Amino acids are often referred to as ‘the building blocks of life,’ as they are involved in protein synthesis. Since every cell in your body contains protein, you need to consume proper amounts of aminos with your daily food.
However, the functions of amino acids aren’t limited to synthesis only. Some aminos may also work as neurotransmitters or transportation systems, and others have potent antioxidant properties.
Asparagine is one of the non-essential aminos. Its primary functions are to help excrete the protein metabolites and regulate the ammonia levels in your body.
Today, you will learn all the facts about this amino acid and find out whether you need to take asparagine supplements for your body to function properly.
What Is Asparagine?
So, asparagine is one of the 20 amino acids your body needs for protein synthesis. It also was the first amino acid derived from its natural source — asparagus.
Asparagine is a non-essential amino acid, which means that your body can produce it by itself when needed.
Like all aminos, asparagine amino acid is involved in numerous processes inside your body, such as:
- formation of other amino acids;
- protein synthesis;
- control of the metabolic processes in the brain.
“Asparagine also has the ability to convert back into aspartic acid. Since there is some amount of energy produced during this reaction, you may feel a slight energy boost.”
Can You Get Depleted On Asparagine?
Asparagine is a non-essential amino acid, and your body can produce it by itself. Thus, if you eat diverse foods and meet your daily protein intake, you’re unlikely to develop asparagine deficiency.
However, there are some limitations.
While organs in your body draw asparagine from food sources, your brain needs the local synthesis of this amino acid, as it cannot pass through the blood-brain barrier. In healthy individuals, the level of enzymes responsible for asparagine synthesis in the brain is sufficient. But people with a genetic mutation that causes the deficiency of these enzymes are likely to be depleted of asparagine, which might result in severe cognitive decline and even become lethal.
This is common in children, as asparagine is essential for proper development of their brain.
Natural Sources of Asparagine
The great thing about asparagine, however, is that it’s equally present in both animal and vegetable products. So, no matter what diet you’re following, you still can consume a lot of foods high in asparagine and meet your daily intake.
Here are the most common sources of this amino acid:
- eggs (especially egg whites);
- red meat and poultry;
So, if you’re maintaining a balanced diet, there’s no need to worry about your asparagine intake.
Asparagine Functions and Benefits for Your Health
Unfortunately, asparagine isn’t studied as thoroughly compared to essential aminos, so most of the studies are conducted on animals and need additional evaluations on human models. However, scientists suggest the following benefits of asparagine:
- Improved endurance. A 2003 study on rats showed that asparagine, carnitine, and aspartate supplementation might decrease fatigue and improve exercise tolerance.
- Ammonia excretion. When the protein molecule breaks down, it releases some compounds that can build up in body cells and become toxic. One of these metabolites is ammonia, and it may have hepatotoxic effects. Asparagine can bind ammonia and help your body excrete it.
- Urea metabolism. Urea and uric acid are the primary metabolites of protein breakdown. They may build up in the kidneys and lead to the formation of kidney stones. Asparagine can regulate the urea cycle and fix the body’s inability to remove urea from the system.
- Brain health support. Asparagine controls metabolism in nerve cells and promotes their health. It may also help balance your mood and relieve depression.
Connection Between Asparagine and Cancer
Now, along with all those promising uses of asparagine, there are some drawbacks as well.
In particular, studies on mice found the correlation between asparagine and cancer tumors spreading. In these studies, mice with breast cancer were fed with either standard or low-asparagine diet. Breast tumors were spreading less in those mice that received less asparagine-rich foods in their diet.
Also, asparagine may promote metastasis in cancer cells and give them the energy to spread around the body.
Do You Need Asparagine Supplements?
Now that you know all about this amino acid, you may still have one question remaining:
Do you really need to supplement yourself with asparagine?
Well, in most cases, if you’re following a diverse diet full of green veggies, legumes, and meat, you don’t need additional supplementation.
Your body will regulate the levels of this amino acid by itself and produce it in the needed amounts.
However, specific categories of people might benefit from taking asparagine supplements:
- individuals with fat metabolism disorders;
- people with chronic liver and pancreas diseases;
- people prone to gout and kidney stone formations;
- people with mood swings.
Note that even if you fall into one of these groups, you should still consult with your health care practitioner prior to starting supplementation.
Forms of Asparagine Supplementation
So, if your doctor advised that you do take asparagine as a supplement, you may want to choose the most convenient way to do that:
- Tablets. Tablets or pills are the most common form for most supplements. They are usually cheaper than other types and are relatively easy to swallow. The main problem with pills, however, is that they might contain different additives required to form a tablet. These are mainly ballasting compounds, but they can affect the purity of the staple.
- Capsules. A more advanced form of supplementation, capsules deliver pure ingredients locked into a shell and may have an enteric coating, so you won’t get an upset stomach when taking caps. However, capsules often contain gelatine as a shell ingredient; or, they may be too large and hence hard to swallow.
- Powders. Finally, there are amino acid powders, which are easy to add to your meals to make them more nutritious. Their main drawback is inconsistent measurements, as you probably don’t have pharmacy scales in your kitchen. Also, powders often contain anti-clumping agents, which, again, may affect quality.
“You may also find amino acid carbonated drinks. These beverages are incredibly easy to consume and carry around. However, this supplement form is mostly used to deliver BCAAs because it allows for instant absorption. So, you’re unlikely to find asparagine drinks.”
Determining the right dosage of asparagine is challenging, as it’s a non-essential amino acid. Typically, asparagine is sold as a component of complex amino acid supplements, so each manufacturer may vary the dosage according to their formula.
Overall, if you don’t have any health issues, you can take complex amino acid supplements as prescribed without worrying about possible side effects.
Asparagine is an amino acid that despite being non-essential has important functions in your body. It has neuroprotective properties and helps your body excrete some toxic compounds, such as urea, ammonia, and uric acid.
Asparagine is widely presented in a variety of foods, so it’s not problematic to maintain its adequate daily intake.
However, to this day, asparagine isn’t thoroughly studied on human models. That’s why you should consult your doctor before supplementing yourself.