Since the advent and spread of the SARS-CoV-2 acute respiratory syndrome in 2019, classified as Coronary Virus Disease-19 (Covid-19) in February 2020, then transcending to pandemic status in Match 2020 by the World Health Organization, scientists have been searching for efficacious medical treatments and environmental guidelines to halt the spread, treat the symptoms, and reduce the risk to contraction. As of this writing, there is no cure. However, with two vaccines in the inoculation phase and a third on the way, it appears that the spread and death rate worldwide is going down, as more people receive the vaccinees – pending Covid-19 disease variant impact. The bottom line is to strengthen the human immune system’s – innate and adaptive – ability to recognize, then destabilize the Covid-19 disease in its tracks. One non-medical area of research is related to nutraceuticals – nutrients – that may complement prescription medications to address the Covid-19 symptoms, or to support a preventive approach. According to research – Effect of Oral L-Glutamine Supplementation on Covid-19 Treatment, which appeared in the July 2020, open science journal Clinical Nutrition Experimental – researchers from Biruni University Faculty of Medicine in Afghanistan – conclude that, “adding enteral L-Glutamine to the normal nutrition in the early period of Covid-19 infection may lead to a shortened hospital stay and lead to less need for ICU.”
Glutamine, a conditionally essential amino acid, is the most abundant amino acid, containing 60% of the total free amino acids in the body – with the main synthesis sources circulating in plasma being skeletal muscle, adipose tissue, and lungs. Glutamine is found in dairy foods, such as yogurt, cottage cheese, and all forms of whey protein powder – blend, isolate, and hydrolysate.
Glutamine performs most of the transport of nitrogen from the skeletal muscle to the visceral (abdominal) tissues, and, is used as a glucose-efficient primary fuel for many rapidly dividing cells, including enterocytes, colonocytes, lymphocytes, and fibroblasts, comment the researchers.
As for a direct immune modulation effect, glutamine is a precursor to the powerful, endogenous liver antioxidant glutathione. “It is one of the most researched amino acids on multiple aspects of medical nutritional care, including conditions, such as gastrointestinal diseases, oncology, burn injury, HIV/AIDS, and chronic wound management,” as noted in the Biruni research.
To reach their conclusions, the Afghan investigators screened 381 Covid-19 patients – sixty meeting the inclusion criteria – those who had lower respiratory tract involvement in computed thorax tomography (thorax CT), and positive real-time reverse-transcriptase-polymerase-chain reaction (RT-PCR) test in oro-nasopharyngeal swab.
The study demographics included, “thirty Covid-19 patients (12 female, 58.2 ± 8.4) using L-Glutamine and 30 Covid-19 patients (14 female, 58.8 ± 7.4) with similar age, gender, and clinical status,” as a control group.
In addition to appropriate laboratory analysis, C-reactive protein (inflammatory marker), complete blood count, kidney and liver function, among others, the nutritional status of all patients, body mass index, any weight loss in the last three months was also recorded.
All meals provided to the patients met appropriate Covid-19 guidelines – with consistent protein and calorie content. The L-Glutamine group received 10 grams – available in powder forms given 3 times a day with meals.
Based on the data compilation, the researchers stated that, “the results of our study showed that, in Covid-19 cases using L-Glutamine, the duration of hospitalization was shorter and the need for intensive care was less than those who did not use L-Glutamine. Our study deserves interest, as it is the first study in the literature examining the effects of immune supplements, such as L-Glutamine added to standard current treatments on the progression of Covid-19.”
Larger-scale studies are needed to evaluate the effect of adding enteral L- Glutamine to the currently used treatments in the infectious diseases, especially like Covid-19, comment the Afghan research team.
As with any treatment – nutraceutical or prescription – it’s always best to first consult with your primary care provider.
Interested in reading more? Check out Essential Amino Acids Support Muscle Protein Synthesis