Amino Acid

Last Updated: June 21, 2018

Definition - What does Amino Acid mean?

An amino acid is so named because of a unique chemical composition. Formally known as a-amino carboxylic acids, amino acids molecules are necessary to form proteins. Thus, amino acids are sometimes referred to as the building blocks of life.

Chemically, each amino acid consists of an amino group and an acidic carboxyl group. Amino groups contain both hydrogen and nitrogen, while the carboxyl group contains carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen. A third R group, sometimes called a side chain, attaches to the amino and carboxyl group creating each distinct amino acid. A central carbon atom is common to amino acids. It is the presence of this carbon that makes amino acids organic chemicals.

WorkplaceTesting explains Amino Acid

The human body uses amino acids and the proteins formed with amino acids for essential life functions. These chemical compounds are used to digest foods, build cells, store energy, and perform many other bodily functions. However, the body is not capable of producing all of the amino acids necessary for these activities. Some amino acids may only be acquired through the break down of foods. These compounds are called essential amino acids. Without access to these amino acids through diet, the body cannot function effectively.

Different types of foods include different amino acids but meat is a primary source for many essential amino acids. Because of this vegetarians and vegans find it necessary to be very careful to local plant based sources of essential amino acids to protect their health. Consuming a balance of foods is necessary to provide the body with a complete amino acid profile.

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