Glycine: An Inhibitory Neurotransmitter With Multifaceted Benefits

If you want to learn more about the non-essential amino acid glycine, then you have come to the right place. Glycine is a multifaceted amino acid and neurotransmitter, a structural component in collagen, a precursor to creatine, and exhibits many benefits for sleep, heart health, and cognitive function. We’re going to get into the details of what glycine is, how it works, and more.  

What Is Glycine 

Glycine is a conditionally essential amino acid. Conditionally essential, means that your body endogenously produces it, yes does need it in time of stress, or physical trauma from exogenous sources, via food or supplementation.  

Glcyine, like GABA and serotonin, is also an inhibitory neurotransmitter. Its unique function allows it to act as a stimulant or a depressor in the brain, which blocks or inhibits certain brain signals in your central nervous system. Glycine inhibits excitatory neurons, promoting a sense of calmness, relaxation, and anxiolytic effects. 

Glycine was first isolated in 1820 by the French chemist, H Braconnot. Glycine has many pivotal roles in human metabolism and nutrition. Of the total amino acid content in the human body, 11.5% is represented by glycine and 20% of the total amino acid nitrogen in body proteins is from glycine.

Glycine plays a critical role in the function of collagen. It is also a neurotransmitter, controlling intake of food, behavior, and complete body homeostasis [R]. Glycine is found in many protein sources, as well as dairy.

How Does Glycine Work, What Does Glycine Do

Glycine has several essential functions, in cyto-protection, growth, development, immune response and more.

Glycine works through several different mechanisms, depending on what biological function of interest is being observed.

Glycine is a co-agonist of the N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor, the main receptor for glutamate, an excitatory neurotransmitter, which means glycine plays a role in activating this receptor in the brain. 

Glycine’s effect on the NMDA receptor has been proposed as underlying the improvements in both sleep and symptoms of schizophrenia with supplementation.

Glycine Benefits

Gut Health

The GBA, or gut-brain axis, consists of a bidirectional communication pathway between the central nervous system and the enteric nervous system. This essentially links, emotional and cognitive centers of the brain with peripheral intestinal functions. You know that sinking feeling you get in the pit of your stomach when you’re in trouble – you can thank you GBA for that.

Glycine has been shown to help protect against gastrointestinal disorders and inflammatory bowel disease such as colitis. Research shows that glycine can protect from intestinal injury caused by trinitrobenzene sulfonic acid or dextran sulfate sodium in chemical models of colitis. The epithelial irritation and damage caused by the trinitrobenzene sulfonic acid or dextran sulfate sodium were cured by glycine [R].

Glycine has an effective anti-inflammatory effect, hereby reducing gastrointestinal injury [R].

Promotes Sleep

Glycine, much like GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter, and acts as an excitatory modulator of the N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) subtype of ionotropic glutamate receptors.

Essentially, inhibitory neurotransmitters block or inhibit certain brain signals in your central nervous system. Glycine inhibits excitatory neurons, promoting a sense of calmness, relaxation, and anxiolytic effects.

Glycine has properties to enhance the quality of sleep. Although the mechanism, is not fully understood, pre-clinical studies show that glycine increases non-rapid-eye-movement (NREM) during sleep, as well as decrease sleep latency and core temperature, as warm body temperature can adversely affect sleep quality. Data suggests that glycine supplementation promotes sleep via peripheral vasodilatation through the activation of NMDA receptors in the suprachiasmatic shell. Studies have shown that glycine improves sleep quality, promotes healthy sleep patterns and REM cycles [R].

Magnesium glycinate, a combination of glycine and magnesium, is the one of the best ingredients, found in high-quality sleep supplements. Check out ZMT if you need better sleep.

Magnesium glycinate is also one of the best absorbing forms of magnesium, promoting it’s efficacy.

RELATED ARTICLE The Best Form Of Magnesium

Memory And Mood

Glycine plays an imperative role in cognitive health and memory. Pre-clinical data, shows that glycine increases serotonin the “feel-good” hormone, as well as dopamine levels, due to the effects on the NMDA receptor. Thus, dose dependent concentration of glycine can be useful for memory and elevated mood [R].

Helps Form Creatine

Creatine is a combination of three amino acids, glycine, methionine, and arginine. Creatine provides your body with short quick burst energy, in the form of adenosine triphosphate, that can help athletic performance.

Creatine can be obtained from the diet through protein, or from supplementation. Creatine is also endogenously synthesized via catalytic reactions, involving glycine. 

A Structural Component Of Collagen

Collagen is a structural protein, specifically a polypeptide containing a mixture of the amino acids glycine, proline, and lysine. As one of the most abundant proteins in the human body, Collagen consists of nearly one-third or 30% of total human protein [R]. Collagen is engrained within the connective tissue of animals and humans, specifically found in the cartilage, tendons, muscles, and bones (think of Collagen, as the glue that holds everything together).

Your body naturally produces collagen from certain vitamins and minerals from the food you eat. However, Collagen production naturally declines as you age [R]. When the production of Collagen declines, we’re met with wrinkles, sag, and sometimes even cellulite, which is completely natural considering our bodies are not capable of repairing themselves as they once did, in your adolescence. Suggested health claims, propose that Collagen can benefit and repair muscle, joints, and bones, and also support healthy hair and skin.

RELATED ARTICLE: The Ultimate Guide To Collagen

High glycine concentration helps increase collagen synthesis, which can enhance and regenerate cartilage tissue. Studies show that increasing glycine intake, may well be a strategy for helping cartilage regeneration by enhancing collagen synthesis, which could contribute to the treatment and prevention of osteoarthritis [R].

Glycine: Takeaway 

Glycine plays a critical role in human health and several key biological functions. As an inhibitory neurotransmitter, glycine benefits mood, memory, and promotes better sleep, with direct effects on the NMDA receptor. It also plays a role in creatine and collagen synthesis, which are vital for power, strength, and ligament health. Studies have shown that glycine supplementation, may help improve cognitive function, joint health, and sleep. 


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