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Amino Acids: What Are They and What Do They Do?

Consider this: Aside from teeth and bones, most of your body is made up of protein. In fact, it is the second most abundant substance in your body, trailing only water. But without amino acids, there’d be no protein to build the “meat” of the human body (blood, muscles, organs, skin, hair, etc.)—you’d have a frame but no guts!

Protein molecules are made up of a combination of amino acids, which are linked end to end to form long chains, helixes, spheres or branched structures. While there are numerous amino acids found throughout nature, only 20 are used in your body to build protein. About half of these are synthesized naturally by your body (non-essential), while the rest are considered essential amino acids that need to be derived from the foods you eat. The type of protein produced by your body is determined by the number (hundreds to thousands), variety and order of amino acids that are linked together.

Hormones, enzymes, neurotransmitters and antibodies are also made from amino acids. In fact, there are over 1,600 basic proteins in the body, and all of them are created from unique combinations of amino acids. Thus, the availability of amino acids to your body has a great deal of influence on the state of your overall health and wellness. So how do you choose the right amino acid supplement for your health? Below are several of our most popular amino acid supplements and a brief overview of the role each amino plays in your body.

Acetyl L-Carnitine & L-Carnitine

Type: Non-essential

What It Does: Carnitine converts fatty acids in the cell into energy that the heart, muscles and other body parts can use. Choose L-Carnitine to support natural energy levels, cardiovascular health, weight management, cognitive function and healthy aging.

Swanson Premium Acetyl L-Carnitine
Swanson Premium L-Carnitine

Swanson Ultra AjiPure N-Acetyl-L-Cysteine, Pharmaceutical Grade

AjiPure N-Acetyl-L-Cysteine

Type: Non-essential

What It Does: The amino acid cysteine supports the liver’s natural production of the immune-boosting antioxidant glutathione, which is another non-essential amino acid. Cysteine is also used to help naturally detoxify the liver. N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC) is more bioavailable than L-cysteine. In fact, taking supplemental NAC appears to be more efficient than supplemental glutathione in supporting production of this important antioxidant.

Swanson Ultra L-Tryptophan Tryptopure 100% Pure Pharmaceutical Grade

100% Pure Pharmaceutical Grade AjiPure L-Tryptophan

Type: Essential

What It Does: Tryptophan promotes the management of healthy levels of serotonin—the feel-good hormone—in the brain, helping to support positive moods and emotional health. It is also used to support healthy, natural sleep, as well as healthy weight management. You might be more familiar with 5-HTP, a natural derivative of tryptophan that offers good bioavailability.

Swanson Ultra Suntheanine L-Theanine


Type: Non-essential compound

What It Does: Theanine is found in green tea, a natural source of antioxidant support and a popular herbal in its own right. One cup of green tea will provide roughly 25 to 50 mg of theanine. Theanine closely resembles another amino acid: glutamic acid, a neurotransmitter in the brain. It is best known for its anti-stress benefits.

Swanson Premium L-Tyrosine


Type: Non-essential

What It Does: Tyrosine is a precursor of the neurotransmitters norepinephrine and dopamine, which regulate mood and the feeling of satisfaction. Choose L-Tyrosine to build the body’s supply of adrenaline and thyroid hormones, and help control the appetite. Tyrosine can also rapidly metabolize as an antioxidant.

Swanson Premium Free-Form L-Lysine

Free-Form L-Lysine

Type: Essential

What It Does: Lysine works with the immune system to keep the body healthy. During times of high stress and emotional fatigue, the body can use more of this essential amino acid. Lysine works to provide overall immune system support, but it also plays a role in building muscle and repairing tissue.

Swanson Premium Multiple Amino Acids

Multiple Amino Acids

Type: Combination supplement of 18 amino acids

What It Does: This combination supplement delivers a boost to bodybuilders trying to maximize muscle mass. It features high-grade dairy protein supplying 18 different amino acids, including all of those deemed essential to human nutrition. Commonly used to support healthy muscle building, it also provides a good overall amino acid profile for general health and wellness.

Swanson Premium Taurine


Type: Non-essential

What It Does: Taurine is the most abundant amino acid in the retina of the eye, and it is vital for healthy vision. It also helps the body maintain a healthy water balance. Overall, taurine is utilized for cardiovascular health support and maintenance of healthy vision.

Swanson Ultra L-Carnosine


Type: Compound of histidine and alanine

What It Does: Carnosine is an organic compound composed of the amino acids histidine and beta-alanine. It's highly concentrated in important tissues like those of the brain, the heart, and the muscles. Carnosine functions as a broad-spectrum antioxidant and supports the healthy functioning of enzyme systems. Many scientists suspect that carnosine plays a role in supporting longevity in some of our most vital organs.

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†Ratings based on results of the 2015 ConsumerLab.com Vitamin and Supplement Users Survey. More information at www.consumerlab.com/survey2015.

Notice: The products and information found on www.swansonvitamins.com are not intended to replace professional medical advice or treatment. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Our dietary supplements are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease or medical condition. Individual results may vary. SwansonVitamins.com urges you to seek the advice of a qualified professional for any health concern lasting more than two weeks, and to share with your provider any information pertaining to your health and well-being, including the use of supplemental nutrition. Read complete terms of service.

© 2015 Swanson Health Products

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