Glycine is a non-essential amino acid.Although calling glycine a non-essential amino acid makes it sound not so important, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Non-essential means that our bodies are able to produce it. However, we also consume glycine through our diet. It can be found in foods such as meats, turkey, chicken, fish (such as salmon) seeds, peanuts, soy products and peas. Glycine is also found in – you guessed it – collagen.
Glycine is a major component of collagen.Say what? Yes, glycine is found in collagen. If you remember from our Collagen 101 lesson on our Science page, collagen is a big protein. This big protein is made up of long chains of linked amino acids. One of the amino acids present in collagen: glycine.
What role does glycine play in our bodies?Glycine has a variety of important roles in our bodies. Without glycine, our bodies would struggle to do everyday functions. It helps us maintain and improve our health and supports our growth. Studies have found that not only can glycine help with maintaining health and wellness, but it can also help prevent different diseases. Some diseases include cardiovascular disease, inflammatory diseases, obesity, cancer and diabetes. In addition, glycine can help with sleep and brain function. Here are some of the most researched benefits and functions of the amino acid.
1. Antioxidant activityGlycine has the ability to act as an antioxidant and decrease inflammation in the body. Reactive oxygen species (ROS) are molecules that accumulate in the body and can cause damage. However, studies have shown that glycine has various methods of decreasing ROS activity in the body. In addition, glycine also has anti-inflammatory effects. It does this by inhibiting molecules in the body that are pro-inflammatory (or promote inflammation). The mechanisms are complicated, but trust us, the science is there to support it.
2. Protection from liver toxicityScience shows that glycine may be able to help protect the liver from alcohol induced toxicity (also called hepatotoxicity – big word, we know). Chronic alcohol consumption can lead to high levels of fatty acid in the liver, which can cause fatty liver disease. However, glycine can work to reduce this. The amino acid also has strong antioxidant activity and so it can help fight oxidative damage caused by alcohol to the liver.
3. Improve sleep quality
Glycine is an inhibitory neurotransmitter that plays a role in our nervous system. What does this mean? Well, our nervous system is responsible for sending signals from our brain to the rest of the body. These signals can be excitatory (arousing or promoting an action) or inhibitory (preventing an action).
As we begin to get sleepy, there is an increase in inhibitory signals because our body wants to get into a relaxed state. Glycine contributes to this as it helps our body know that it is time to go to sleep. In fact, studies have shown that those who take glycine before bed actually report better sleep and find it easier to fall asleep at night!
4. Can help with metabolic syndrome
Obesity is a growing public health concern. This metabolic syndrome can increase the risk of type II diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Interestingly, there are findings that show that people with metabolic syndrome (specifically obesity and type II diabetes) have lower levels of glycine.
Glycine has been found to decrease high concentrations of fatty acids in the body. It can also help to increase insulin sensitivity, which is what people with type II diabetes struggle with. It can also decrease inflammation throughout the body. Because of these findings, scientists are suggesting that supplementing with dietary glycine may actually help those with metabolic syndrome.
Why is glycine important? The takeaway.Besides being found in collagen, glycine has many important roles throughout the body. It can help defend against various diseases and injuries. It also helps to maintain normal body functions as it is very important in many different day-to-day processes that our bodies must do to survive. Psst! Looking for a way to increase your glycine intake? Try out some of our collagen powders!
- Razak, M. A., Begum, P. S., Viswanath, B., & Rajagopal, S. (2017). Multifarious Beneficial Effect of Nonessential Amino Acid, Glycine: A Review. Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity, 2017, 1716701.
- Wang, W., Wu, Z., Dai, Z., Yang, Y., Wang, J., & Wu, G. (2013). Glycine metabolism in animals and humans: Implications for nutrition and health. Amino Acids, 45(3), 463–477.
- Zhong, Z., Wheeler, M. D., Li, X., Froh, M., Schemmer, P., Yin, M., Bunzendaul, H., Bradford, B., & Lemasters, J. J. (2003). L-Glycine: A novel antiinflammatory, immunomodulatory, and cytoprotective agent. Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition & Metabolic Care, 6(2), 229–240.
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Allison recently graduated with a Masters of Science in Human Health and Nutritional Sciences from the University of Guelph. She is passionate about all things health and wellness, and enjoys teaching others about impact that food and nutrition have on day to day life. In her free time she loves going on long runs, grabbing coffee with friends and spending time on the beach (when it isn't freezing outside!).