Although glutamine is classified by nutritionists as a 'non-essential amino acid', it is probable that no single amino acid has received as much attention in clinical nutrition research and increasingly this interest has spread to sports nutrition. In order to understand how a 'non-essential amino acid' can attract so much attention it is necessary to understand where the term 'non-essential' comes from. An amino acid is only considered essential if it is not possible for the body to make the particular amino acid when there is adequate supply of other 'essential' amino acids. Since it is possible to make glutamine from many different amino acids, including glutamic acid, valine and isoleucine, it is not considered essential. However, the fact that the body has a number of ways to produce glutamine may serve to illustrate its importance. Glutamine is also a precursor for many other amino acids, an important fuel for the immune system, the brain and gut mucosal cells and is at the heart of a mechanism controlling acid/base balance. It may also be a direct regulator of protein synthesis and regulation. Thus glutamine is at the heart of a metabolic cross roads and its adequate supply is thus crucial for optimal functioning of the body.
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