Proteins and Amino Acids

Proteins are amazing, versatile and vital cellular working molecules. Without them, we would not have life.
The word Protein comes from the Greek word proterios (meaning “of prime importance”), proteins have revealed countless secrets of the processes of life.

The structure of proteins enables them to perform many vital functions.
One key difference from carbohydrates and fats is that proteins contain nitrogen atoms in addition to the carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen atoms that all three energy-yielding nutrients contain.

The word Amino means “nitrogen containing” and these atoms are the building blocks of proteins.

A big difference between proteins and carbohydrates is that carbohydrates have repeating units, glucose molecules, and are identical while the amino acids in a strand of protein are different from one another.  A strand of amino acids that makes up a protein can contain up to 20 different kinds of amino acids.

Amino acids have the same simple chemical backbone made up of a single carbon atom with both an amine group (the nitrogen containing part) and an acid group attached to it.

Each amino acid also has a distinctive chemical side chain attached to the center carbon of the backbone. It is this side chain that gives the identity and its chemical nature to each amino acid.

About 20 amino acids, each with its own unique side chain, make up most of the proteins of living tissue.

The side chains make the amino acids differ in size, shape, and electrical charge.  Some are negative, some are positive, and some are neutral with no charge at all.

What is an Amino Acid..are you a little confused in all this scientific talk? Plainly put, an Amino Acid is a building block of protein. Each has an amine group at one end, an acid group at the other and a distinctive side chain.    What is an amine?  This is simply the nitrogen containing portion of an amino acid.

A side chain is the unique chemical structure attached to the backbone of each amino acid that differentiates one amino acid from another.

And essential amino acid cannot be synthesized at all by the body or cannot be synthesized in amounts sufficient to meet physiological need. They are sometimes called “indispensable amino acids.”

Conditional essential amino acids  are amino acids that are normally supplied by the diet in special circumstances when the need for it exceeds the body’s ability to produce it.

Proteins are unique among the energy nutrients in that they possess nitrogen-containing amine groups and are composed of 20 different amino acid units. Of the 20 amino acids, some are essential and some are essential only in special circumstances.


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