordering the GENECOMBO test online here:
The role of amino acids in your body
When you look at the important functional amino acids in terms of the role they play inside your body, you can quickly see how important they are and this diagram below is a great snapshot.
I also use this 'cheat sheet" to help my clients better understand the potential health impact of amino acids levels either being too low or too high in their blood and which biological area in your body this could be affecting.
Testing your amino acid levels
It is possible and appropriate for you to have your amino acid profile checked, especially if you have low overall protein levels in your bloodwork, your diet is largely carbohydrate, or if you are a vegetarian. As we age, dietary changes can lead to protein deficiencies. Testing your levels will empower you to make more personalised amino acid choices in order to achieve optimal wellness.
The proper use and balance of amino acids can assist the body in decelerating the changes associated with progressive diseases of aging. For many issues that are beyond dietary control, we may want to look at this important family of nutrients before moving on to more potent pharmaceutical alternatives.
Amino acids also serve as precursors of many important metabolites: pyrimidines, glutathione, heme, nucleotides, polyamines, etc. As in most microorganisms, amino acid metabolism is intimately connected with that of the carbon skeletons that it uses, in particular during photorespiration.
Amino acid testing determines if the level of any particular amino acid is high or low.
This may indicate a deficiency in enzymes or cofactors (vitamins and minerals) which are producing specific amino acids. It may also indicate a gene irregularity which is affecting the make-up and then function of an enzyme or protein. As a result, the body cannot utilise essential components within the diet to produce sufficient energy for optimal body function.
You can order the AMINO ACID TEST online here. Once you get your results, the lab will issue you with a personalised protein powder that has been formulated to help re-balance your levels:
This test and the personalised protein powder based on your results is a great opportunity for personalised health!
Founder of MY DNA CHOICES
BA (Speech, Hearing & Lang Therapy) Hons | FMCHC | ReCODE Coach | Men's Health | Harvard Medical School Fundamentals in Genomics