Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. Glutamic acid is one of the nonessential proteinogenic amino acids that is synthesized or produced in the body from other amino acids, including arginine and ornithine. It's available in meats, poultry, fish, dairy products and eggs, as well as some plants that are rich in protein.
Research studies on glutamic acid reveal it to be an excitatory neurotransmitter. A neurotransmitter is a substance released by a neuron to stimulate neighboring neurons to permit the passage of impulses from one cell to the next throughout the entire nervous system. Discovery of this property prompted research studies indicating that people suffering from certain neurological disorders might experience improvement with supplements.
Epilepsy, Parkinson's disease, muscular dystrophy and mental retardation are a few of the disorders that have been studied in patients taking glutamic acid. Some people, including health care providers, are skeptical of the role that it might play in the treatment of such diseases. Their skepticism is partly because it is one of the most widespread amino acids in what generally is considered a healthy diet.
A deficiency of any nutrient can and often does quickly produce signs and symptoms of a health problem that is usually corrected very easily by supplying sufficient amounts of the nutrient. Nutritionists, however, affirm that a deficiency of glutamic acid is highly unlikely, especially among populations that have adequate access to nutritious foods. High dosages of this amino acid could be toxic and have produced unpleasant side effects such as headaches and other neurological disorders.
It is for this reason that some nutritionists doubt the efficacy of glutamic acid supplements. Glutamic acid also helps in the metabolism of sugars and fats, and studies have been conducted that appear to indicate that supplements could help to lower blood pressure. The amino acid is capable of attaching itself to nitrogen atoms, a process during which the body manufactures glutamine. This same action is the detoxification of ammonia and the only method by which the brain can be cleansed of this substance.
The prostate gland is another organ that might benefit from supplements because it produces a fluid in which the amino acid is found. Some medical researchers believe that the normal and healthy functioning of this gland could be closely related to the action of this amino acid in the body. It still is recommended, however, that all nutrients, including amino acids, be obtained from natural and wholesome foods.