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Glycine: Why your body needs it

Glycine: Why your body needs it

Disclaimer: This content has been produced purely for informational and educational purposes only and is never intended to be used as a substitute for professional medical guidelines, including diagnosis, advice, and treatment.

Table of Content

  • Introduction
  • What is Glycine?
  • Functions of Glycine in the Body
  • Sources of Glycine
  • Benefits of Glycine
  • Role of Glycine in Health and Disease
  • Incorporating Glycine into Your Diet
  • Risks and Side Effects of Glycine
  • Conclusion

Glycine is a non-essential amino acid, meaning the body can produce it on its own. It is the simplest amino acid in structure, containing just a single hydrogen atom as its side chain. Despite its simplicity, glycine plays crucial roles in various physiological processes within the human body. From aiding in the synthesis of important molecules to acting as a neurotransmitter in the central nervous system, the functions of glycine are diverse and essential for overall health.

What is Glycine?

Glycine is one of the 20 amino acids used by cells to synthesize proteins. Chemically, it is the smallest amino acid, consisting of a single hydrogen atom as its side chain. Its molecular formula is C2H5NO2. Glycine is classified as a nonpolar amino acid due to the presence of a hydrogen atom as its side chain, making it hydrophobic. This characteristic contributes to its various roles in the body, particularly in the formation of structural proteins and enzymes.

Functions of Glycine in the Body

  • Protein Synthesis:

Glycine serves as a building block for proteins, contributing to the synthesis of various structural and functional proteins in the body.

  • Neurotransmission:

Glycine acts as an inhibitory neurotransmitter in the central nervous system, playing a crucial role in regulating neuronal excitability. It helps modulate nerve impulses, promoting relaxation and calmness.

  • Detoxification: 

Glycine is involved in the synthesis of glutathione, a powerful antioxidant that plays a key role in detoxifying harmful substances, such as free radicals and heavy metals, from the body.

  • Collagen Formation:

Glycine is a major component of collagen, the most abundant protein in the body, which provides structural support to tissues such as skin, bones, and cartilage.

  • Regulation of Blood Sugar:

Glycine plays a role in glucose metabolism by helping to regulate blood sugar levels and insulin sensitivity.

Sources of Glycine

Glycine can be obtained from both dietary sources and endogenous synthesis within the body. Foods rich in protein, such as meat, fish, dairy products, legumes, and eggs, are good dietary sources of glycine. Additionally, collagen-rich foods like bone broth and gelatin contain high amounts of glycine.

Benefits of Glycine

  • Cognitive Function: Glycine has been studied for its potential cognitive benefits, including improved memory, focus, and overall cognitive function. It acts as a neurotransmitter in the brain, modulating neuronal activity and supporting healthy synaptic transmission. Research suggests that glycine supplementation may enhance cognitive performance, particularly in tasks requiring attention, memory retention, and learning ability. Additionally, glycine has been investigated for its neuroprotective effects, potentially reducing the risk of age-related cognitive decline and neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer's disease.
  • Wound Healing: Glycine plays a critical role in wound healing by promoting collagen synthesis and tissue repair. As a key component of collagen, glycine contributes to the formation of new skin tissue, helping wounds heal faster and reducing the risk of infection. Studies have shown that glycine supplementation can accelerate the healing process in both acute and chronic wounds, including surgical incisions, burns, and ulcers. Additionally, glycine's anti-inflammatory properties may help reduce swelling and pain associated with injuries, further facilitating the healing process.
  • Stress Reduction: Glycine has been implicated in the body's stress response mechanisms, acting as a calming neurotransmitter that helps regulate anxiety and promote relaxation. By modulating the activity of certain neurotransmitter receptors in the brain, glycine can attenuate the physiological and psychological effects of stress, including elevated heart rate, blood pressure, and cortisol levels. Supplementing with glycine may help mitigate symptoms of anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), improving overall mood and emotional well-being.
  • Liver Protection: Glycine plays a crucial role in liver function and detoxification processes, supporting the elimination of toxins and metabolic waste products from the body. It serves as a precursor for glutathione, a potent antioxidant that plays a central role in liver detoxification and free radical scavenging. Glycine supplementation has been shown to enhance liver function and protect against liver damage caused by alcohol consumption, drug toxicity, and environmental pollutants. By promoting liver health and detoxification, glycine may help prevent liver diseases such as fatty liver disease and cirrhosis.
  • Bone Health: Glycine is a fundamental component of collagen, which provides structural support to bones and promotes bone strength and density. By supporting collagen synthesis and mineralization, glycine contributes to bone formation and remodeling processes, helping maintain skeletal integrity and reducing the risk of fractures and osteoporosis. Studies have suggested that glycine supplementation may improve bone mineral density and enhance bone healing, particularly in individuals at risk of bone loss due to aging, hormonal imbalances, or nutrient deficiencies.
  • Skin Health: Glycine plays a vital role in maintaining the health and appearance of the skin by supporting collagen production, hydration, and elasticity. Collagen, the main structural protein in the skin, relies on glycine for its structural integrity and function. By promoting collagen synthesis and protecting against collagen degradation, glycine helps preserve skin firmness, smoothness, and resilience. Additionally, glycine's antioxidant properties help neutralize free radicals and prevent oxidative damage to the skin, reducing the risk of premature aging, wrinkles, and other signs of skin aging. Incorporating glycine-rich foods or supplements into your diet can promote radiant, youthful-looking skin and support overall skin health.

Role of Glycine in Health and Disease

Glycine has been implicated in various aspects of health and disease, including:

  • Neurological Disorders: Research suggests that glycine may have potential therapeutic effects in neurological disorders such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and epilepsy. It acts as a co-agonist of N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptors, which are involved in synaptic transmission and neuronal plasticity.
  • Metabolic Syndrome: Glycine supplementation has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity, reduce inflammation, and lower oxidative stress markers in individuals with metabolic syndrome, a cluster of conditions that increase the risk of heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes.
  • Cardiovascular Health: Glycine may have beneficial effects on cardiovascular health by reducing blood pressure, improving lipid profiles, and protecting against oxidative stress and inflammation. These effects may help lower the risk of heart disease and stroke.

Incorporating Glycine into Your Diet

There are several ways to incorporate glycine into your diet:

  • Protein-Rich Foods: One of the most natural ways to increase glycine intake is by consuming protein-rich foods. Animal-based sources such as meat, poultry, fish, and dairy products are particularly rich in glycine. For example, include servings of chicken breast, turkey, beef, pork, salmon, tuna, eggs, and Greek yogurt in your meals to boost your glycine intake. These foods not only provide glycine but also offer a wide array of other essential nutrients necessary for overall health.
  • Bone Broth: Bone broth is a nutrient-dense liquid made by simmering bones and connective tissues in water for an extended period. It is rich in collagen, which contains glycine as one of its amino acid constituents. Drinking bone broth regularly can significantly increase your glycine intake while also providing other beneficial nutrients such as minerals, gelatin, and amino acids. You can enjoy bone broth as a warm, comforting beverage on its own or use it as a base for soups, stews, and sauces.
  • Gelatin: Gelatin is derived from collagen and is another excellent source of glycine. You can incorporate gelatin into your diet by using it to make homemade gelatin desserts, gummies, or puddings. You can also dissolve gelatin powder in hot liquids like tea or coffee to create a collagen-rich beverage. Adding gelatin to your diet not only boosts glycine intake but also supports joint health, skin elasticity, and digestive function.
  • Collagen Supplements: Collagen supplements, available in powder, capsule, or liquid form, are a convenient way to increase your glycine intake, especially if you have dietary restrictions or preferences that limit your consumption of glycine-rich foods. Collagen supplements are typically derived from animal sources, such as bovine or marine collagen, and provide a concentrated source of glycine and other amino acids essential for collagen synthesis. You can add collagen powder to smoothies, shakes, or baked goods, or simply mix it with water or juice for a quick and easy collagen boost.

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  • Glycine Supplements: If you prefer a more targeted approach to glycine supplementation, you can opt for glycine supplements available in powder or capsule form. These supplements provide pure glycine in a concentrated form, allowing you to easily control your dosage. However, it's essential to consult with a healthcare professional before starting any new supplementation regimen to ensure safety and efficacy, especially if you have underlying health conditions or are taking medications.
  • Plant-Based Sources: While animal products are the most abundant sources of glycine, plant-based foods also contain varying amounts of this amino acid. Legumes such as beans, lentils, and chickpeas are relatively good sources of glycine and can be included in vegetarian or vegan diets to increase glycine intake. Additionally, certain grains, nuts, seeds, and vegetables contain small amounts of glycine, contributing to overall dietary intake.

Risks and Side Effects of Glycine

Glycine is generally considered safe when consumed in appropriate amounts through dietary sources. However, excessive intake of glycine supplements may cause side effects such as gastrointestinal discomfort, nausea, and diarrhea. Individuals with kidney or liver disease should exercise caution when supplementing with glycine, as it may exacerbate these conditions. It is important to consult with a healthcare professional before starting any new supplementation regimen, especially if you have underlying health conditions or are taking medications.


Glycine is a versatile amino acid with diverse functions in the body, ranging from protein synthesis to neurotransmission and detoxification. It plays a crucial role in various physiological processes, including muscle growth and repair, joint health, and sleep regulation. While glycine can be synthesized by the body, obtaining it from dietary sources is important for maintaining optimal health. By incorporating glycine-rich foods into your diet or considering supplementation, you can support overall well-being and potentially mitigate the risk of certain health conditions. However, it is essential to use glycine supplements cautiously and under the guidance of a healthcare professional to avoid adverse effects.

References and Resources