Difference Between Essential and Nonessential amino acids

Amino acids are building blocks of proteins that play many important roles in the body. Technically, amino acids are organic compounds that contain the amine and carboxyl functional groups along with a side chain which is specific to each amino acid.

Based on the body’s capability to synthesize, amino acids can be categorized into 2 types – essential amino acids and nonessential amino acids. As the name suggests, essential amino acids cannot be synthesized by the body and it has to be acquired through food. On the other hand, nonessential amino acids are called so because they can be synthesized by the body. Read on to explore more differences between the two amino acids.

Difference Between Essential and nonessential amino acids

Essential Amino Acids

Nonessential Amino Acids

Definition

Essential amino acids are the amino acids which have to be taken in through diet as they “CANNOT” be produced by the body

Nonessential amino acids need not be taken in through diet as they can be produced by the body

Number of Amino Acids

9 amino acids out of 20 are thought to be essential

11 of the 20 amino acids are non-essential

Sources

As the definition implies, essential amino acids have to be acquired through food – such as soy, quinoa, egg, chicken, meat or vegetable protein

Are produced within the body from other amino acids and other components

Role

Serves to build and repair muscle tissues. Also, it forms precursor molecules for the formation of neurotransmitters in the brain

Removal of toxins, integral in the synthesis of RBC and WBC, promotes brain function and many more.

Deficiency

Highly probably as these amino acids are acquired through food

Probability of deficiency is rare, but can still occur due to starvation or illness.

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