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Vitamins for Protein Synthesis

By Sandi Busch

Your cells and tissues constantly synthesize new proteins in order to stay healthy and strong, and you rely on amino acids from the protein in your food to make them. Your cells also have the ability to produce some of their own amino acids. You need a variety of nutrients to make amino acids and proteins, including vitamin C, vitamin K and some of the B vitamins.

B Vitamins Produce Amino Acids

Several of the B vitamins must be present for your body to produce amino acids. After you consume vitamin B-6, it’s converted into an active form of B-6 called pyridoxal 5-phosphate, or PLP. PLP is then used to make more than 100 enzymes, including enzymes that help make amino acids.

Your body needs folate to synthesize the amino acids cysteine, serine, glycine and histidine. Folate and vitamin B-12 are both used to produce another vital amino acid called methionine, reports Linus Pauling Institute.

Vitamin C for Collagen

Vitamin C has a specific role because it participates in the synthesis of one protein -- collagen. About one-fourth of all the protein in your body consists of collagen, which is a very strong protein used to build and strengthen skin, blood vessels, connective tissues, bones and teeth. Collagen also protects and supports organs and other soft tissues.

One of the amino acids used to build collagen -- hydroxyproline -- is only synthesized when vitamin C is available. Even though vitamin C has other roles in the body, symptoms of a deficiency are related to the loss of collagen. For example, you may bruise easily as blood vessels weaken or begin to experience joint pain due to loss of connective tissue.

Vitamin K-Dependent Proteins

Another vitamin with a specialized role in protein synthesis is vitamin K, which is essential for producing a group of proteins called Gla proteins, notes a 2012 report in Food and Nutrition Research. These proteins fill diverse roles.

Four of the Gla proteins prevent excessive bleeding by making blood clot. Some proteins from this family help ensure strong bones by regulating bone growth and preventing loss of minerals. Others stop calcium from accumulating in soft tissues, where it causes health problems such as hardening of the arteries.

Finally, vitamin K-dependent proteins are active in the central nervous system, where they help produce compounds essential for brain cell membranes and may promote the growth of neurons, according to a review in Advances in Nutrition in March 2012.

Food Sources

The only natural sources of vitamin B-12 are animal products, such as fish, lean meat, poultry, milk and eggs. Fish and light-meat poultry also provide vitamin B-6, as do bananas, potatoes and fortified breakfast cereals.

Some of the best sources of folate are leafy greens, beans, citrus fruits and enriched grains, such as bread, pasta and cereal. Oranges and other citrus fruits are also top sources of vitamin C, while green leafy veggies are rich in vitamin K. Vitamins C and K share other sources, such as tomatoes, carrots, strawberries and bell peppers.

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