What is Glycine?
Glycine is an amino acid and neurotransmitter that can act as a stimulant or depressant. A French chemist discovered it after hydrolyzing gelatin with sulfuric acid. It is the simplest amino acid found in nature and tastes as sweet as glucose. The word glycine is a derivative of glykýs, the Greek word for sweet or sweet tasting. Although discovered through the acid hydrolysis of gelatin, this process is cumbersome and requires several other raw materials. Chemically synthesizing glycine is much simpler, and manufacturers prefer this method.
Glycine is one of three primary amino acids that make up the tripeptide bond of collagen. Eating collagen-rich foods can boost glycine levels, such as meats, poultry, seafood, eggs, milk, legumes, and soy. However, the amounts vary widely and provide inconsistent benefits. Although the body can synthesize glycine from serine and choline, it can’t make enough to meet all the body’s metabolic needs. It is a conditionally essential amino acid, as the body only produces about 2.5g of the 15g of glycine it needs per day.
Potential Glycine Benefits
Glycine is a precursor to numerous compounds that are essential for multiple biological processes and overall health. The body uses glycine to produce heme and porphyrins, which are precursors to hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is an essential protein that contains iron and carries oxygen in red blood cells to prevent anemia. Glycine plays a role in digestion as well. The body conjugates glycine along with bile acids and taurine, which are necessary to absorb and digest lipids.
Glycine, along with arginine and methionine, is necessary to synthesize creatine. Creatine helps recycle adenosine triphosphate (ATP) from adenosine diphosphate (ADP) to ensure the body has an adequate supply of energy. The body also needs a combination of glycine, cysteine, and glutamate to produce the powerful antioxidant glutathione. Glutathione helps repair and build tissues, boosts the immune system, and protects cells from damage by scavenging free radicals.
Glycine is essential for forming collagen, as it accounts for every third amino acid in its structure. Adequate collagen production is critical for skin health, youthful-looking skin, joint function, and bone strength. Mutations can sometimes cause the body to try and substitute glycine in collagen tripeptides. However, this causes brittle bone disease, a collection of several connective tissue disorders.
Glycine can act as an inhibitory or excitatory neurotransmitter. It’s involved in reflex coordination, pain sensation, and processing sensory signals within the brain. Glycine can also bind to chloride channels to support the immune system and reduce inflammation. Animal studies show it may support liver health by reducing alcohol-induced inflammation.
Glycine for Sleep
When functioning as an inhibitory neurotransmitter, glycine helps improve sleep by calming the brain and lowering body temperature. Studies found that participants taking glycine supplements fell asleep faster and experienced a better quality of sleep. Glycine supplements also help diminish daytime drowsiness while improving cognition.
Potential Glycine Side Effects
Glycine is generally safe for most individuals. Several scientific studies noted that participants taking glycine supplements did not experience side effects. However, taking very large doses on an empty stomach can cause mild stomach pain or nausea. Glycine may reduce the effectiveness of certain schizophrenia medications. Consult with a doctor before beginning any new supplement regimens.
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