6 Glycine Health Benefits You Need To Know

If you’re not getting enough glycine, then you'll age faster. Why? Your body is not making new collagen without glycine. You might notice the physical signs of aging: wrinkly skin, thinning hair and weak joints. 

As we age, we need to do what we can to optimize our collagen turnover. You need to turn over new collagen in order to fight off the visible and non-visible effects of aging. 

But what is glycine?

Glycine is an amino acid produced in your body which is crucial to making new collagen. It makes up one third of all collagen. 

Let me touch on collagen briefly. For more detail, read the health benefits of collagen.

Collagen is important for building and maintaining the structure of our bodies. From tissues to cells to joints and tendons, collagen is everywhere. It literally holds your body together.

Collagen helps to promote healthy skin, hair, teeth and nails. 

Why is glycine so important?

The issue is that our bodies natural collagen production slows as we age. When collagen is needed, glycine becomes a conditionally essential amino acid.

Glycine as a supplement is mainly used for those with schizophrenia. It is also used to help those with type 2 diabetes, sleep issues and anyone suffering from anxiety. I’ll discuss in detail each of these in depth below.

Getting more glycine in your diet may help with sleep, productivity, mood, blood sugar control, digestion and longevity. Woah that’s a lot.

To start, let’s talk about glycine’s sleep and mood boosting properties.

Glycine health benefits infographic

Glycine Helps You Sleep and May Boost Energy 

Glycine is quietly being touted as a potent fatigue fighter, sleep promotor and productivity booster. 

Evidence shows that glycine taken before bed improves the quality of your sleep (1). The good news is that glycine will not put you out like Xanax. 

Glycine works on your central nervous system, allowing you to relax and get a restful sleep. It does this by decreasing your core body temperature and inhibiting muscle activity. 

Glycine also benefits sleep by boosting serotonin and GABA levels. These mood boosting neurotransmitters give us insight into why glycine may help you sleep. 

Glycine acts as a relaxing (or inhibitory) neurotransmitter in our brain, much like GABA. 

It increases serotonin levels without increasing dopamine levels (2). This is crucial in maintaining optimal circadian rhythms leading to better sleep.

So we know that glycine sets the table for healthy sleep. What about fatigue, energy levels and anxiety? 

Well my friend, there is more. Glycine is good for anxiety. In fact it decreases anxiety related to work performance while also improving subjective feelings of fatigue throughout the day (3).

According to this research, those who took glycine also had better memory and energy during the day. Those with anxiety related to work reported reduction in uneasy feelings. 

What’s going on here? Well, it looks like glycine improves anxiety by halting the release of adrenaline. This lowers panic and anxiety feelings before they get out of hand (4, 5).

So if you are sleepy during the day or have trouble falling asleep at night, consider trying glycine rich foods before bed. 

I’m the type where my mind races as soon as my head hits the pillow. Personally, a cup of bone broth before bed puts me out. 

Couldn’t we all use a few more productive hours during the day. 

Glycine Supports Brain Health And Calms Your Nerves 

brain health

The mood boosting effects of glycine extend further from sleep to brain health. Some say that glycine is the ultimate brain food. 

Why?

Glycine helps with brain-signalling to improve your cognition, memory and mood.

It does this by helping your body synthesize certain nutrients that your brain uses to boost mood and energy. 

Of particular interest with glycine is in those who experience negative mental states. 

There are positive effects on patients with schizophrenia who take glycine as part of their treatment plan. 

Glycine appears to help with depression and mental fluency associated with schizophrenia. It also may improve psychotic symptoms (6, 7).

It’s worth noting that the dosage was very high: 25 grams of glycine. I’ll speak to dosage with glycine below.

The brain boosting effects of glycine might apply to other mood disorders. There is mechanistic evidence showing that glycine assists with depression and neurodegenerative disease like Alzheimer’s and Huntington’s.

Glycine also showed a protective effect against neurological damage associated with strokes (8, 9).

Glycine’s brain altering benefits may extend to healthy people as well. 

For example, there’s improvements in memory, recall and sustained attention in those who consume glycine. 

Practically speaking, glycine can help you in high stress situations or where your performance may be affected by poor sleep (jet lag, shift work, etc) (10).

This area of research is early, but there is a lot to be excited about with glycine and brain health.

Glycine Helps Control Insulin, Blood Sugar and Glucose

Around 8% of Canadians have diagnosed diabetes and 90% of that is type 2. Lifestyle and environmental factors contribute to type 2 diabetes (11). 

If you’re inactive or overweight then you are at an increased risk for it. What’s going on with type 2 diabetes? At the heart of type 2 diabetes is an impaired ability to use insulin and glucose efficiently.

Insulin is needed for your body to handle glucose properly. Glycine levels have a negative correlation with obesity and insulin resistance (12).

Studies show that 3-5 grams of glycine taken with meals can help control insulin and blood sugar in those with type 2 diabetes (13). 

Glycine is not just for diabetics. It can help you and I control our blood sugar better too.

Researchers show that taking 5g of glycine in the morning optimizes insulin levels in those who have a family history of type 2 diabetes. You could say these individuals are predisposed to diabetes (14). 

It seems as though glycine allows your body to use glucose more efficiently. It helps stabilize your blood sugar levels. One study showed that glycine cut the spike in blood sugar in half (15). Woah! 

How? It helps release a gut hormone to help digest glucose more efficiently. 

Better glucose control has massive health benefits for you and I. An ability to regulate blood sugar levels throughout the day helps with physical and mental health. You also might feel better after that big bowl of pasta. 

Glycine May Help With Anti-Aging

women doing yoga for anti aging

I believe that we (in the west) consume more meat than we need for health and longevity. 

The majority of the meat we do eat is not good for us. The call to ‘eat less meat’ completely misses the point if the meat we do eat is bad for us. 

This brings me to another amino acid called methionine.

Methionine appears in high amounts in muscle meats like steak and chicken breast. It is an essential amino acid; meaning that our bodies cannot make it from other things.

Methionine does crucial things like helping our bodies produce hormones and protecting our livers. 

However the big elephant in the room is that too much methionine is toxic to our bodies. It causes inflammation. 

How?

Methionine heavy diets are shown to expedite aging in animals (16).   

You might be thinking… “I can just eat less methionine and live longer.” While this is not a bad idea, it is not necessary. Let me explain why.

Glycine is a major regulator of inflammation in your body (17, 18). 

Glycine which is shown to counteract the effects of methionine. Meaning that if you consume enough glycine, it protects you from any negative effects of methionine (19).

If this seems like a stretch, let me explain.

Your liver uses glycine to deal with any surplus of methionine. If you have enough glycine on board, then it’s no problem. Your body says: “no worries methionine, I’ve got plenty of glycine to handle you...” or something to that effect.

The take home point is that the more steak or chicken breast (lean cuts of meat) you eat, the more glycine you need to balance your methionine intake. 

The standard Canadian or American diet is well short of the 8-10 grams needed daily.

Remember that collagen, gelatin and gelatinous bone broth are about ⅓ glycine. 

For the meat that you consume, I’d recommend you consider eating slightly less and higher quality (grass finished, pasture raised, etc). 

Fattier cuts of meat and organ meats naturally have more glycine than lean cuts. 

From here you can introduce meat with more connective tissue. More connective tissue means more collagen means more glycine per serving. This also means long, slow cook times are needed to prepare the meat properly. 

How Do I Get More Glycine?

Here’s the list of foods high in glycine. 

Foods high in glycine

Glycine Can Improve Digestion

Glycine improves digestion by building new tissue and decreasing inflammation in your digestive tract (20). 

Let’s talk briefly about inflammation in your digestive system.

You and I have food intolerances that perhaps we are unaware of. These foods don’t produce enough inflammation to warrant a food allergy. But they are harmful over years of consumption. 

Repeatedly eating these foods causes inflammation which breaks down the tissue of our gut and intestines. 

Think your intestines for a second. They are lined with millions of tiny junctions that help us break down and absorb nutrients from food. 

After repeated inflammation from inflammatory foods, these junctions become more porous.

Things stop working properly from there. You may experience digestion / GI issues and you’ll surely not absorb nutrients from food efficiently.

After enough exposure to these foods, tiny food particles leak through our gut and intestines into our bloodstream. This kicks off a cascade of inflammation in your body. 

If you are familiar with leaky gut syndrome, this is what happens. 

The unique properties of glycine are necessary for your body to produce the collagen needed to form new connective tissue in our gut lining. 

This helps reduce inflammation from harmful food particles. These porous junctions in your intestines and gut become tighter. 

Glycine is used to manage many inflammatory intestinal issues such as ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease and inflammatory bowel disease (21). 

Experts think that glycine offers protective effects on intestinal cells in those with these issues. 

Glycine Boost Antioxidants To Protect Your Lungs

You probably know that antioxidants are good for you. But how do they work? 

Let’s first talk about oxidants. Chronic oxidation produces cell damage in our bodies. Antioxidants prevent oxidation in the first place.

Oxidants are a natural process in our bodies. They are produced by your body to fend off bad microbes and viruses. However, if your body makes too many, then bad things happen like heart disease and cancer. 

We’re also exposed to oxidants in the environment throughout our day. That is, unless you live in a bubble.  

You and I are most likely deficient in antioxidants due to environmental factors like stress, aging, air pollution, GMO’s and more. 

Enter glutathione. Glutathione is the most potent antioxidant in our body. Research shows that glutathione is a key predictor for health and longevity (22, 23).

You might be asking: how do I get more glutathione in my cells?

Glycine is crucial to the production and availability of glutathione. It is one of the three amino acids needed to make it (24).

Without glycine, your body makes less glutathione. This can negatively affect your ability to fight off oxidative stress. Eventually you’ll get sick… Like really sick.

Long term oxidative stress increases your risk for cancer, lung issues and musculoskeletal injuries (25, 26).

If you’re not getting adequate glycine from food then your body's collagen production suffers. This leads to very low glutathione levels. 

How does this lead to asthma?

You get respiratory issues (like asthma) when the mucus in your respiratory tract is not fluid enough. Oxidative stress contributes to inflammation causing thick mucus in your lungs. This is what limits your airway during breathing. 

Proper levels of glutathione protect against asthma and other lung conditions.

How? It helps maintain fluidity of mucus in your body (27). Sounds gross but bear with me. 

If you’re after health and longevity, it is a good idea to think about your glutathione status and glycine. 

The Bottom Line

You can benefit from more glycine in your daily diet. Glycine is not a cure all. It may help with sleep and mood, brain health, blood sugar control, digestion and more.

First consider eating glycine rich foods instead of supplementing. 

Try making your own bone broth or else you can try mine. It is also a good idea to eat nose to tail in order to get more glycine without the methionine. 

It’s important to note that the research for many of the health benefits is early. We certainly need more research, however, the future looks bright for glycine. 

FAQ’s About Glycine

When should you take glycine?

You should take glycine one hour before bed for better sleep. Type two diabetics should take glycine with any meals. If you are looking for better insulin and blood glucose control then consider taking glycine with your high carbohydrate meals.

Is glycine safe to take?

Taking glycine is safe in appropriate amounts. The typical dose for you to consider taking is 3-5 grams per day. You can take glycine everyday. For comparison, some studies have used up to 90 grams of glycine per day without side effects (45).

Who should not take glycine?

You should take caution with glycine for people with liver or kidney disease, young children and pregnant or breastfeeding women. 


Are you take glycine powder? I’d love to hear how you like it. Leave a comment below.

 

Photo by Nick Bondarev from Pexels
Image by Gordon Johnson from Pixabay

Disclaimer: This information is for educational purposes only and has not been evaluated by the CFIA or FDA. It is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. 

2 comments

Hi Sarah,

One bowl or cup of bone broth should get you enough to cover your bases. As long as you are not eating large amounts of methionine from muscle meat. If you cook and use bone broth and also try to eat fattier cuts of meat or game meat or organ meats then you will easily get enough glycine.
Hope this helps
connor

Connor Meakin August 31, 2020

Is one bowl of bone broth Everyday enough for getting collagen ( glycine) in our body? Does it mean we need to take it for the whole life?

Sarah Chan August 27, 2020

Leave a comment

All comments are moderated before being published