Your body requires substances called amino acids to perform tasks that include building your supply of proteins, helping regulate the body’s usage of energy and controlling essentially all the chemical processes inside cells. Glutamate and glutamine are different types of amino acids. Glutathione is a substance derived from several different amino acids.
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Glutamate is also known as glutamic acid. It belongs to a group of amino acids called nonessential amino acids; you need these types of acids for good health but make enough of them internally to fulfill your body’s needs. In addition to helping form proteins, the glutamate in your body functions as a neurotransmitter and helps relay signals in your nervous system. Some of the information it helps transfer is vital for the normal function of all your cells. Glutamate is also essential for the formation of another important neurotransmitter, called GABA, or gamma-aminobutyric acid.
Glutamine is the single most abundant amino acid in the human body. Like glutamate, it is made internally and so is classified as a nonessential amino acid. You need glutamine for purposes that include eliminating the waste product ammonia from your body and maintaining normal function in your immune system, as well as maintaining the function of your digestive system and brain. Most people have no problem supplying their bodies with glutamine. However, conditions and circumstances such as chronic stress, infections, surgery and physical injury can lead to the development of glutamine deficiency.
Glutathione, also called glutamylcysteinylglycine, is a natural substance in your body made from a specific form of glutamate, as well as two other amino acids called cysteine and glycine. Like glutamate, cysteine and glycine are nonessential amino acids. Glutathione plays a major role in controlling the types of bonds formed between proteins and other substances in your body. It also functions as an antioxidant and helps protect your cells from cell-damaging molecules known as free radicals. In addition, glutathione helps your body absorb and use other amino acids.
Glutamate forms the basis for the food additive called monosodium glutamate. In supplemental form, glutamine has potential uses that include helping wound recovery, reducing infection risks in endurance athletes, promoting weight gain in people with HIV/AIDS and addressing malnutrition in people undergoing chemotherapy. People with cancer frequently lack normal levels of glutamine. In addition to your internal supplies, you can get this amino acid from foods such as dairy products, red meat, poultry, cabbage and spinach. Consult your doctor before using any type of glutamine supplement. Also consult your doctor for more information on glutamate, glutamine and glutathione.
- University of Arizona: The Chemistry of Amino Acids; September 30, 2003
- World of Molecules: Glutamic Acid
- The Neurotransporter Group: Glutamate as a Neurotransmitter; An Overview; Niels Chr. Danbolt
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Glutamine
- Biology Online: Glutathione
- Florida State University: Glutathione