Assessment of the safety of glutamine and other amino acids

J Nutr. 2001 Sep;131(9 Suppl):2556S-61S. doi: 10.1093/jn/131.9.2556S.


Glutamine is used to supplement intravenous and enteral feeding. Although there have been many human studies of its efficacy, there have been very few studies with safety as a primary goal. This article analyzes the literature on the safety of glutamine and also examines the available information on high intakes of total protein and other amino acids, so that additional indicators of potentially adverse effects can be suggested. Four studies that specifically addressed glutamine safety were identified, from which it was concluded that glutamine is safe in adults and in preterm infants. However, the published studies of safety have not fully taken account of chronic consumption by healthy subjects of all age groups. To help identify potential undetected hazards of glutamine intake, the literature on adverse effects of high dietary intake of protein and other amino acids was examined. High protein is reputed to cause nausea, vomiting and ultimately death in adults, and has been shown to result in neurological damage in preterm infants. Individual amino acids cause a variety of adverse effects, some of them potentially fatal, but neurological effects were the most frequently observed. Because glutamine is metabolized to glutamate and ammonia, both of which have neurological effects, psychological and behavioral testing may be especially important.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Oral
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Amino Acids / adverse effects
  • Animals
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Dietary Proteins / administration & dosage
  • Dietary Proteins / adverse effects*
  • Dietary Proteins / toxicity
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Glutamine / adverse effects*
  • Glutamine / toxicity
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infusions, Intravenous
  • Nausea / chemically induced
  • Nervous System Diseases / chemically induced
  • Nutrition Policy
  • Parenteral Nutrition, Total / adverse effects
  • Quality Control
  • Time Factors


  • Amino Acids
  • Dietary Proteins
  • Glutamine