L-Glutamine Is a "Brain Fuel"
When I was in high school, we already knew that glutamic acid, a nonessential amino acid, improved memory. My brother and I always took it while we were studying for tests and had great hope it would work. Research showed it could improve intelligence, give a lift when a person was fatigued, and help control alcoholism, schizophrenia, and a craving for sweets.
Since then, we have learned that the brain has a protective barrier that lets in very few chemicals. Glutamic acid is one substance that is "poorly" carried across the protective blood barrier, which is why so much of it has to be consumed for an effect to be registered.
Dr. Roger Williams has shown that another amino acid, the amide form of glutamic acid called L-glutamine, can cross the blood-brain barrier more readily, and once it has crossed the barrier, it is quickly converted into glutamic acid. The "L" indicates a natural form of the amino acid glutamine, which is used in this discussion.
L-glutamine's major function is that it serves as "fuel" for the brain. It is the only compound besides glucose (blood sugar) which can be used by the brain for energy. It has also been shown to improve the IQ's of mentally deficient children.
May Be a Help for Alcoholics
Dr. Williams observed that L-glutamine protected rats against the poisonous effects of alcohol, but more importantly, it stopped their craving for alcohol. He found that experimental rats fed L-glutamine consistently decreased alcohol consumption.
Not only rats, but nine out of ten alcoholics reported that after taking L-glutamine supplements, they had less desire to drink, less anxiety, and slept better. Relatives and friends observing them agreed. They did not do well on a placebo.
One anecdotal report in the medical literature tells about an alcoholic who stopped drinking when L-glutamine was administered to him daily without his knowledge. The substance is tasteless and can be mixed with food or water without a person knowing it, which is apparently what happened in this case. Two years after the L-glutamine treatment began, he was still free from his craving for alcohol.
Dr. Roger Williams recommends 1,000 to 4,000 mg a day. L-glutamine is a natural and harmless food substance without side effects. It is available in capsules or a high potency, tasteless powder.
There are reports that doses as high as 4,000 mg have been given to bone marrow transplant patients. All of the patients who received L-glutamine were statistically more "vigorous" and showed improvement in other areas as well. They felt less angry and less fatigued. When you consider the sense of depression that accompanies most illness, you might ask whether depression could be diminished through the use of L-glutamine.
Increasing Growth Hormone
Back in high school I was excited about taking glutamic acid. Recently I read about a study reported in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 1995, where scientists gave as little as 2 grams of L-glutamine to healthy athletes. Their blood levels of growth hormone rose 430 percent above initial levels 90 minutes after supplementation. In turn, growth hormone may promote greater muscle growth and the preferential use of body fat stores for energy. Of course I want to experience increased fat burning and improved strength. How about you?
The most convenient and economical way to consume L-glutamine is to eat protein foods and/or you can also purchase pure L-glutamine in powder or capsules. I stir one heaping teaspoon of glutamine powder into my protein shake, or use juice or water. It is a tasteless, odorless white powder.
- Rogers, L. L. and R. B. Pelton. "Effect of Glutamine on IQ Scores of Mentally Deficient Children." Texas Reports on Biology and Medicine 15.1 (1957): 84–90.
- Rogers, L. L., R. B. Pelton, and R. Williams. "Voluntary Alcohol Consumption by Rats Following Administration of Glutamine." Journal of Biological Chemistry 214.2 (1955): 503–506.
- Werbach, Melvyn. Healing Through Nutrition. New York: HarperCollins Publisher, 1993, page 15.
- Trunnell, J. B. and J. I. Wheeler. "Preliminary Report on Experiments with Orally Administered Glutamine in Treatment of Alcoholics." Journal of the American Chemistry Society (Houston, December 1955).
- Young, L. S., et al. "Patients Receiving Glutamine Supplemented Intravenous Feedings Report an Improvement in Mood." Journal of Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition 17 (1993): 422–427.
- Welbourne, T. "Increased Plasma Bicarbonate and Growth Hormone After an Oral Glutamine Load." American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 61 (1995): 1058-1061.
Back to Program Notes Index