Dictionary of Human Evolution and Biology

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Essential Amino Acids

Eight amino acids in adults (nine in infants) that must be obtained by humans from dietary sources: isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan and valine. Arginine and histidine are considered occasionally essential. The absence of any essential amino acid (malnutrition) often results in a clinically recognizable syndrome, such as beriberi in cultures that consume maize, which is deficient in both the amino acid lysine and the vitamin niacin.

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