The many health benefits of glycine
Author: Deb Date Posted:14 June 2018
Glycine: The busiest and most impressive amino acid
Most people are now catching on that collagen is the most abundant protein in our body and has real health benefits. Collagen is the main structural protein found in connective tissue. Many are aware of its assistance to help our skin retain some of its structural integrity as we age, but less talked about are the benefits it has for our brain.
What is collagen made up of?
Collagen is considered a complex protein made up of around 19 amino acids found mostly in tissues, tendons, ligaments and skin but also in muscle tissue, teeth, blood vessels and the gut.
Human collagen is made up of mostly glycerine, proline and hydroxyproline. Proline and glycine are two amino acids that are lacking in our diets as our appetites and cooking methods have turned away from certain meat sources, such as organ meats, which are rich in these amino acids.
Most collagen supplements are pretty much made up of the same ratio as collagen found in the human body. You won’t find these valuable amino acids in such rich amounts in many other food sources.
What is glycine?
Glycine makes up about a third of the entire composition of collagen and even though it is a ‘non-essential’ amino acid, glycine plays a role in many important functions. It is the smallest and simplest of all amino acids and plays an active role in many important functions of the body.
Glycine is one of the key amino acids used to form collagen and is found in high concentrations in certain parts of the body, like the skin, muscle and joint tissue. But Glycerine benefits go beyond helping out in the synthesis of collagen. Glycine plays an impressive role in the health of our nervous system and brain.
How does glycine in collagen help the brain?
All amino acids have a vital role in the healthy functioning of our CNS and are well known for their role in forming neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters are the body’s chemical messengers that transmit signals between neurons via a synapse. Some amino acids can transmit messages across a brain synapse and glycine is one of those!
Neurotransmitters can either create excitability or wakefulness while others have a more relaxed and calming effect. This is where glycine shines.
Glycine works with other amino acids as an inhibitory neurotransmitter. This means it can have a sedative effect on our nervous system, helping to control overexcitability. Paradoxically it is also able to improve mood and cognition. Glycine receptors are found in the hippocampus which is involved in processing memories and emotions, two functions that studies have shown glycine to help with.
Changes to glycerine levels in the brain can improve attention, memory and impulsivity. What’s interesting is that it also helps regulate our sleep patterns and reduce daytime sleepiness which in turn keeps us alert and firing!
Glycine and Mental Health
Evidence has shown positive results between glycine and schizophrenia. One study showed patients improved in their cognitive and general psychiatric symptoms during a 6-week trial. There is some evidence to suggest it may help control symptoms of seizures, obsessive-compulsive disorder, hyperactivity, anxiety and depression.
Glycine for Sleep
Glycine has been studied for its benefits as a sleep aid as it helps normalise the physiology of sleep. A 2016 study showed that 3g of glycine ingested before bedtime improved sleep quality and performance of a memory task.
- Helps inhibit muscle activity during REM (rapid eye movement) sleep
- Lowers core body temperature to facilitate sleep
- Decreases daytime sleepiness
By taking glycine you should get more sleep and a better quality one! Glycine has a calming effect on our brain so can help us wind down and prepare for sleep. If sleep is your issue, as it is mine, then glycine might be worth considering taking on its own.
What else is glycine good for?
In short, glycine has been reported to be beneficial for
- Boosting energy
- Prevent fatigue
- Promotes muscle growth
- Slows down loss of cartilage in joints & skin
- Improve range of motion in joints
- Improve memory
- Anti-ulcer activity in the gut
Collagen protein supplements contain high levels of glycine of up to 30%. I like to take health supplements in their rawest, most natural form so adding collagen to smoothies or a warm drink before bed as a sleep tonic works for me. With hydrolyzed collagen being so versatile, there are countless ways to get this missing nutritional supplement working for you!