The glyconutrient n-acetyl neurominic acid is a monosaccharide compound that is one of what is known as the eight essential sugars. Each of these sugars, that also include saccharides such as glucose, mannose and galactose, is essential for the proper operation of the mammalian immune system.
They react in the body with fats and proteins to form glycolipids and glycoproteins that are collectively known as glycoforms. These sit on the surface of the cell membranes, and form the messages that cells pass between each other. They are the basis of the communication between cells, and all eight glyconutrients are essential for it to work properly. If all eight are not present, then the cells mis-communicate. That means that they cannot kill diseases in the forms of viruses or bacteria, and will sometimes even kill each other. Chaos reigns.
The immune system breaks down because the white blood cells and antibodies cannot tell the good cells from the interlopers, and so will either take no action or will kill everything. This can lead to certain types of cancers or can allow the body to be overrun with disease. The type of problem caused, or form that the disease takes, will be determined by the monosaccharide that is missing.
It is only relatively recently that it was discovered that certain sugars are more than just energy providers and fat promoters. They are, in fact, essential to the processes of life and our biochemistry cannot function without them. N-acetyl neurominic acid is one of these essential sugars that play such a vital role in cell communication and the functioning of the immune system, without which the body would be open to the ravages of any disease around, though it is particularly the respiratory diseases that most victims finally succumb to.
This acid is also known as sialic acid, and that is the name that shall be used here due to it being smaller and easier to write! Like the other essential monosaccharides, sialic acid is responsible for more than just the immune system. There is other biochemistry that it is necessary for, and other conditions that it can control. It is important to understand that this sugar is not a medicine. It cannot be taken to cure an illness. It does not work that way. Its presence can control a condition, or prevent it from occurring, but taking it will not cure an existing condition.
N-acetyl neurominic acid is one of the five or six essential sugars that are not available in the normal human diet, and are synthesized by the body itself. Apart from its function with respect to the immune system and cell communication, it is known to be associated with the development of the brain. It is considered to be an important factor in children who fail to grow properly, who lack pigmentation in the hair and skin and who develop coarsening of the features, among other conditions.
It is known that an abundance of this glyconutrient can lessen the chances of kidney stones in those susceptible to them, and that it is likely to be able to be used to control allergies through its properties as a histamine blocker. What is true is that the body loses it as it grows older, and lower concentrations are found not only in the elderly but in alcoholics and those suffering from respiratory diseases. Supplements of sialic acid are indicated in these cases, especially in the elderly.
As with some of the other glyconutrients, n-acetyl neurominic acid has been demonstrated to affect the long-term memory. This could be associated with its effect on brain development and the boosting of the learning process. In fact abnormalities in sialic acid concentration frequently give rise to mental problems and deterioration.
It also possesses anti-inflammatory properties in common with others of the essential sugars. In fact, studies have shown that if the sugar is present in antibodies contained in intravenous immunoglobulin, a general immunizing vaccine of pooled antibodies, then anti-inflammatory properties appear to be conferred upon the antibodies. The more these glyconutrients are studied, the more favorable medical, properties they are found to possess. This is a far cry from the negative health effects they were originally believed to posses.
Another beneficial property possessed by sialic acid sugar is its effect on mucus. It appears to regulate the consistency of the mucus, and hence its flow rate, thus maximizing its properties in physically removing harmful microbes from the body. Viscosity of mucus is important, and it should be neither too thin, and hence fail to collect the maximum amount of bacteria, nor too thick when the flow rate will be too low and allow too high a build up of mucus in the body.
Our natural intake of such glyconutrients is too low due to intensive farming methods and our essentially green diet. Sugars are to be found more in canes, corn husks, barks, roots and the brown parts of cereal crops and seeds. The refining of sugar, flour and rice to make them as white as possible has removed the most common sources of glyconutrients. Our ancestors had a far healthier diet, but the introduction of the agricultural revolution was the beginning of the end of our natural source of these valuable raw materials. The best source of n-acetyl neurominic acid is eggs and whey protein isolate, both readily available at your local grocery or health food store.
It was not recognized of course, since it is only over the past ten years or so that their importance in the biochemistry of our body has been discovered. Now, supplements are probably essential to ensure that we take in sufficient of them on a regular basis to meet our needs.
Problems with the human immune system have been increasing as have been allergy problems. The other conditions now known to be controlled by the eight essential sugars have also been on the increase, conditions such as learning problems, problems with the joints and connective tissues and certain cancers. The human immune system is our only line of defense against disease. The immune system, with proper communication, can protect the body from all sorts of disease, but if the immune system breaks down it can be the cause of disease or ignore disease all together allowing it to progress till it ends a person's life.
Although n-acetylneurominic acid is found in breast milk, it is available in only a very few natural foods and supplements appear to be the most obvious answer. Their importance is now in no doubt, and while the investigation continues into these Cinderella nutrients, there is no doubt that they are an essential part of our diet, whether naturally or by means of supplements. Glyconutrient complex formulas are available at your local health food store.