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The difference between essential and non-essential amino acids

There are 20 different amino acids that are used in the human body to make the proteins we need to survive.

They all have the same basic backbone, but they each have a slightly different shape or contain slightly different molecules attached to that backbone. Our body is able to break amino acids down to their basic backbone and rearrange the shape or add different molecules to the backbone, so that it creates a different amino acid.

Nutritionists group amino acids into essential amino acids or non-essential amino acids.

  • Essential amino acids are the amino acids that we need to obtain from our diet, as the body cannot make them itself, for example leucine.
  • Non-essential amino acids are the amino acids that can be produced by our body, provided we have an adequate supply of the building blocks of essential amino acids and a good diet providing the trace elements to add to the basic amino acid backbone, for example cysteine.

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