Amino acids (also aminocarboxylic acids) are chemical compounds that have both a nitrogen (N)-containing amino group and a carboxylic acid group. They are found in all living organisms and are the basic building blocks of all proteins. They are released during the breakdown of proteins (proteolysis).
The build-up of the body’s own proteins as well as the exhaustion of the dietary protein succeeds particularly well when the composition of the supplied amino acids is balanced.
The amino acid index indicates the biological value of foods in terms of amino acid content. Amino acids that are not used to build protein can be deaminated and thus metabolized to carbohydrates and fats.
Amino acids are divided into different groups. These groups of amino acids participate in various processes in the body. Among other things, amino acids are involved in the transport and storage of nutrients, as building blocks of proteins they promote muscle growth and protect against muscle breakdown. However, amino acids are also a component of antibodies and the precursor of important enzymes and neurotransmitters that are responsible for various metabolic processes.
Furthermore, a distinction is made between essential, semi-essential and non-essential amino acids. The essential amino acids form a subset of compounds that the body itself does not or cannot form. They must therefore be taken in through the diet.
Semi-essential amino acids can be formed by the body, they consist of other amino acids. In special situations, such as pregnancy, injuries, growth or even during competitive sports, they become essential amino acids and must be supplied through food.
Non-essential amino acids can be produced by the body itself, so they are of no particular importance in the field of nutrition and dietary supplementation.