Amino Acids

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Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins and were first discovered in the early 19th century by the French chemist Louis Nicolas Vauquelin. These organic compounds play a crucial role in maintaining the structural and functional aspects of the human body.

Amino acids are vital for life because they involve many biological processes, including synthesizing proteins, neurotransmitters, and hormones. They also contribute to cellular repair, immune system function, and energy production. Due to their essential role in maintaining good health, amino acids are an important research topic in longevity.

In total, there are around 20 Amino Acids that makeup protein. Restricting some of these can have a positive impact on health and lifespan. This is linked to the balance between two cellular signaling pathways, mTOR (mechanistic target of rapamycin) and AMPK (AMP-activated protein kinase). Increasing protein and amino acid consumption can activate mTOR and is associated with reduced health and lifespan. On the other hand, AMPK activation is related to increased health and longevity. While it is vital to have mTOR activation for cellular growth and repair, limiting the time mTOR is active and promoting AMPK activation can contribute to a longer, healthier life. This delicate balance between mTOR and AMPK is often called the “seesaw” effect in longevity research. It’s important to note that of the 20 amino acids, there are approximately 13 that activate mTOR.

Below is an interesting Youtube video that explains the role of Amino Acids and proteins for Longevity and mTOR.

The 20 Amino Acids and Essential Non-Essential Classification

Below is a list of all 20 amino acids classified as Essential or Non-essential. Note essential amino acids cannot be synthesized by the human body and must be obtained through diet, whereas non-essential amino acids can be produced by the body.

Amino AcidAbbreviationEssential/Non-essential
AlanineAla, ANon-essential
ArginineArg, RNon-essential (conditionally essential for infants and growing children)
AsparagineAsn, NNon-essential
Aspartic acidAsp, DNon-essential
CysteineCys, CNon-essential
Glutamic acidGlu, ENon-essential
GlutamineGln, QNon-essential
GlycineGly, GNon-essential
HistidineHis, HEssential
IsoleucineIle, IEssential
LeucineLeu, LEssential
LysineLys, KEssential
MethionineMet, MEssential
PhenylalaninePhe, FEssential
ProlinePro, PNon-essential
SerineSer, SNon-essential
ThreonineThr, TEssential
TryptophanTrp, WEssential
TyrosineTyr, YNon-essential
ValineVal, VEssential

Prominent researchers in the field of amino acids and longevity include:

  • Dr. Valter Longo: Known for his research on fasting and dietary restriction, Dr. Longo has studied the effects of amino acid restriction on longevity and age-related diseases.
  • Dr. David Sinclair: A leading researcher in aging and lifespan, Dr. Sinclair has investigated the role of amino acids in cellular metabolism and their impact on health and aging.

Books discussing amino acids related to longevity:

  • “The Longevity Diet” by Dr. Valter Longo (2018): This book outlines a diet plan incorporating amino acid restriction and intermittent fasting to promote health and longevity.
  • “Lifespan: Why We Age—and Why We Don’t Have To” by Dr. David Sinclair (2019): In this book, Dr. Sinclair explores the science of aging, including the role of amino acids in cellular metabolism and their impact on the aging process.
  • “The Amino Revolution” by Robert Erdmann and Meirion Jones (1987): This book delves into the importance of amino acids in overall health, focusing on their role in promoting longevity and preventing age-related diseases.

My Expert Perspective on Longevity and Amino Acids

As a Longevity Expert that has been practicing longevity extension since 2020 I have the five main guidelines I follow to ensure I get adequite amino acid intake to support my health while also keeping mTOR in check.

  1. Intermittent Fasting (IF): I practice IF, where I limit my eating window to a specific timeframe each day (e.g., 8 hours). This fasting period can help reduce mTOR activation and promote AMPK pathways, supporting healthy aging.
  2. Protein Cycling: Instead of consuming a consistent amount of protein daily, I vary my intake. Some days I might consume higher protein, while other days I’ll go lower. This helps to avoid continuous mTOR activation, my protien intake will usually coinside with exercise or just before exercise.
  3. Exercise: I engage in regular resistance training and aerobic exercises. Resistance training, especially, has a natural mTOR-activating effect, which is beneficial for muscle growth and repair. The key is to balance this with adequate recovery and other practices to keep mTOR in check.
  4. Dietary Choices: I emphasize whole foods and prioritize plant-based proteins, like legumes and grains, which provide a well-rounded amino acid profile without excessive activation of mTOR.
  5. Mindful Consumption of Leucine: Given leucine’s potent mTOR-activating properties, I’m mindful of my intake, especially from sources like red meat and dairy.

Frequently Asked Questions on Healthy Consumption of Amino Acids for Longevity

I have created the below FAQ that should help to answer some of the questions that I recieve on a daily basis both through this website and my facebook community on the healthy consumption of Amino Acids for Longevity.

How can I ensure I’m getting enough amino acids in my diet to support healthy aging?

To ensure adequate intake of amino acids, consume a balanced diet rich in whole foods such as lean meats, fish, dairy, eggs, legumes, nuts, seeds, and whole grains. For vegetarians and vegans, combining different plant-based protein sources can help ensure a complete amino acid profile.

If I want to reduce mTOR activation, does that mean I should avoid protein altogether?

No, you shouldn’t avoid protein entirely. Protein is essential for muscle maintenance, immune function, and various bodily processes. However, you can consider reducing excessive protein intake and focus on the quality and timing of protein consumption. Aim to consume protein from whole food sources and consider periodic protein or amino acid restriction, such as occasional fasting days or protein cycling.

Are there specific amino acids that are more activating to mTOR?

Yes, leucine is the most potent activator of mTOR among the amino acids. While it’s essential for muscle protein synthesis, excessive leucine intake can over-activate mTOR. Moderation and balance are key.

How can I balance amino acid intake and avoid excessive mTOR activation?

Along with moderating protein intake, consider implementing techniques like intermittent fasting, protein cycling, and engaging in regular exercise, especially resistance training. These practices can help balance mTOR and AMPK activation.

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