Metabolism of Dietary Glutamate in Adults

Ann Nutr Metab. 2018;73 Suppl 5:5-14. doi: 10.1159/000494776. Epub 2018 Dec 3.


Background: Glutamate is a non-essential amino acid at the crossroads of nitrogen and energy metabolism. Glutamate metabolism is characterized by reactions that may be anabolic or catabolic in nature depending on the tissue (i.e., glutamate dehydrogenase, transaminases), and it can also be either the precursor or the metabolite of glutamine. Unlike glutamine, which is the form of interorgan ammonia transport, glutamate metabolism is mostly compartmentalized within the cells, its interorgan exchanges being limited to a flux from liver to muscle.

Summary: Glutamate catabolism is extremely intense in the splanchnic area, such that after a meal (rich in proteins) almost no glutamate appears in the systemic circulation. However, this process is saturable as after glutamate loading at a high dose level, glutamate appears dose-dependently in the circulation. This systemic glutamate -appearance is blunted if glutamate is co-ingested with a carbohydrate source. Key Messages: The underlying reason for this highly specific metabolism is that glutamate plays a key role in nitrogen homeostasis, and the organism does all it can to limit the bioavailability of glutamate, which can be neurotoxic in excess. As glutamate is never eaten alone, its bioavailability will be limited if not negligible, and no adverse effects are to be expected in adult humans.

Keywords: Administration; Glutamate; Interorgan exchanges; Metabolism; Muscle; Pharmacokinetics; Splanchnic extraction.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Diet*
  • Glutamate Decarboxylase / metabolism
  • Glutamate Dehydrogenase / metabolism
  • Glutamic Acid / metabolism*
  • Glutamic Acid / pharmacokinetics
  • Humans
  • Liver / metabolism
  • Muscles / metabolism


  • Glutamic Acid
  • Glutamate Dehydrogenase
  • Glutamate Decarboxylase