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Glutamine & Glutamic Acid in Whey Protein

By Sylvie Tremblay, MSc

Each of your cells contain millions of amino acids, used to generate the proteins that carry out cellular and tissue function. Among the amino acids used to make these proteins are glutamine and glutamic acid, compounds which prove essential to your overall health. Whey protein, isolated from milk, provides a source of some types of amino acids, including glutamic acid.

Differences Between Glutamine and Glutamic Acid

Both glutamine and glutamic acid belong to a class of molecules called amino acids. They share some similar chemical characteristics: both compounds contain an alkaline, nitrogen-containing amino chemical group, as well as an acid, carbon-containing carboxylic acid chemical group. Glutamic acid and glutamine differ in their unique molecular side chains: glutamic acid has a negative charge, while glutamate does not have an electrostatic charge. Both glutamic acid and glutamine are considered non-essential amino acids. Your body can produce these compounds on its own, and does not require that you consume these amino acids as part of your diet.

Glutamic Acid Content of Whey

Whey powder provides a rich source of protein, and therefore also contains amino acids. Consuming whey protein powder provides your body with approximately 0.34 g of glutamic acid per 1-oz. serving. Though the powder contains a number of other amino acids, it does not contain glutamine.

Physiological Functions

The glutamic acid has a number of physiological roles within your cells. One of the primary roles in contributing to new protein synthesizes in your tissues. Following digestion, your body absorbs the glutamic acid from the whey powder, transports it to your cells, and then your cells incorporate the amino acid into newly formed protein. The negative electrostatic charge found on glutamic acid proves especially important, as this charge can help determine the shape and support the function of a newly formed protein. Alternatively, your body can use glutamic acid to make other amino acids required for proper protein synthesis.

Other Nutrients in Whey

In addition to its glutamic acid content, whey protein contains a number of other nutrients to benefit your health. The powder contains several essential vitamins and minerals, including small amounts of choline, folic acid, vitamin B-5, vitamin B-3, potassium, magnesium and calcium. It also contains the 10 amino acids your body requires as part of your diet -- the essential amino acids -- and helps to prevent a protein deficiency.

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