A study published in the Journal of Nutrition found an association between specific amino acids and a decreased risk for atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries ) in healthy women. Amino acids are produced by the body or consumed in the form of dietary protein, and are essential to the growth, repair, and maintenance of body tissues. While previous research had linked specific amino acids to lower blood pressure, this study sought to uncover other potential cardiovascular health benefits. The study looked at data from 1,898 healthy female twins, aged 18 to 75. The women completed dietary surveys, which researchers analyzed for foods containing seven specific amino acids (arginine, cysteine, glutamic acid, glycine, histidine, leucine, and tyrosine). Participants were then tested for atherosclerosis and arterial stiffness using a number of measures that included testing central systolic blood pressure. After adjusting for factors such as the participants’ age, body mass index, smoking habit, family history of heart disease, and medication use, among other things, the researchers found that:
A higher intake of total protein and all seven amino acids was associated with lower markers for atherosclerosis, when compared with participants with lower intakes of total protein and all seven amino acids.
A higher intake of amino acids, such as arginine and glycine, from vegetable sources was associated with lower markers for atherosclerosis, when compared with participants with lower intakes of those particular amino acids.
A higher intake of three amino acids—glutamic acid, leucine, and tyrosine—from animal sources was associated with lower markers for atherosclerosis, when compared with participants with lower intakes of those particular amino acids.
This study was observational and, therefore, more clinical research is needed to substantiate the findings. However, it’s important to note that amino acids are an important part of any healthy diet. While six of the seven amino acids examined in this study are naturally produced in the body, leucine is an essential amino acid that must come from the diet. Dietary amino acids are found in a variety of foods that contain protein, including red meat, fish, poultry, eggs, dairy, beans, peas, and grains.
Source: Journal of Nutrition