For many people, the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has added a new layer of stress to day-to-day living. This is rooted in fear and anxiety about a new disease and changes in work, school and social activities related to social distancing and quarantine. What’s more, the impacts of the pandemic’s resulting economic recession, including the loss of income, can adversely affect one’s mental state.
Many families are trying to juggle working from home and home schooling and are having to configure aspects of their social and work lives around technology platforms like Zoom, Google Meet and Microsoft Teams. All of these factors can lead to greater stress, anxiety and related mood shifts.
Amino Acids and Mental Wellness
What many people don’t realize is that their protein intake can make a difference in maintaining a balanced mental state. In reality, many consumers are looking for non-animal sources to maintain optimal levels of essential amino acids – which are key enablers of some of the critical brain functions related to mental wellness. For example, certain amino acids work with neurotransmitters in the brain to help improve sleep and to balance the mood swings that can be triggered by abrupt or major changes in circumstance. For example, the neurotransmitters that impact mood (dopamine) and sleep (serotonin) are made from the amino acids tyrosine and tryptophan.
Supplementation Can Help
Dietary supplements can help to maintain the supply of the amino acids that can help the body maintain optimal mental wellness. Some of the amino acids that offer brain health benefits during times of stress include:
- As mentioned above, tryptophan (a precursor of Serotonin), tyrosine and phenylalanine are precursors of neurotransmitters that offer mood balancing and sleep benefits.
- Methionine, which is sold at retail in its more stable form, SAME (S-adenosyl-methionine), works to replace deficient nutrients that can cause mood swings and/or a case of the blues.
- L-Histidine helps with zinc absorption, which helps the brain operate on an even keel.
Is Supplementation a Natural Way to Maintain Mental Wellness?
Label-conscious consumers look for brands that fit their dietary and lifestyle preferences. As the amino acids in supplements are Food Grade (known as Food Grade Amino Acids or FGAAs), we believe that the labeling should help consumers better understand what they’re ingesting. AminoFacts is advocating for manufacturers to provide answers to some fundamental ingredient and processing questions on their labels and/or marketing materials. These include:
- Do the amino acids come from plants or animals?
- What manufacturing methods does the company use?
- Do the supplements contain any animal ingredients, such as gelatin or magnesium stearate?
AminoFacts is dedicated to providing answers to these questions and more. This is particularly important because research tells us that ingredient transparency is important, and the supplement market sometimes appears to be less label-aware than the food industry.
We are calling leading amino acid supplement brands to gather more information about their manufacturing and sourcing processes. We are inquiring not only about plant and animal sourcing, we are asking about the processes employed to produce the ingredients. The processes of “hydrolysis” and “fermentation’ are examples. Hydrolysis uses chemicals to extract amino acids from the inedible parts of slaughtered animals – including fish silage, hooves, hair, skin, feathers and teeth from cows, pigs and chickens. Many plant-based products use fermentation, a more natural process that utilizes microorganisms to produce amino acids from plants, such as soy or corn.
We firmly believe that amino acid supplementation can be an effective way to contribute to the maintenance of overall health, including mental wellness. For those consumers who prefer more natural, plant-based lifestyles, learning to read the labels can help them make choices that are a good fit with their values.