The Amino Acids Section
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Glycine is one of the non-essential amino acids and is used to help create muscle tissue and convert glucose into energy. It is also essential to maintaining healthy central nervous and digestive systems, and has recently been shown to provide protection via antioxidants from some types of cancer.
Glycine is used in the body to help construct normal DNA and RNA strands—the genetic material needed for proper cellular function and formation. It helps prevent the breakdown of muscle by boosting the body’s levels of creatine, a compound that helps build muscle mass. High concentrations of glycine are found not only in the muscles, but in the skin and other connective tissues as well. Almost 1/3 of collagen, which keeps the skin and connective tissue firm and flexible, is composed of glycine. (High amounts of Glycine are also found in gelatin, which is a form of denatured collagen). Without glycine the body would not be able to repair damaged tissues; the skin would become slack as it succumbed to UV rays, oxidation, and free radical damage, and wounds would never heal.
Glycine is considered a glucogenic amino acid, which means it helps supply the body with glucose needed for energy. It helps regulate blood sugar levels, and thus glycine supplementation may be useful for treating symptoms characterized by low energy and fatigue, such as hypoglycemia, anemia, and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS).
Glycine is essential for a healthy, normally functioning digestive system. It helps regulate the synthesis of the bile acid used to digest fats, and is included in many commercial gastric antacid agents.
Glycine is necessary for central nervous system function. Research has shown that this amino acid can help inhibit the neurotransmitters that cause seizure activity, hyperactivity, and manic (bipolar) depression. Glycine can also be converted to another neurotransmitter, serine, as needed, and may be beneficial in the management of schizophrenia. In one study, twenty-two schizophrenic patients, who did not initially respond to traditional treatments, added glycine to their ongoing antipsychotic medication and found that it significantly reduced their symptoms. Glycine intake among the participants ranged from 40 to 90 grams daily (0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight). More research concerning the effects of glycine on schizophrenia is underway. Studies have shown that glycine also helps improve memory retrieval loss in those that suffer from a wide variety of sleep-depriving conditions, including schizophrenia, Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, jet lag, and overwork.
Results from preliminary studies of glycine as a potential treatment for cancer have been promising, and suggest that it may help prevent the development of cancerous tumors and melanoma. In laboratory mice, dietary glycine prevented tumor growth by inhibiting angiogenisis, the process by which tumors develop their own blood supply. Glycine also seems to play a role in keeping the prostate healthy. In one study, glycine was shown to help reduce the symptoms of prostatic hyperplasia in men.
High-protein foods, such as fish, meat, beans, milk, and cheese, are the best dietary sources of glycine. Glycine is also available in capsule and powder forms, and as part of many combination amino acid supplements. There have been no toxic effects associated with glycine, although some people have reported that taking this supplement causes stomach upset.
Individuals with kidney or liver disease should not consume glycine without consulting their doctor. Taking any one amino acid supplement can cause a disruption of the citric acid or Krebs cycle, and cause a build-up of nitrogen or ammonia in the body, which makes the liver and kidneys work harder to remove waste. Anyone taking antispastic drugs should consult a physician before supplementing with glycine, since it theoretically could increase the effects of these medications.
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