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Amino Acids for Dummies.

Updated: Mar 11, 2020

You will often hear amino acids referred to as “the building blocks for protein”. Without protein we cannot live.

Whist the nutritional label on any food product will list ‘protein’ as though it is one substance, there are thousands of different proteins in our food, and thousands in ourselves. We need to eat protein in our food mainly so that we can make our own proteins.

In our digestive system, we break down the proteins in the food we eat into their component molecules, called amino acids, and then we join the amino acids back up again, using different numbers of them in a different – but very definite – order, to make our own proteins.

Each amino acid molecule has a sort of chemical ‘hook’ on each end, so that it can be attached to any other one, to make the proteins we need, like a series of carriages on a very long train. The code that determines the sequence of amino acids (the order of the ‘carriages’) is in our DNA. In NKH this “chain” is incorrectly made and certain amino acids have “hooked” onto the wrong ones or they are missing completely.

There are about 20 different amino acids. Eight of them are essential in the diet (we must ingest them in our diet), but the others we can make from those eight, if necessary. But because glycine is “non essential” meaning we don’t necessarily need to ingest it because our own livers make it for us, it is impossible to remove excess glycine simply by not eating any foods containing it.

In summary:

Essential amino acids cannot be made by the body. Therefore it is ESSENTIAL that we ingest them in our diet.

The 9 essential amino acids are: histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine.

Nonessential amino acids means that our bodies produce an amino acid, even if we do not get it from the food we eat. Therefore is it NONESSENTIAL that we ingest them in our diet.

Nonessential amino acids include: alanine, arginine, asparagine, aspartic acid, cysteine, glutamic acid, glutamine, glycine, proline, serine, and tyrosine.

Conditional amino acids are usually not essential, except in times of illness and stress.

Conditional amino acids include: arginine, cysteine, glutamine, tyrosine, glycine, ornithine, proline, and serine.

Proteins are an essential component of our muscles and other structures in our body, such as hair, nails and tendons. They're vital for brain health and cognitive function. As well as these structural proteins, there are proteins found in our blood that function as hormones, and others that form part of our immune system, which protects us against infection. The proteins in the food that we eat are digested by enzymes that are themselves proteins.

The excess amino acids in our diet cannot be stored for long in the body, if they are not needed for building new proteins. They are taken in the blood stream to the liver, where they are broken down. And right here is the flaw in NKH. These children cannot break down the excess glycine and as such toxic levels build up and cause devastating damage.

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