Published: 02/09/2010 - Updated: 10/18/2018
Author: K. Laura Garcés G
The leucine (Leu), is one of 20 amino acids the body needs to synthesize proteins. More than fifty percent of the body is composed of proteins, which are essential for growth, tissue formation and repair of cells and essential for the proper functioning of enzymes, hormones and antibodies. Leucine is one of the 9 amino acids that are considered essential, part of our genetic code and is essential for human nutrition, we should pay attention to include it in the diet in adequate amounts because the body cannot synthesize for itself. It is part of the set of amino acids in ramified chain, and the frequency of appearance in it is 9%. It is a branched amino acid with valine and isoleucine.
Why is this amino acid important?
In fact, all amino acids are essential for health, the lack of any of them causes deficiencies of all kinds. Leucine, however, being an essential amino acid, plays important roles in the body such as those listed below:
- Helps regulate blood sugar in the blood.
- Intervenes in the growth and repair of muscle tissue, used as fuel by the muscles.
- Necessary for the production of growth hormones and wound healing.
- Helps prevent tearing or rupture of the fibrillar muscles that often occur after a stroke or severe stress.
- It helps build muscle tone, there are supplements for athletes whose main ingredient is Leucine.
- Consider their use in people with fenilcetouria (when the body cannot metabolize the amino acid phenylalanine)
- Leucine can be altered as time passed, which may cause an imbalance in the production and breakdown of muscle protein, which gives rise to loss of muscle mass in the elderly.
Vegetarian and Leucine
It is rare to find this important amino acid deficiency in humans, as it is very present in the dishes with proteins. However, vegetarians know little about the food system without meat, and they usually "filled" with bread, crackers or other foods devoid of nutritional value without actually combining food, often suffer deficiencies of this amino acid.
This amino acid deficiency causes:
- Low muscle tone.
- Very low levels of these three amino acids (leucine, valine and isoleucine) is related to neurological diseases such as epilepsy or weight loss that occurs in Huntington's disease.
- There is an inherited imbalance where the body has severe disorders of leucine metabolism, which occurs when the body is unable to degrade one of the many metabolites of the essential amino acid leucine, and this begins to focus on the body, causing toxic levels in it. The inability to metabolize branched-chain amino acids (leucine, isoleucine and valine) is called maple syrup disease, because the urine of the affected person has a smell like maple syrup. There is a common condition but if not treated early can lead to metabolic acidosis, which can lead to severe progressive neurological disorders, which is characterized by severe mental retardation.
Proteins in foods
There are many sources for obtaining vitamins and essential amino acids in foods, both animal and vegetable origin. All foods of animal origin contain virtually all amino acids, however, animal proteins are not essential in the diet, as there are many plant foods that can provide high quality amino acids for protein synthesis. The problem with vegetarian diets is that people often are unaware of these sources of amino acids, and create gaps in the diet.
Vegetable proteins have the advantage of being highly digestible, have fats that are beneficial to the body and have higher biological value and energy.
Avoid Leucine deficiency in vegetarians
The body has a perfect mechanism for distributing and synthesizing proteins, it is very difficult to reach a vegetable diet lacking protein, but it's always good to consider how to avoid these gaps:
- With a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, seeds (sunflower, sesame, etc.), grains (amaranth, barley, wheat, corn, etc.), brewer's yeast, seaweed (kelp, agar-agar , nori, etc..) cold-pressed vegetable oils (soy, sesame, sunflower, etc) and sprouts (soy, alfalfa, onion, amaranth, wheat, etc.), the body can produce its own amino acids and create any essential for the manufacture of proteins. If there is a missing amino acid in the diet, the liver would provide it.
- Incomplete proteins (which are not yet formed, as in the case of plants) or in combination, can lead to other comparable value to that of meat, fish and eggs. To this should be included in the diet often rice and wheat, sesame, amaranth cereal, potatoes, vegetable milk (soy, almonds, walnuts, amaranth, sesame.), juices and fresh vegetable salads, fruits or combined (not mixed with food, take an hour before meals), oilseeds and nuts, almonds, peanuts, etc.
- For vegetarians who perform physical activity or high-performance effort, should monitor the proper use of protein and leucine, as this helps to protect muscles and serves as a fuel. Leucine can be taken also as a supplement.
- Pregnant women should maintain a vegetarian diet controlled and very deliberate, so that the baby is born with good muscle tone.
Leucine vegetarian shake
- One tablespoon of raw sesame seeds
- A glass of milk (or as needed) of almond milk
- One tablespoon of oats
- 3 nuts
- 2 tablespoons of amaranth cereal
- A large slice of mango, papaya, banana or two.
- Cereal molasses or honey
Blend all and drink without strain, in small sips.
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