We have an intriguing question coming in this week. It's about something that I don’t asked about very often. Those that follow a vegetarian diet often ask me about general protein supplementation, but I don’t think I’ve ever been asked about glycine supplements specifically.
So, thanks to one of you listeners for being the first!
What is Glycine?
Let’s start at the beginning.
Glycine is a building block for protein, what we nerds call amino acids. Basically, the body uses glycine to make other proteins.
And, of course, proteins are important for the body not just because they help build muscle, but because proteins are responsible for many cellular functions, the production of hormones, enzymes, and neurotransmitters, and on and on.
Where Does Glycine Come From?
Now, the interesting thing about glycine, specifically, is that the body can make glycine on its own.
This means, we don’t need to eat glycine-rich foods in order to be sure we’re getting enough. Instead, as long as we’re getting some protein in our diet someway, the body can make glycine on its own.
Nerds like me will call these types of proteins, the ones our bodies can make on their own, non-essential amino acids. In contrast, there are proteins that our bodies cannot make its own. These are called, “essential” amino acids – meaning, it’s essential we consume these in our diets.
But, since glycine is non-essential, if we don’t consume it or supplement with it, we’re still covered because the body will make it on its own. Again, this happens just so long as we are consuming enough total protein each day. For most of us, 5-6 oz. of protein each day enough. If you’re holding a piece of cooked tofu in the palm of your hand, that would be about 3 oz. So, if you had 2 portions of that size each day, you’re good.
What Foods are Rich in Glycine?
Researchers are finding that among those that follow a more traditional diet, most consume about 2 grams of glycine daily.
As we would expect, your typical animal-based protein sources like meat, fish, and dairy, are good food sources of glycine. But, some plant-based sources like peanuts and beans are also good sources. Studies have examined glycine supplementation and have found that it may help those with schizophrenia and those that have suffered a stroke. This is because one of glycine’s important functions is sending chemical signals throughout the brain.
Other than those 2 specific conditions, supplementing with glycine doesn’t seem to provide any benefit. If someone were to supplement anyway, dosing is important. So, it’s important to discuss with your doctor. But, again, without a history of schizophrenia or stroke, it may not be worth spending money on a glycine supplement.
Are Glycine Supplements Reliable?
There have been other claims made about glycine supplements. Some supplement manufacturers claim that glycine prevents cancer and epileptic seizures, and helps the body produce more human growth hormone, provide a boost to the immune system and calm the mind.
But, again, none of these claims are backed by scientific evidence, and it is too early to say if glycine is effective against diseases like cancer.