View Full Version : Essential Amino Acids

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Jul 31st, 2006, 09:51 PM
I can't think of the name of it but a supposed health food specialist (who happens to be an omnivore) over the weekend said there was some nutrient (not sure if it's an enzyme, amino acid or what) that is crucial to brain function that you can only get from red meat. Have you ever heard of this?

Sorry for being so vague.

Jul 31st, 2006, 10:56 PM
There's no enzyme in red meat that doesn't exist or can't be created by eating a variety of other enzymes in plant foods. I'm almost 100% certain of that.

Meateating doctors and nutritionists use this kind of logic often to advocate eating red meat, regardless of its multiple negative health effects.

Jul 31st, 2006, 11:16 PM
There is no such nutrient or enzyme. The only possibility would be b-12, but that would not be found only in red meat. I would be curious what the name of this "nutrient" is. There are so many myths perpetuated out there, this is just likely to be another myth.


Jul 31st, 2006, 11:19 PM
I've seen this nutrient mentioned a few times in strongly pro-meat sources. Strangely enough none of them have ever named it, presumably because it doesn't actually exist ;).

Jul 31st, 2006, 11:29 PM
An omni friend of my sister told my sister about this nutrient when my sister mentioned that I'm vegan. I forgot the name, but I'll ask her next time I talk to her. I'm sure that she's never looked for vegan sources of it, so how would she know that vegan sources of it don't exist? And besides, vegans live longer than omni's on average, so how "essential" could it be? It's just a way to justify meat-eating.

Jul 31st, 2006, 11:45 PM
There is no such nutrient or enzyme. The only possibility would be b-12, but that would not be found only in red meat. I would be curious what the name of this "nutrient" is. There are so many myths perpetuated out there, this is just likely to be another myth.


Haha yeah...my youngest brother asked me where I got my B12 last time he was over..I go to the fridge and say "From this big bucket of Nutritional Yeast!". :D

Aug 1st, 2006, 12:03 AM
There definitely is something that is found only in certain meats and possibly milk - and has a vital role in the brain. It's called a prion.

Aug 1st, 2006, 02:06 AM
Vital if you want to damage your brain...

Aug 1st, 2006, 03:40 AM
I bet its carnitine, which is an amino acid. In supplement form, it is most commonly derived from meat (where it gets its name) but it is manufactured in the body from lysine, methionine, and vitamin C. Its also found in nuts and seeds. Lack of it can cause brain abnormalities, mostly in infants, but its usually because of an inability to synthesize it within the body, rather than a dietary deficiency caused by lack of flesh in the human diet.
Some people will say anything to sell supplements, and justify extracting them from animals. :rolleyes:

Aug 1st, 2006, 06:44 PM
I found this from an omnivore reviewer on amazon.com trying to dissprove "The China Study", (excellent book BTW)

"Meat, along with certain species of fish and seafood, is a rich source of taurine, an important amino acid whose concentration in eggs, milk, and plant foods ranges from negligible to none[Laidlow SA][Pasantes-Morales H]. Taurine is found in high concentrations in the heart, brain, and central nervous system, where it helps stabilize the cellular response to nervous stimulation. Taurine possesses antioxidant capabilities and has been shown in double-blind clinical trials to improve cardiac function in patients with congestive heart failure[Schaffer SW][Azuma J][Azuma J]. "

Aug 1st, 2006, 06:48 PM

This is all true regarding taurine. Taurine is a conditionally essential amino acid, not found in vegan foods. But, for almost all vegans, we make a sufficient amount in our bodies where we don't need pure sources of it from food. That being said, if an amino acid profile is taken of a vegan, and they are found to be deficient in an amino acid, it will most likely be taurine.

In other words, taurine defiency is the most likely protein deficiency in a vegan, but it happens "very" rarely. This can quickly be overcome by taking a synthetic vegan taurine supplement.

In other words, the omnivore's critique is meaningless.


Aug 1st, 2006, 07:29 PM
"Taurine possesses antioxidant capabilities and has been shown in double-blind clinical trials to improve cardiac function in patients with congestive heart failure[Schaffer SW][Azuma J][Azuma J]. "
If they were vegan, they wouldn't have congestive heart failure in the first place, so they wouldn't need taurine ot improve their cardiac function.

Also, the omni reviewer doesn't even say to what extent taurine helps to improve cardiac function, so its effects are probably negligible.

Aug 1st, 2006, 11:18 PM
For those interested, here was the rest of the omnivore's point which I don't really know much about. Maybe you do and can comment. Perhaps it's acceptable for vegans to have lower levels of these amino acids because we don't eat meat. Food for thought:D

From Mr. Omnivore:
"Taurine cannot be found in plant foods. Humans are able to manufacture their own taurine but with far less efficiency than herbivorous animals, as evidenced by significantly lower blood taurine levels in vegans and rural Mexican women reporting low meat intakes[Laidlaw][Pasantes-Morales H].

Carnitine is a remarkable amino acid that plays a pivotal role in energy production, and is absolutely essential for the fat-burning process to proceed. Because of its pivotal role in energy production, high levels of carnitine are found in the heart and skeletal muscle. Clinical trials have observed markedly improved survival outcomes resulting from carnitine supplementation in patients with heart failure and coronary heart disease[Davini P][Rizos I][Singh RB][Iliceto S]. A review of the scientific literature shows that this versatile amino acid has been shown to benefit anorexia, chronic fatigue syndrome, heart disease, male infertility, sexual dysfunction and depression in aging men, and pregnancy outcomes. Exercise, even at moderate levels, can cause a significant drop in muscle carnitine levels; in patients with angina and respiratory disorders, carnitine enhances exercise tolerance[Kelly GS][Cavallini G][Gentile V].

The richest food source of carnitine, by far and away, is meat. Compared to omnivores, vegetarians repeatedly exhibit lower blood levels of carnitine[Krajcovicova-Kudlackova M][Lombard KA]. Carnitine status appears to also be worsened by the high-carbohydrate diets recommended by folks like Campbell. In healthy men receiving the same amount of dietary carnitine, blood levels of this all-important amino acid rose significantly in individuals following a high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet, while no change in carnitine levels were observed in individuals on a high-carbohydrate, low-fat diet[Cederblad G].

Meat is the only food containing significant amounts of carnosine, an amino acid with some rather interesting and highly beneficial properties[Chan KM]. Carnosine is a potent antioxidant, being particularly effective in protecting cellular fats against free radical damage. Research shows carnosine may accelerate wound healing, boost the immune system, protect against cataracts, reduce gastric ulcer formation, rid the body of toxic metals, and even help fight against cancer[Hipkiss AR]. The most potent effect of carnosine however, appears to be its ability to prevent glycation, which, along with free-radical production, is a major contributor to degenerative illness and the aging process[Price DL, et al].

The potent anti-glycation effects of carnosine may explain why a comparison of vegetarians, vegans and meat-eating omnivores revealed the latter to have significantly lower levels of nasty glycation end-products known as advanced glycosylation end-products (AGEs) circulating in their bloodstreams. The difference could not be explained by total carbohydrate intake, blood sugar, age or kidney function, as all these variables were similar between the vegetarian and omnivorous groups[Sebekova K].

Aug 1st, 2006, 11:34 PM

Yes, all this person's points sound impressive on first glance, but are as meaningless as his points are on taurine. I said above, the first most common amino acid deficiency in vegans is taurine (albeit this is rare). Well, the second most common is carnitine (so you guessed it, this is even more rare).

There are synthetic, vegan supplements for both carnitine and taurine which more than make up for any conceivable deficiency that the very rare vegan may face.

But, the idea of eating meat for the sake of these two amino acids is laughable. Meat has been shown in 1000's of studies to increase risk of all sorts of cancers, heart disease, strokes, diabetes etc. So, is this person saying you have to eat one of the least healthy foods available to us to get the marginal benefits shown from two amino acids it contains?

I don't buy the carnosine argument at all, by the way.

This is a typical argument made by a person ignorant of health issues.


Aug 1st, 2006, 11:54 PM
Yes I'd have to agree. I'm sure rat poison has something good in it, but I'm not going to eat it for the one or two good chemicals out of the thousands of bad ones. (That's kind of an ignorant vegan response, but you get my point). By the way, sort of off topic, I've been reading "Eat to Live" per your recommendation and plan on going through the 6 week "trial run" to see how well my body reacts. I'm in very good health, at my ideal weight, and don't have any food or substance addictions, so it should be an easy transition. My only concern is; I like variety and I like to cook and unfortunately I have a relatively high metabolism, so I don't want to lose weight or lose interest in the diet. Can you email me some suggestions or perhaps start another thread regarding this "superior" diet.

Oct 17th, 2006, 09:57 PM
A friend is asking me if I am getting enough amino acids in my vegetarian/vegan diet. A few months ago, I tried to research this topic but I could not find anything very useful.

I THINK I read to eat nuts - which I do - but I cant remember if this had to do with amino acids :P.

Can someone tell me if I need to take a supplement to get the proper amino acids in my vegetarian (almost vegan) diet?

Oct 17th, 2006, 10:09 PM
Provided you are not just eating refined foods and fruits, and you are eating sufficient calories, you are getting all the amino acids you need on a vegan or vegetarian diet. On a vegan diet, the amino acids that can sometimes show up as a deficiency are carnitine and taurine. These are conditionally essential amino acids, meaning your body should produce them, but not everyone does in sufficient quantities. But, deficiencies in carnitine and taurine are very rare, and is almost never a concern.


Oct 17th, 2006, 10:13 PM
I am glad you asked this question! I have just read, in a criticism of the China Study on Amazon, about the apparent difficulty of getting and making sufficient amounts of creatine, taurine, carnitine and carnosine in our diet. How much of these do we need? I would be interested if anyone has information.


Oct 17th, 2006, 10:26 PM
As I said before, amino acid deficiency in vegans is extremely rare. Most vegans need not concern themselves. The creatine and carnosine arguments are not legitimate. The taurine and carnitine can be a problem, as I said, for a very small population of vegans.

The person who reviewed the China Study posted bad information.


Oct 17th, 2006, 10:42 PM
Alfalfa sprouts have, i think, the complete range of amino acids

Oct 18th, 2006, 02:34 AM
Same with green peas I think. Brocolli has also a wide range of amino acids.

Look on http://www.nutritiondata.com

Oct 18th, 2006, 07:12 AM
Thanks for sharing your knowledge. I posted my first message at the same time as you Josh, so sorry to make you repeat yourself! I was really surprized to read that scathing attack of the China Study and wonder now if it was posted by some person working for the meat industry..:(

Oct 18th, 2006, 04:55 PM
seem to recall from school biology class that amino acids are the building blocks of protein.
sounds like a re-hash of the old adage "where do vegans get protein?"

Oct 18th, 2006, 06:16 PM
Quinoa is a grain that has a wide range of amino acids (all of the essentials, I think, but I'm not sure about taurine and creatine). I think between whole grains, nuts, and a wide variety of vegetables, you should be fine. I've never heard of anyone having an amino acid deficiency who wasn't actually starving.


Oct 18th, 2006, 06:24 PM
None of these foods (alfalfa sprouts, brocolli or quinoa) have appreciable amounts of taurine or carnitine. These amino acids basically are not found in vegetation. As I said, though, they are only conditionally essential because the body makes these amino acids from other substances.

Protein deficiency though, is not a problem for vegans provided they eat a sensible diet and are eating sufficient calories.