Glutamine importance for human health; recent findings and advances

Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins and they have numerous proven roles in the human body, including organ functionality, storage of nutrients, cell structure of muscular tissue and many more. Lack of amino acids often leads to a series of problematic health effects, especially in specific population groups such as older people and hard training athletes. Specific amino acids are correlated to several of these effects and it is commonly advised to be also taken by the people in question in the form of nutritional supplements.

One such amino acid, with proven correlation to health symptoms, is glutamine. Glutamine’s most important role in the human body is the stabilization and tuning of the immune system. As a consequence, people with appropriate glutamine intake tend to exhibit good health even at harsh living conditions. Other secondary glutamine related phenomena are the optimization of sleep behavior, calmness of mind, and reduction of anxiety.

Relevant research works have suggested that there is a relation between glutamine content and free radicals, especially in times of high stress; the lower the glutamine content, the higher the free radicals content. Free radicals are greatly active species that exist due to homolytic division of chemical species that results in two parts left with just one electron. The presence of just one electron makes free radicals always trying to ‘attack’ other molecules [propagation stage] until the process is completed by combination of two free radicals [termination stage]. In biological systems, these attacks result to cells being damaged severely and their functionality and efficiency being significantly lowered. Keeping in mind that glutamine is the most important single energy carrier, low content in combination with free radicals uncontrolled action lead to increased anxiety and functionality control loss.

A three species balance governs peace of human mind; glutamine – glutamic acid – gamma amino butyric acid. Between the two first, a chemical equilibrium occurs. On the other hand, glutamine acts like a catalyst for the production of gamma amino butyric acid [GABA]. GABA is a brain ‘insulator’, an inhibitory neurotransmitter. Sufficient quantities of GABA ensure minimization of unwanted signals and interactions in the brain, resulting to calmness, enhanced concentration, peace of mind and greater quality of sleep. Relevant studies have also correlated GABA actions with treatment of depression.

Sleep quality depends heavily on glutamine, as well as on other amino acids such as ornithine and arginine. All three of them act as detoxifiers of ammonia, especially in the liver. Ammonia comes from the decomposition of large protein quantities in the body and its high levels have been correlated with loss of sleep and liver intoxication. These detoxifiers transform ammonia into urea, offering a great enhancement of sleep quality and mental clearness. Other amino acids and vitamins have been correlated with this effect by several studies; most of them include B6 and B12 vitamins.

Nutritional supplements industry is expected to focus more intensely of glutamine containing formulations. Use of recent findings support the multifunctional effect on human health and on specific biological processes as discussed here. Combination with other amino acids seems to be prominent as well.