As we saw previously, amino acids are the building
blocks of proteins. When we consume a meal, there is usually always
a variable amount of protein contained in it. Of course, amounts vary.
for example, meat products contain a high percentage of protein and fats,
and very little, if any carbohydrate. On the other hand, vegetables contain
a lower percentage of protein compared to meat, but a higher content of
As we digest a meal, the protein is broken down into its constituent amino acids.
The amino acids are transported through the intestinal wall and are then transported
and distrubed throughout the body, depending on need. Even though proteins are
broken down into amino acids before they are transported through the intestinal wall,
sometimes small proteins get through. These proteins are only a few amino acids
in length. However, these proteins although beneficial, can sometimes ellicit
immune responses (allergies).
Since proteins are broken down into its individual amino acids, we can see the logic of
why we must inject certain drugs, versus taking them by mouth. Drugs that are of protein
composition (eg., growth hormone) cannot be taken orally because they will simply be
degraded into amino acids, and hence, useless. However, when they are injected, they
are put directly into the circulatory system, and thus, bypass the digestive system.
When these drugs find their way into the bloodstream, they can then exert their
intended pharmacological effects on the body.
Why are amino acids so important? Considering a fair degree of our body is composed
of proteins, amino acids are essential to life. Aside from structural importance,
what other uses do amino acids have in the body? Amino acids can be used for
energy production when the body is running low on other forms of fuel such as
sugars and fats. The proteins that are made from amino acids are also important
maintaining blood pressure. Since proteins have an attractive force on fluids in
the circulatory system, they have an influence on blood pressure. We can
make an assessment on the protein store of an individual by checking the albumin and
pre-albumin in the blood. These are called acute phase reactants and change very
quickly in response to changes in diet, illness, etc.
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