What Is L-Alanine?

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  • Written By: Canaan Downs
  • Edited By: Kaci Lane Hindman
  • Last Modified Date: 08 August 2014
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L-Alanine, also called as (2S)-2-Aminopropanoic acid, is a member of a class of nutrients known as amino acids, which are used by the body to assemble the proteins that serve as the basic building blocks of life. Since the human body is able to manufacture enough l-alanine to meet its needs, and since both animal and plant sources of the amino acid are abundant in nature, additional dietary supplementation is generally considered to be non-essential. The primary functions of l-alanine in the human body relate to the metabolism of glucose and pyruvate as well as the transportation of nitrogen to the liver. While infrequently used in alternative medicine, some practitioners have suggested that individuals with conditions affecting serum levels of l-alanine may benefit from supplements to promote liver health, relieve muscular degeneration, treat diminished energy levels, and facilitate the utilization of B-vitamins. Researchers at the Imperial College of London may call these applications into question, however, as their 2011 study found a correlation between increased levels of the amino acid in the blood and a higher incidence of hypertension and obesity.

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The body can manufacture glucose from l-alanine in the presence of alanine aminotrasferase (ALT), which is found predominantly in the liver. Although it is not as efficient a means of producing glucose as methods that make use of lactate, it does not require the use of the coenzyme ubiquinone or nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide dihydroxygenase. This can provide a significant advantage in certain short-lived anaerobic muscle use. As a result, l-alanine is frequently added to sports nutrition supplement products aimed at improving aerobic exercise, high-intensity workouts, or post-exertion muscle recovery. Unfortunately, many of these products neglect to consider that a significant portion of the l-alanine they include is unlikely to be absorbed in the gut due to competitive absorption with other amino acids, and there is little evidence that they offer users an improvement in athletic performance.

There is some evidence to suggest that supplemental l-alanine may provide a slight benefit to patients suffering from reduced levels of liver function. This is due to the importance of the amino acid not just in the synthesis of pyruvate by the liver, but also in the transportation of nitrogen from peripheral tissues to hepatic cells. By providing additional sources of this nutrient in the diet, there is some chance that the liver may be unburdened by some of its metabolic workload. Patients suffering from chronic wasting disease may also find that the supplement slows the degeneration of skeletal muscle, despite any review of these claims by a major regulatory body.

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