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Amino-acidsAmino acids are the building blocks of protein and comprise joined together peptide bonds that form infinite protein structures. The structures resemble a chain and when protein is ingested, the secretion of hydrochloric acid and pepsin in the stomach unravels and chops these complex structures to facilitate their subsequent digestion and absorption by the body. There are two types of amino acids – essential (indispensable) and non-essential. The essential amino acids are needed for the cells’ daily functions and they can’t be synthesised by the body which requires their intake from dietary sources. Non-essential amino acids are manufactured by the body, using ingested protein and non-protein nutrients at a rate that meets the body’s demand for growth and repair. This explains why if you are exercising a lot or aiming to build muscle, your body will have higher demands for protein.

We derive amino acids from both animal and plant sources with the only difference being that plant sources do not give us a complete protein profile. A complete protein has all the amino acids in the correct proportions to maintain nitrogen balance and promote growth. Nitrogen balance is achieved when our protein intake meets the body’s requirements. Thus, a positive ration of nitrogen:protein means that tissue building is taking place while a negative relationship indicates encroachment on available amino acids – skeletal muscle is being broken down to provide energy for the body. This process is called catabolism and all efforts must be made to avoid it. When amino acids are absorbed by the body, they enter a ‘pool’ where the body starts using them to build tissues and repair cells – the process of anabolism. If that ‘pool’ does not have enough, then current structural tissues are sacrificed.

Each amino acid has vital functions in the body and in this and subsequent posts I will tell you more about their importance and specific relation to our health. Today we will cover skincare.


1. Lysine

Lysine is an essential amino acid that must be consumed in our diet for the body to absorb it. It is involved in protein biosynthesis, especially in building collagen in combination with the amino acids Proline and Glycine. Thus, the lack of lysine may lead to fragile nails, skin and hair problems. Lysine is also important for treating the herpes virus as it is believed to prevent the virus from processing L-arginine, another important amino acid. Both amino acids use the same transport system and thus in the incident of herpes infections, these two amino acids should be supplied to the body. Between 500mg and 1,500 mg og lysine are recommended for the prophylaxis of herpes simplex in combination with Zinc and Vitamin C.

There is also evidence that L-lysine can lower blood sugar in type 2 diabetes. Studies recommend a daily intake of 1,000mg in combination with L-arginine and L-carnitine to improve insulin resistance. An daily long-term dose of 3,000mg per day is considered safe in adults but since some evidence suggests a reduction of blood clotting with the supplementation of L-lysine, higher doses are not recommended during pregnancy or before surgery.

2. Cystine

Cystine can be synthesised in the liver, making it a non-essential amino acid. It is built from the essential amino acid L-methionin which requires the presence of this amino acid critical to the body’s supply of cystine. Protein-rich foods contain cystine but only in small amounts which requires a varied diet, complimented with dietary supplements to ensure sufficient amount in the body. Meat and soy products are best to cover the minimum daily recommendations of  1.400 mgPork and chicken are particularly high with 220 to 240 mg per 100 g, followed by raw salmon (219 mg/100 g) and chicken eggs (272 mg per 100 g).Vegetarians can rely on sunflower seeds (451 mg/100 g), walnuts (208 mg/100 g) and soybeans 655 mg/100 g. L-cysteine is water-soluble which means that when cooking the above foods, they should not be kept in water for too long to avoid washing out the amino acid.

Cysteine is a natural building block of the skin and nails and is also vital for hair growth. Another benefit for the skin lies in its properties to fight off free radicals, acting as a powerful antioxidant to help the body deal with oxidative stress and toxins. This is because cysteine supports the synthesis of Glutathione, another powerful antioxidant which plays an important role in detoxification. According to recent research studies, these two substances can slow down ageing and help prevent the development of dementia and multiple sclerosis, because both conditions are linked to an accumulation of toxins.

Although side effects are unknown, diabetics should consult their doctors because cysteine can reduce insulin concentration requiring an adjustment in the antidiabetic medicine.


3. Glycine

Glycine is the smallest and simplest non-essential amino acid, and it’s the second most widespread in the human enzymes and proteins. Glycine is synthesised in the liver from the amino acids, serine and threonine. In a solid form, it’s a sweet tasting crystalline substance and the principle amino acid within cane sugar. In our bodies, it’s found in the skin, tissues and muscles.

Approximately one third of collagen is made of glycine. Collagen is the essential protein that keeps the connective tissue and skin flexible and firm. In the absence of glycine, damaged tissues can’t be repaired. Research has shown that glycine helps to protect the body against shock as a result of blood loss, along with preventing free radical formation.

Although the body can manufacture glycine, this amino acid can be found in high-protein foods, such as fish, meat and dairy while vegetarians can use soybeans, spinach, kale, cauliflower, cabbage, pumpkin, banana, kiwi fruit, cucumber and beans. Glycine deficiencies are rare but can occur in people suffering from cancer and AIDS.

These are the main skin-loving amino acids and I hope this information helps you when choosing skincare supplements and trying to improve your diet for a better skin complexion.

In Health & Balance,

Maya xxx




  1. Interesting article! Maybe you would be interested to have a look at my website for more lists of food particularly rich in lysine or cystine.

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