Articles

The metabolic role of glutamine

Author

Balzola FA, Boggio-Bertinet D

Date

3/1996

Journal

Minerva Gastroenterol Dietol

Abstract

Glutamine is a non essential amino acid. Nevertheless it has to be considered a "conditionally essential" amino acid for several metabolic reactions in which it is involved. Glutamine is the most abundant amino acid in human plasma and muscle. Because glutamine is highly unsteady, it was never used for enteral and parenteral nutrition in the past. It appears to be a unique amino acid for rapidly proliferating cells serving as a preferred fuel compared to glucose. It seems to be essential for cellular replication such as a "nitrogen carrier" between the tissues. A deficiency state of glutamine causes morphology and functional changing and negative nitrogen metabolism. The need for glutamine is particularly high when metabolism is increased as in the critically ill (surgical stress, sepsis, inflammatory states, fasten, burns) especially in the tissues with a rapid cell turn-over. In these conditions the body requirements of glutamine appear to exceed the individual's muscle deposits (muscle is the most important place of synthesis and storage), causing an increased synthesis with a high energy waste and loss of muscle mass. Glutamine is essential for bowel mucosa trophism and its deficiency in all the catabolic states allows bacterial translocation. In these cases feeding is not sufficient to restore basal conditions. At present enteral or parenteral glutamine supplementations are of high interest for the feeding of critically ill patients.