Does glutamine have a role in reducing infections in athletes?

  • L. M. Castell
  • E. A. Newsholme
  • J. R. Poortmans
Short Communication


There is an increased risk of infections in athletes undertaking prolonged, strenuous exercise. There is also some evidence that cells of the immune system are less able to mount a defence against infections after such exercise. The level of plasma glutamine, an important fuel for cells of the immune system, is decreased in athletes after endurance exercise: this may be partly responsible for the apparent immunosuppression which occurs in these individuals. We monitored levels of infection in more than 200 runners and rowers. The levels of infection were lowest in middle-distance runners, and highest in runners after a full or ultra-marathon and in elite rowers after intensive training. In the present study, athletes participating in different types of exercise consumed two drinks, containing either glutamine (Group G) or placebo (Group P) immediately after and 2 h after exercise. They subsequently completed questionnaires (n = 151) about the incidence of infections during the 7 days following the exercise. The percentage of athletes reporting no infections was considerably higher in Group G (81%,n= 72) than in Group P (49%,n = 79,p<0.001).

Key words

Glutamine feeding Exercise Infections 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Ardawi MSM, Newsholme EA (1985) Metabolism in lymphocytes and its importance in the immune response. Essays Biochem 21: 1–44Google Scholar
  2. Brenner IKM, Shek PN, Shepherd RJ (1994) Infection in athletes. Sports Med 17: 86–107Google Scholar
  3. Castell LM, Newsholme EA (1996) Oral glutamine supplementation after prolonged, exhaustive exercise in humans. Nutrition (in press)Google Scholar
  4. Fry RW, Morton AR, Crawford GPM, Keast D (1992) Cell numbers andin vitro responses of leucocytes and lymphocyte subpopulations following maximal exercise and interval training sessions of different intensities. Eur J Appl Physiol 64: 218–227Google Scholar
  5. Hoffman-Goetz L, Pedersen BK (1994) Exercise and the immune system. Immunol Today 15: 382–385Google Scholar
  6. Larrabee RC (1902) Leucocytosis after violent exercise. J Med Res 2: 76–82Google Scholar
  7. Newsholme EA, Parry-Billings M (1990) Properties of glutamine release and its importance for the immune system. JPEN 14: 63–67Google Scholar
  8. Nieman D (1994) Exercise, upper respiratory tract infection and the immune system. Med Sci Sports Ex 26: 128–139Google Scholar
  9. Parry-Billings M, Evans J, Calder PC, Newsholme EA (1990) Does glutamine contribute to immunosuppression? Lancet 336: 523–525Google Scholar
  10. Parry-Billings M, Matthews VJ, Newsholme EA, Budgett R, Koutedakis J (1993) The overtraining syndrome: some biochemical aspects. In: MacLeod DAD, Maughan RJ, Williams C, Madeley CR, Sharp JCM, Nutton RW (eds) Intermittent high intensity exercise E & FN Spon, London, pp.215–225Google Scholar
  11. Shinkai S, Shore S, Shek PN, Shepherd RJ (1992) Acute exercise and immune function. Int J Sports Med 13: 452–461Google Scholar
  12. Weight LM, Alexander D, Jacobs P (1991) Strenuous exercise: analagous to the acute phase response? Clin Sci 81: 677–683Google Scholar
  13. Ziegler TR (1995) Glutamine supplementation in injury and infection. In: Cynober L, Furst P, Lawin P (eds) Pharmacological nutrition, immune nutrition Zuckschwerdt Verlag, Munich, pp135–144Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • L. M. Castell
    • 1
  • E. A. Newsholme
    • 1
  • J. R. Poortmans
    • 2
  1. 1.University Department of BiochemistryOxfordUK
  2. 2.University Libre de BruxellesBruxellesBelgium

Personalised recommendations