Functional amino acids in nutrition and health
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The recent years have witnessed growing interest in biochemistry, physiology and nutrition of amino acids (AA) in growth, health and disease of humans and other animals. This results from the discoveries of AA in cell signaling involving protein kinases, G protein-coupled receptors, and gaseous molecules (i.e., NO, CO and H2S). In addition, nutritional studies have shown that dietary supplementation with several AA (e.g., arginine, glutamine, glutamate, leucine, and proline) modulates gene expression, enhances growth of the small intestine and skeletal muscle, or reduces excessive body fat. These seminal findings led to the new concept of functional AA, which are defined as those AA that participate in and regulate key metabolic pathways to improve health, survival, growth, development, lactation, and reproduction of the organisms. Functional AA hold great promise in prevention and treatment of metabolic diseases (e.g., obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disorders), intrauterine growth restriction, infertility, intestinal and neurological dysfunction, and infectious disease (including viral infections).
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