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What Is The Glyconutrient N-acetyl Galactosamine And How Does It Benefit The Body

Dec 27, 2007
The glyconutrient N-acetyl galactosamine is not as well known as the other seven essential glyconutrients, otherwise known as the essential sugars or monosaccharides. However, that is more a reflection of how contemporary the research still is than of an intrinsic lack of knowledge.

To apply the term essential to a sugar might seem somewhat strange, given the bad press of these substances in the past, but times have changed. Over the past few years it has come to light that those substances that at one time were thought to worth little more than body fat promoters are in fact absolutely essential to the well being of, not only the human body, but all mammalian life.

It has been proved that certain monosaccharides, or simple sugars, are essential in the regulation of the body's immune system that allows us to fight disease and other conditions such as allergies. They combine with proteins and fats in the body to form glycoproteins and glycolipids that are given the general term glycoforms that act as chemical messengers and inform other cells of their identity.

Without this form of communication, cells would not be able to distinguish their brothers from intruders, and the immune system would either kill off all cells or none. A case of total annihilation or complete breakdown of the body's defenses. Every cell has its own function and the only defense our body has is the immune system that roams throughout the body brushing against other cells to determine if they are friend or foe. If the body has the right Glyconutrients it will manufacture a perfect cell that communicates its health and function to the immune system and help the immune system determine what cells are friendly and which are not. There are eight of these essential sugars, and N-acetyl galactosamine is one of them, albeit the least studied.

Each of these has specific functions to carry out within the body, but all affect the immune system. In the event of a deficiency of even one of them, the chemical message would not be complete, and disease would follow; the specific disease to which the body would be susceptible would depend on the sugar that is missing. Not only that, but the particular body condition that the particular monosaccharide controlled would then be uncontrolled, and the body would suffer accordingly.

N-acetyl galactosamine is the one of the eight essential sugars about which least is known. The medical study of these has been going on for approximately ten years, which is a short period in medical research. Prior to that they were only sugars, and the only biochemistry known about them was that the body converted them into energy and stored that in the form of fat. Not very desirable parts of the diet therefore. All that has now changed, and they are now part of an ongoing investigation into the biochemistry of the immune system in general, and the significance of glyconutrients in particular.

It is now known that this substance not only takes part in the control of the immune system by coating the cell surface with these glycoforms, but also seems to inhibit the growth of certain cancers. That is not to infer that they are medicines, because they are not, but their continued presence in the body is an important part of our biochemistry. They are a bit like vaccines that cannot cure viral diseases, but can help the body resist further viral attacks.

It is known that a deficiency in N-acetyl galactosamine can cause severe memory problems, and that it is involved in the function of the synapses, the junction between nerve cells. It is therefore logical to assume that it plays an important role in the function of the nerves. If you look further you will notice that the sugar is also associated with the various functions of sight, being concentrated in the optic nerve, retina and various other areas that affect vision.

Over the past ten years the distribution of the eight essential glyconutrients throughout the body has been studied, and it has been generally accepted that those areas in which they are found in greatest concentration are those where they likely have most influence. Consequently, N-acetyl galactosamine has been found concentrated in the kidneys, the skin, the sweat glands and the testes. It is therefore assumed to play an important role in the function of these organs, though research is still being carried out.

It has been established that people suffering from heart disease have had lower levels of N-acetyl galactosamine than normal, and it is thought that heart disease in such people could be prevented through adequate supplementation. The same is true of the health of the joints and the connective tissues. Like many of these monosaccharides, this sugar appears to have an effect in maintaining the integrity and health of joints and the control of arthritis and other conditions associated with inflammation of the joints. Also, like the other essential sugars, N-acetyl galactosamine appears to reduce in concentration in the body with age, the inference being that supplements could help to reduce the effects of aging.

Since there is less known about this glyconutrient than about any other, many of these inferences have yet to be confirmed. However, it would seem reasonable and logical to assume that what has been found true of the other seven essential sugars to be true also of the eighth. What is not known, and for which assumptions could be dangerous to make, is what a safe supplemental dose would be.

Extremely high excessive doses given to animals even as much as 100 grams each day has shown no adverse side effects, but the current recommended daily allowance of N-acetyl galactosamine supplements are generally considered well below the safe threshold. As with the other sugars, the dosage is recommended to be taken over the course of the day due to the low retention time within the body. just like water soluble vitamins, gluconutrients will be eliminated from the body with in hours of ingestion so consumption of these nutrients should be spread out through the course of a day for maximum usability by the body.

Like its glucosamine cousin, this substance is not found in the normal human diet. It is present in shell fish, crestations, shark cartilage and certain types of algae, and its presence in the body is consequently through internal syntheses from galactose and amino acids. The presents of environmental toxins has lead to the biosyntheses of N-acetyl-galactosamine from galactose and other nutrients can be inhibited, therefore the consumption of the above listed sources is crucial for a properly operating body.

In spite of the multiplicity of the benefits that N-acetyl galactosamine imparts to the body, its greatest and most important contribution is that of the other seven glyconutrients: in the structure of the internal communication system between cells that allows the immune system to operate effectively elimination disease as we know it.
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