Despite its smaller size and structural disadvantages, no amino acid may be more important to protein construction than Alanine. Alanine remains the second smallest of all twenty plus amino acids. Glycine is the only amino that is smaller and simpler in construction than Alanine. It is clear that this nonessential amino acid remains an important element of human muscle tissue, and is integral in the development of proteins throughout our bodies.
First isolated in 1879, alanine is processed from glutamate in muscle cells through a process defined as transamination. Transamination is a complex process in which there is a transfer of an amine group (organic compounds containing nitrogen) of a particular acid to one molecule (ketone acid) on another acid. This process takes place in alanine, resulting in the creation of pyruvic and glutamic acids. Alanine is also important because of the liver’s ability to transform this simple amino acid into pyruvate.
Pyruvate is the beginning compound responsible for starting the Krebs cycle. This energy cycle is critical in producing ATP (energy) from specific chemical and enzymatic activities. Pyruvate may also provide benefits in cellular respiration and aid in the inhibition of body fat. Alanine is also transferred to a-ketoglutarate, and like pyruvate, is an organic compound that provides for a variety of critical processes in the body. A-ketoglutarate may provide a beneficial effect on the body’s anabolic properties, hormones, and immune system response.
Serving sizes below are based upon 100 grams of a given food source and are expressed in milligrams, representing the amount of Alanine contained:
|2530||Leavening agents, yeast, baker’s, active dry|
|Vegetables and Vegetable Products|
|4510||Seaweed, spirulina, dried|
|Nut and Seed Products|
|2620||Seeds, sesame flour, low-fat|
|2360||Seeds, sunflower seed flour, partially defatted|
|2310||Seeds, cottonseed flour, low fat (glandless)|
|Legumes and Legume Products|
|3800||Soy protein isolate, Protein Technologies International, Supro|
|3700||Soy protein isolate, Protein Technologies International, ProPlus|
|3590||Soy protein isolate|
|3590||Soy protein isolate, potassium type|
|3590||Soy protein isolate, potassium type, crude protein basis|
|2680||Soy protein concentrate, produced by alcohol extraction|
|2680||Soy protein concentrate, produced by acid wash|
|2210||Soy flour, defatted|
|2190||Soy flour, low-fat|
|Finfish and Shellfish Products|
|3800||Fish, cod, Atlantic, dried and salted|
|3110||Mollusks, whelk, unspecified, cooked, moist heat|
|2250||Beef, cured, breakfast strips, cooked|
|2200||Beef, round, top round, separable lean only, trimmed to 1/4” fat, all grades, cooked, braised [London Broil, Minute Steak, Round Steak]|
|2200||Beef, round, top round, separable lean only, trimmed to 0” fat, all grades, cooked, braised [London Broil, Minute Steak, Round Steak, Cube steak]|
|2180||Beef, round, top round, separable lean only, trimmed to 1/4” fat, choice, cooked, braised [London Broil, Minute Steak, Round Steak]|
|2180||Beef, round, top round, separable lean only, trimmed to 0” fat, choice, cooked, braised [London Broil, Minute Steak, Round Steak, Cube steak]|
|2180||Beef, round, top round, separable lean only, trimmed to 1/4” fat, select, cooked, braised [London Broil, Minute Steak, Round Steak]|
|2180||Beef, round, top round, separable lean only, trimmed to 0” fat, select, cooked, braised [London Broil, Minute Steak, Round Steak, Cube steak]|
|2170||Beef, round, top round, separable lean and fat, trimmed to 0” fat, all grades, cooked, braised [London Broil, Minute Steak, Round Steak, Cube steak]|
|2150||Beef, round, top round, separable lean and fat, trimmed to 0” fat, choice, cooked, braised [London Broil, Minute Steak, Round Steak, Cube steak]|
|2150||Beef, round, top round, separable lean and fat, trimmed to 0” fat, select, cooked, braised [London Broil, Minute Steak, Round Steak, Cube steak]|
|2470||Pork, cured, bacon, cooked, microwaved|
|2450||Pork, cured, bacon, cooked, broiled, pan-fried or roasted|
|2450||Pork, cured, bacon, cooked, pan-fried|
|2370||Pork, cured, bacon, cooked, broiled, pan-fried or roasted, reduced sodium|
|2290||Pork, cured, bacon, cooked, baked|
|2220||Pork, fresh, variety meats and by-products, ears, frozen, raw|
|Lamb, Veal, and Game Products|
|2250||Game meat, bison, chuck, shoulder clod, separable lean only, 3-5 lb roast, cooked, braised [buffalo]|
|2180||Veal, leg (top round), separable lean only, cooked, braised|
|2150||Veal, leg (top round), separable lean and fat, cooked, braised|
|Dairy and Egg Products|
|4680||Egg, white, dried|
|2640||Egg, whole, dried|
|8010||Gelatins, dry powder, unsweetened|
|5790||Gelatin desserts, dry mix, reduced calorie, with aspartame, added phosphorus, potassium, sodium, vitamin C|
|5790||Gelatin desserts, dry mix, reduced calorie, with aspartame, no added sodium|
Alanine’s role in human physiology remains quite limited. Its main function remains as a primary builder and regulator of bodily proteins. Alanine also provides our liver with the ability to produce glucose in times of need. Glucose metabolism is extremely dependant upon alanine. Glucose is our main source of energy, and this may explain why scientists believe that this particular nonessential amino acid may assist us in maintaining blood sugar levels. Alanine may also be a constituent of metabolic processes for Vitamin B5, Coenzyme A, and the essential amino acid, tryptophan.
Alanine is found in all of human muscle and can also be located in many protein rich foods consumed in the human diet. It is important to note that although muscle may be its primary “resting ground,” alanine is not limited to just muscular tissue. This important amino is also present in intestinal bacteria and prostate fluid. Research indicates that prostate health may be one of the most important conditions affected by the proper dietary supplementation of this alanine.
Alanine has been used in clinical applications to treat benign prostatic hyperplasia, or hypertrophy of the prostate gland. This condition is characterized by the two growth periods of the prostate in male maturity. The second growth phase of the prostate occurs at the median age of 25 and because of this rapid growth, benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) is often reported years later. BPH is unlikely to cause symptoms before the age of 40, but it is estimated that more than 60% of men in their sixties and seventies suffer from the discomfort associated with this condition.
A recent independent study involved 45 men with BPH and concluded that 780mg of supplemented alanine per day, followed by two months of 390 mg, effectively reduced the symptoms and complications of benign prostatic hyperplasia.  *Glycine and glutamic acid were also included in this study. * This may be of critical importance to men, seeming as some 4.5 million American males sought physician assistance for this condition in 2000 alone.
Persons suffering from immunological diseases may also benefit from alanine supplementation. This is due to alanine’s ability to stimulate lymphocyte production. It also serves as an inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain, providing for the decreased neurological excitement in those suffering from epilepsy.
Listed below are the Recommended Daily Allowances (RDAs) for all amino acids. The RDA for Alanine is listed under the heading of “Aromatic Amino Acids.”
|Requirement - mg. per kg. of body weight|
|Amino acid||Infant 3 - 6 mo.||Child 10 - 12 yr.||Adults|
|Histidine||33||not known||not known|
|S-containing amino acids||45||22||10|
|Aromatic amino acids||132||22||16|
No deficiency has ever been reported due to the abundance of alanine consistently being produced by our body.
To date, very few side effects or interactions have been noted with concerns to the dietary supplementation of this particular amino acid.
Because alanine is made so efficiently in the body, most people do not need to supplement with alanine. Those at risk for a toxicity may be persons suffering from kidney or liver disease.
Individuals suffering from Epstein Barr (glandular fever) and chronic fatigue syndrome have also been linked to extremely high levels of alanine, in conjunction with the deficiencies of other amino acids.
1. Nutrition Data. “999 Foods; Highest in alanine.” (2004) http://www.pdrhealth.com/drug_info/nmdrugprofiles/herbaldrugs/101840.shtml (02 Nov. 2004).
2. Damrau F. Benign prostatic hypertrophy: Amino acid therapy for symptomatic relief. J Am Geriatrics Soc 1962; 10(5):426-30.
3. Feinblatt HM, Gant JC. Palliative treatment of benign prostatic hypertrophy. Value of glycine-alanine-glutamic acid combination. J Maine Med Assoc. 1958;March.
4. Zest for life information page. “RDA of amino acids.” (1999-2003) http://www.pdrhealth.com/drug_info/nmdrugprofiles/herbaldrugs/101840.shtml (14 Sept. 2004).
5. Zello GA, Wykes LF, Ball RO, et al. Recent advances in methods of assessing dietary amino acid requirements for adult humans. J Nutr 1995;125:2907-15.