Glycine’s Role in Mental Well-being

Joyful woman with vibrant, curly hair smiling brightly

In the fast-paced world we live in, anxiety and depression have become increasingly prevalent concerns. People are exploring various avenues to find relief, and one avenue gaining attention is using glycine. 

This amino acid, naturally present in the body, has been linked to several mental health benefits, making it a topic of interest for those seeking holistic solutions to mood disorders. This blog will explore the potential benefits and whether the research supports it. 

The content of this article is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions regarding dietary supplements.

What is the Amino Acid Glycine?

Glycine is a non-essential amino acid, meaning the body can produce it naturally. It plays a crucial role in various physiological functions, as a building block for proteins and influencing neurotransmitter activity in the brain. Found abundantly in protein-rich foods such as meat, fish, and dairy products, glycine is an integral part of a balanced diet. Beyond its role as a fundamental structural component, glycine has garnered attention as a therapeutic amino acid. 

Glycine may have significant positive impacts on mental health, particularly in mitigating anxiety and depression. Its ability to modulate neurotransmitters, such as gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), contributes to its anxiolytic properties, making it an attractive option for those seeking natural remedies for mood disorders. Additionally, glycine has shown promise in promoting better sleep, improving cognitive function, and potentially offering neuroprotective benefits.

Black slate chalkboard with 'Amino Acid' written in white chalk

Glycine Food Sources 

Glycine is naturally present in various protein-rich foods, making it readily available through dietary sources. Foods abundant in glycine include: 

  • Meat
  • Poultry
  • Fish
  • Dairy products
  • Legumes
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However, some individuals may experience glycine deficiency for several reasons despite its prevalence. Certain situations may contribute to inadequate glycine intake, including: 

  • Diets low in protein
  • Diets low in diversity and variety
  • Aging individuals
  • Stress

Glycine Dietary Supplements

Choosing a high-quality glycine supplement may be a viable option for those facing challenges in obtaining sufficient glycine through regular dietary means. 

When considering a supplement, opting for reputable brands that provide pure and bioavailable forms of glycine is crucial. This ensures optimal absorption and effectiveness, promoting a balanced intake of this amino acid for overall health and well-being. 

As with any supplementation, consulting with a healthcare professional is advisable to determine individual needs and address potential interactions with existing health conditions or medications. 

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Mental Health Benefits of Glycine

Beyond anxiety and depression, glycine is believed to offer a spectrum of mental health benefits. The potential advantages of enhancing sleep quality to improve cognitive function make glycine an intriguing subject in terms of mental well-being.

Glycine for Anxiety and Depression

Anxiety and depression often go hand in hand, and individuals are searching for effective and safe alternatives. Glycine is a controversial potential solution. Some individuals believe glycine has a positive impact on anxiety levels, and it is not an uncommon supplement for those seeking natural remedies for anxiety. 

While glycine has shown promise in alleviating anxiety, its role in combating depression is also a subject of exploration. However, recent studies have raised concerns about the use of certain “mood booster” supplements, including glycine, warning of potential adverse effects. This early research suggests glycine may trigger a signal to the brain to slow down-resulting in depression. More research is needed, and it’s essential to base decisions on conversations with healthcare providers. 

Hands holding a thoughtful human head

How Does Glycine Work in the Brain?

Glycine does some exciting things in the brain that help us think and remember. It works with unique parts in our brain called N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptors, like messengers that allow nerve cells to talk to each other. When glycine teams up with these receptors, it strengthens our brain connections, which is super important for learning and memory. 

Glycine is also good at calming our brain by slowing down some active messengers. So, glycine is like a helper that may keep our brain balanced and working well. Scientists are still learning more about how this all works, but glycine is crucial for keeping our brains in good shape!

Glycine for Learning and Memory

Cognitive functions, including learning and memory, are vital mental health components. Glycine is a particular amino acid that might help improve memory. It works with the brain’s NMDA receptors, which are essential for learning and remembering. 

Additionally, glycine has been linked to neuroprotective effects, shielding neurons from damage and promoting overall brain health. Glycine helps make these connections stronger, which can be good for memory. While scientists are still learning more about how glycine helps with memory, some studies suggest that including it in your diet or taking it as a supplement could help improve your memory.

Glycine and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Scientists have been studying glycine because it seems to play a role in brain function. Some research suggests that glycine might be connected to conditions like schizophrenia and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

Schizophrenia is a mental health condition that can affect how people think, feel, and behave. Some studies propose that glycine supplements could help manage symptoms of schizophrenia. One clinical study showed a 34% reduction in negative symptoms with glycine treatment. 

Obsessive-compulsive disorder is another mental health condition where people have persistent, unwanted thoughts and repetitive behaviors. Although more research is needed, some scientists believe that glycine may also have a role in the brain chemistry linked to OCD. A case report showed a benefit of glycine in patients with OCD and body dysmorphic disorder, but large amounts of glycine (60 g/d) are required. Unfortunately, the large daily dose of glycine had side effects such as significant nausea. 

Understanding the connection between glycine and these mental health conditions could potentially lead to new treatments or ways to support individuals facing these challenges.

Peaceful woman curled up in slumber on a cozy bed

Better Sleep and Glycine

Quality sleep is a cornerstone of mental health and is pivotal to overall well-being. The intriguing connection between glycine and improved sleep has captured the attention of researchers and individuals seeking practical solutions for sleep-related issues. 

Glycine, an amino acid found in various foods and often taken as a supplement, is thought to influence sleep through its impact on neurotransmitters, particularly by enhancing the activity of GABA, a calming neurotransmitter in the brain. This interaction promotes relaxation and reduces the time it takes to fall asleep. 

Additionally, glycine’s potential to regulate body temperature may contribute to a more comfortable sleep environment. Studies exploring the relationship between glycine and sleep disorders, such as insomnia, suggest glycine supplementation may improve sleep quality and duration. 

Studies are small, and research is limited, but individuals may wish to discuss adding glycine to improve the quality of sleep when suffering from insomnia. 

Glycine Recommended Dosage and Side Effects

Determining the recommended dosage of any supplement helps maximize its potential benefits while minimizing the risk of adverse effects. Research on dosage for glycine supplementation needs to be improved. The appropriate glycine dosage can vary based on individual factors such as age, weight, and health conditions. 

Female patient gripping her abdomen

While glycine is generally considered safe when used within recommended limits, it’s essential to be aware of potential side effects. Some individuals may experience mild gastrointestinal symptoms such as:

  • Nausea
  • Upset stomach
  • Soft stools

To ensure a safe and effective glycine supplementation, it is advisable to ask your healthcare provider to start with a lower dose and gradually increase it while monitoring for any adverse reactions. 

Other Potential Benefits of Glycine

Some studies also indicate that glycine could contribute to joint health by supporting the synthesis of collagen, a crucial component of connective tissues. Moreover, glycine has been investigated for its potential in managing conditions like type 2 diabetes, where it may improve insulin sensitivity. 

Type 2 Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is when the body has trouble using insulin properly, leading to high blood sugar levels. Some research suggests that glycine may help improve insulin sensitivity, which is important for managing blood sugar. Insulin is a hormone that helps cells use sugar for energy. 

By studying how glycine interacts with insulin and glucose, scientists hope to discover new ways to support people with type 2 diabetes. While more research is needed, understanding the role of glycine in diabetes could potentially lead to new treatments or lifestyle approaches to better control blood sugar levels and improve the overall health of individuals with this condition.

While more research is needed to fully understand the extent of these benefits, incorporating glycine into a balanced diet or as a supplement might offer various health advantages. As with any dietary changes or supplements, it’s advisable to consult with a healthcare professional for personalized guidance and recommendations.

Diverse spread of culinary delights arranged on a tabletop

Bottom Line: Glycine for Anxiety

Glycine emerges as a promising candidate in the treatment of mental well-being, with potential benefits in alleviating anxiety and depression. Its influence on cognitive function and sleep quality highlights its role in promoting overall mental health. 

While preliminary research is encouraging, a cautious approach is advised, acknowledging the need for further scientific exploration. 

Emphasizing the importance of obtaining glycine from dietary sources, such as protein-rich foods, is key. A well-balanced diet that naturally includes quality amino acids supports the body’s intrinsic glycine synthesis, contributing to mental health. 

Before considering glycine supplements as part of a mental health treatment plan, individuals are strongly encouraged to engage in a dialogue with their healthcare provider. This collaborative discussion can help assess individual needs, potential benefits, and any necessary precautions, ensuring a personalized and informed approach to mental well-being.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does glycine have a calming effect?

Glycine has been studied for its potential calming effects. Some research suggests that glycine may act as a neurotransmitter in the brain, influencing signals that could have a calming impact. However, individual responses can vary, and more research is needed to understand the extent of glycine’s calming effects fully.

What helps with severe anxiety?

Managing severe anxiety often involves a combination of therapeutic approaches. Psychotherapy, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), and medications prescribed by a healthcare professional are common treatments. 

Additionally, lifestyle changes, stress management techniques, and support from friends and family can contribute to anxiety relief. It’s crucial to consult with a healthcare provider to determine the most appropriate and effective treatment plan for severe anxiety.

Does glycine make you feel good?

Glycine is an amino acid and a crucial component of proteins in the body. While some studies suggest that glycine may positively affect mood and well-being, individual experiences can vary. 

Factors such as overall health, lifestyle, and specific circumstances may influence how glycine affects an individual. It’s important to note that glycine supplements should be used cautiously, and consulting with a healthcare professional before starting any new supplement regimen is advisable.

Does glycine work immediately?

The effects of glycine, like many substances, may not be immediate. The time it takes for glycine to exert its effects can depend on various factors, including the individual’s metabolism, the dosage, and the specific desired outcome. 

Sometimes, it might take time for the body to respond to glycine supplementation. As with any supplement or medication, it’s essential to follow recommended dosages and consult with a healthcare provider to understand the expected timeline for results.


April Bruns | Registered Dietitian | ACE Personal Trainer

April Bruns | Registered Dietitian | ACE Personal Trainer

April is a registered dietitian and freelance health and wellness writer. She holds a BS in Food Science and Human Nutrition from Washington State University. She works as a private practice dietitian specializing in weight loss, gut health, and functional fitness.

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