Glutamine supplementation in the newborn infant

Prabhu S. Parimi, Satish C. Kalhan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Glutamine is a non-essential amino acid that can be synthesized de novo from glutamate. This synthesis can be increased by intravenous infusion of carbon precursors (α-ketoglutarate or amino acids) in adults and in infants. The metabolism of glutamine is highly compartmentalized between the splanchnic tissues and the periphery, so that orally administered glutamine is completely metabolized in the splanchnic compartment. Data from studies in adults and children show that plasma levels of glutamine decline during acute stress and illness. Because of its importance in several physiological functions (the demonstrated benefits of supplemental glutamine in adult burns and trauma patients and the inhibitory effect on proteolysis in the skeletal muscle in vitro), it has been suggested that during 'acute stress' the demands of glutamine outweigh its de novo synthesis, resulting in a fall in plasma glutamine levels. As a consequence, glutamine has been considered a 'conditionally essential' amino acid. Because of its instability in solution, glutamine is not routinely added to the parenteral amino acid mixtures. A number of clinical trials of parenteral and enteral supplementation of glutamine have been performed. The outcome measures examined have varied between acute effects and long-term complex clinical events such as mortality and risk of infections. Although acute studies in LBW babies have shown some beneficial effects such as changes in protein metabolism and activation of immune system, these have not been translated into prolonged advantages such as reduction in mortality or in nosocomial infection. The reasons for these differences are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)19-25
Number of pages7
JournalSeminars in Fetal and Neonatal Medicine
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1 2007


  • Compartmentation
  • Glutamine
  • Metabolism
  • Parenteral and enteral supplementation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health

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