As a health-conscious person, you probably know a lot about carbs, fats, and proteins. You might even know what an amino acid is (the building blocks of proteins). However, few people are aware of what each of our amino acids do.
This is really a shame because some amino acids have can have huge health benefits! One of these is the amino acid, glycine.
What Is Glycine?
All amino acids can be broken down into three types:
- Essential: Amino acids that can’t be made by the body and must be obtained through dietary sources.
- Non-Essential: These amino acids can be produced by the body from other amino acids.
- Conditional: Amino acids which the body can produce, but won’t necessarily produce enough of (especially in times of stress, illness, or injury). Thus, it may be necessary to consume them through dietary sources. (1)
Glycine is made out of the essential amino acids serine and threonine. It falls into the conditional category. However, some studies show that our bodies might not be able to make enough glycine on their own. (2)
A 155 pound person would need approximately 10 grams of glycine per day to meet needs. Our bodies (assuming that you are getting enough serine and threonine) will make about 3 grams per day. We get another 1.5 to 3 grams from diet.
That adds up to 4.5 to 6 grams per day which is far short of the 10 gram requirement!
It is unclear how many people have a glycine deficiency (I couldn’t find any studies about the prevalence of glycine deficiency). However, the research makes it clear that we could benefit from increasing our dietary glycine intake.
Why Glycine Deficiency is a Modern Problem
Glycine is primarily found in the connective tissues of animals, such as the skin and connective tissues. In the past, our ancestors ate ALL parts of an animal. They would do things like make bone broth from these “leftover” parts and even make “strange” recipes like head cheese.
Today, most of us eat just the muscle meats from animals. Muscle meats are a great source of many nutrients such as iron and other amino acids like methionine. However, they are lacking in glycine. What results is a serious imbalance in amino acids and can in turn can lead to inflammation. (3)
If you are eating just muscle meats, you’ll not only end up with an imbalance but also miss out on the benefits of glycine.
Health Benefits of Glycine
There are numerous health benefits of glycine. New research is coming out all of the time which shows the importance of this amino acid! These are just some of the main glycine benefits to know.
Glycine Supports Digestive Health
For hundreds of years, bone broth has been the go-to remedy for digestive ailments. The reason that bone broth is so great for digestive health is because it contains high amounts of glycine.
- Glycine is crucial for maintaining the intestinal wall and its mucosa. If you have a disorder such as SIBO or Leaky Gut in which your gut is damaged, then glycine can help heal your gut lining. (4,5)
- Glycine helps heal ulcers and regulate gastric acids.(6)
- In an animal study, glycine was able to prevent colitis by inhibiting inflammation. Thus, glycine might be useful in treating inflammatory bowel disease. (7)
Glycine Builds Muscle
Glycine is important for synthesizing creatine, a substance in the body which is crucial for providing energy to muscles so they can gain strength and mass. Many bodybuilders supplement with creatine for this reason. (8)
Glycine Helps Joint Health
Our joints are primarily made up of cartilage. And what is cartilage made up of? You guessed it! Glycine is one of the main amino acids that makes up our joints.
Glycine, together with the amino acids proline and hydroxyproline, twist together to make the complex chains of proteins in our joints. If you are lacking in any of these amino acids, your body will not be able to produce more cartilage or keep joints properly lubricated.
Glycine Supports Mental Health
Glycine isn’t just an amino acid but it’s also a neurotransmitter that has its own signaling system. It’s considered one of the most important inhibitory neurotransmitters! In other words, glycine keeps our brains calm. (11)
Because of its inhibitory actions, glycine has been scientifically shown to help several mental health problems, including:
Glycine Regulates Blood Sugar
Blood sugar isn’t just an issue for diabetics. When you eat foods which are high in sugars (glycemic load), your body produces insulin. Increased insulin in the bloodstream makes your body stop burning fat and instead stores those extra calories as fat.
Not only do you increase your risk of diabetes, but those increased insulin levels essential make you gain weight!
Glycine helps by stimulating glucagon to help remove insulin from circulation. It can also decrease the intake of free fatty acids in the blood and reduces glycated hemoglobin.
There is plenty of scientific research to back up the diabetes-fighting benefits of glycine. One of the most interesting findings is that people with diabetes have 26% lower levels of glycine than non-diabetics. So if you are suffering from blood sugar highs/lows, it might be a sign that you need more glycine in your diet!
Glycine Improves Sleep
As a mother of three and businesswoman, I know what it’s like to suffer from sleepless nights and insomnia! One of the best benefits of glycine is that it can help you get a good night’s sleep and reduce fatigue.
Various studies have shown that taking just 3 grams of glycine before sleep was shown to improve sleep quality, reduce sleep disturbances, and improve wellbeing the following day. These benefits are likely due to glycine’s role as an inhibitory neurotransmitter.
Another way that glycine may improve sleep is by increasing the absorption of magnesium. Magnesium is a great insomnia cure because it calms the body. Approximately 15 percent of the general public is deficient in magnesium.
If you suffer from sleep problems, you might want to consider taking a magnesium supplement as an insomnia treatment.
Glycine for Fighting the Signs of Aging
I personally find it ironic (and sad) that so many people spend fortunes on beauty treatments (including dangerous ones like Botox ) just to look young.
It is ironic because we could easily fight signs of aging by improving our diet.
Glycine is important for anti-aging because it is one of the main components of collagen. Collagen is what makes our skin elastic. We get wrinkles when collagen breaks down. Instead of paying for pricey skin creams, why not just use glycine-rich bone broth for fighting wrinkles? Yes, bone broth beats Botox for wrinkles!
Sources of Glycine
Gelatin is the name for cooked collagen. It is usually made by boiling down the connective tissues and bones of animals (hence why bone broth is a good source of collagen).
Collagen typically contains 22% to 30% glycine. By adding just 2 tablespoons of collagen to your diet, you will add about 3 grams of glycine to your diet. That’s a big boost!
Gelatin or Collagen?
There is a lot of confusion between gelatin and collagen. In a nutshell, they are the same thing except that gelatin will gel and collagen won’t!
- So, if you want to make gummy treats, use gelatin.
- If you want to add gelatin to coffee, tea, or soups, then use collagen.
- You can read more about the difference between gelatin and collagen here.
Want to learn more about how gelatin can revitalize your health?
Read The Gelatin Secret: The Surprising Superfood which Transforms Your Health and Beauty. You’ll not only learn all about how to utilize gelatin, but also get lots of great paleo-friendly gelatin recipes.