Amino Acids Part 1 – The Basics Of Amino Acids

Amino acids are broken into two groups. The first group is called the essential amino acids. They are essential to the human body because the only way to get these amino acids is through your diet.

The second group is called nonessential amino acids. These amino acids can by synthesized in the body or derived from other essential amino acids. Amino acids are important as they are the building blocks of all proteins in the body.

What the “L”  is that?

You will often see amino acids listed with an L in front of them. Like L-tryptophan. This L stands for levorotation and refers to the amino acids’ ability to rotate polarized light. The L tells us that the light is rotated counterclockwise when observed.

Common amino acids used in supplements:

• Arginine
• Carnitine
• Glutamine
• Lysine
• Methionine
• Phenylalanine
• Taurine
• Trypophan
• Tyrosine


This is one of the non-essential amino acids, in that it can be synthesized by your body. However it is also present in meats, dairy, nuts, whole grains and chocolate.

While the body can make its own arginine, the body’s production of arginine may be limited. A normal diet will have about 5.5 g of arginine a day of which most comes from animal protein. A vegetarian will often find their dietary intake of arginine on the low site.

Arginine Uses

Arginine is most often thought of in its relationship to nitric oxide. Nitric oxide is a vasodilator and is thought to be beneficial in a variety of disorders. Arginine is also important in the detoxification of ammonia form the body. It is also thought to stimulate the release growth hormone form the pituitary.

Clinical Uses

• Male infertility (enhanced sperm production)
• Interstitial cystitis
• Congestive heart failure (vasodilation)
• Raynaud’s (vasodilation)
• Erectile dysfunction (vasodilation)
• AIDs related wasting

Arginine Possible Nutrient / Drug interactions

• Lysine – both lysine and arginine are antagonists to one another. Lysine may decrease the absorption of arginine and arginine may decrease the absorption of lysine.
• Anti-hypertensive medication, nitrates, and Viagra – Arginine may lower blood pressure so its combine effect may be dangerous with anti-hypertensive medications. That same effect may happen with nitrates and Viagra.

Arginine Cautions and Warnings

• Allergies and Asthma – Arginine may cause increased inflammation
• Hypotension – Increased due to increased vasodilation
• Herpes – Arginine is necessary for viral replication and is an antagonist to lysine
• Heart attack – a study published in JAMA found that patients given arginine following an MI had an increased mortality rate relative to the placebo group
• Cirrhosis and liver disease – the liver breaks down arginine and people with liver disease often have higher levels of arginine in their blood.


In the human body, carnitine is found mostly in the heart or skeletal muscle. Up to 98% of carnitine is found in these muscles. Carnitine is nonessential and can be made in the liver, kidney, and brain. Carnitine requires the amino acid methionine, vitamin C, iron, vitamin B6, and niacin to be produced. A deficiency in any of these can lead to a deficiency in the body.
Almost all carnitine in our diet comes from animal sources. As a result, vegetarians often have a lower blood serum level of carnitine. The preservative sodium benzoate also reduces carnitine levels. Caution should be considered especially in vegetarians.

Carnitine Clinical Uses

• Angina – May increase exercise tolerance
• Congestive Heart Failure – May improve symptoms
• Myocardial infarction – taken afterwards may reduce complications and mortality
• Hypothyroid – May improve symptoms
• Infertility – Combined with acetyl-L-carnitine may improve sperm mobility
Carnitine Possible Nutrient / Drug interactions
• Chemotherapeutic drugs – May deplete carnitine. Carnitine may help prevent doxorubicin cardiotoxicity
• Isotretinoin –Carnitine may help prevent muscular side effects
• Statins – Carnitine may help with statin muscle damage
• Cefditoren Pivoxil – May cause carnitine depletion
• Valproic acid – May cause carnitine depletion
• Pivalic acid antibiotics – May cause carnitine depletion


Acetyl-L-carnitine is not the same thing as carnitine and some people confuse the two. It can be a source of carnitine in the body. However, it is more similar to the neurotransmitter acetyl-choline. It is often used in treatment of depression, dementia, cognitive decline, Peyronie’s disease, diabetic neuropathy, and Alzheimer’s.

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About John Montague DC

John Montague DC is the owner of WebVitamins. He is active in the industry and is currently president of the NPA East.

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