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Methionine - Benefits, Deficiency Symptoms And Food Sources

What is Methionine ?

Methionine is an essential amino acid that assists in the breakdown of fats, thus helping to prevent a buildup of fat in the liver and arteries that might obstruct blood flow to the brain, heart, and kidneys. Methionine was first isolated in 1922 from casein and belongs to a group of compounds called lipotropics - the others in this group include choline , inositol , and betaine. It is important in the process of methylation where methyl is added to compounds as well as being a precursor to the amino acids cystine and cysteine.

The synthesis of the amino acids cysteine and taurine may depend on the availability of methionine. An essential amino acid, methionine is not synthesized in the body and so must be obtained from food sources or from dietary supplements.

Uses and Benefits of Methionine

Methionine amino acid helps the digestive system; helps to detoxify harmful agents such as lead and other heavy metals; helps diminish muscle weakness, prevent brittle hair, and protect against radiation; and is beneficial for people with osteoporosis or chemical allergies. It is useful also in the treatment of rheumatic fever and toxemia of pregnancy. Methionine is a powerful antioxidant. It is a good source of sulfur, which inactivates free radicals and helps to prevent skin and nail problems. It is also good for people with Gilbert's syndrome, an anomaly of liver function, and is required for the synthesis of nucleic acids, collagen, and proteins found in every cell of the body. It is beneficial for women who take oral contraceptives because it promotes the excretion of estrogen. It reduces the level of histamine in the body, which can be useful for people with schizophrenia, whose histamine levels are typically higher than normal.

As levels of toxic substances in the body increase, the need for methionine increases. The body can convert methionine into the amino acid cysteine, a precursor of glutathione. Methionine thus protects glutathione; it helps to prevent glutathione depletion if the body is overloaded with toxins. Since glutathione is a key neutralizer of toxins in the liver, this protects the liver from the damaging effects of toxic compounds.

Deficiency Symptoms of Methionine

Severe deficiency may manifest in dementia, while lesser deficiencies may be known by symptoms like fatty liver, slow growth, weakness, edema and skin lesions.

Recommended Dosage of Methionine

Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) of Methionine are :-

  • Men - 10 mg.
  • Women - 10mg.
  • Children - 20 mg.

Excessive Intake of Methionine

People with liver problems, pancreatitis, HIV/AIDS as well as Parkinson's disease may consider obtaining more methionine, after consultation with their health professional, and older people may also benefit from a slightly higher intake of this nutrient. 

Rich Food Sources of Methionine

Good food sources of methionine include beans, eggs, fish, garlic, lentils, meat, onions, soyabeans, seeds, and yogurt. Because the body uses methionine to derive a brain food called choline, it is wise to supplement the diet with choline or lecithin (which is high in choline) to ensure that the supply of methionine is not depleted.

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