A Panel Discussion with Dr. Chris Masterjohn, Alex, and Vladimir about Why You Need Glycine
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A Panel Discussion with Dr. Chris Masterjohn, Alex, and Vladimir about Wh You Need Glycine

Glycine can you sleep, stabilize your blood sugar, improve your joint health, keep your skin beautiful, and do much more. It's a little amino acid with a big impact on your health.

This episode is a panel discussion between Dr. Chris Masterjohn, Alex Leaf of Examine.Com, and Vladimir Heiskanen, covering everything you need to know about glycine.

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This episode is brought to you by Testing Nutritional Status: The Ultimate Cheat Sheet. I wrote this to make everything you could possibly need to measure and manage your nutritional status all one click away. If you purchase it by Wednesday, January 9, you can turn in your proof of purchase at any point in the future while my consultations are available to get $30 back on a single consultation or $100 back on a Health and Wellness Package. Get it now!

This episode is brought to you by Paleovalley. I use their beef sticks as a convenient yet nutritious snack. They are made from 100% grass-fed beef and preserved through traditional fermentation. The fermentation makes them more digestible and gives them a fresher mouthfeel and texture compared to most other meat snacks I’ve tried, which tend to be too dry for me to fully enjoy. They also have a grass-fed organ complex that contains a blend of liver, heart, kidney, and brain, all stuffed into gel caps for those who can’t bring themselves to eat these incredibly nutritious meats with a fork. Head to paleovalley.com and enter the promo code masterjohn at checkout for 30% off your order. This is a huge savings available for only until January 14. You can get 30% off everything on the site, ordering as much as you want, but only for the duration of the next three podcast episodes. Check it out now to make sure you get your discount!

This episode is brought to you by US Wellness Meats. I use their liverwurst as a convenient way to make a sustainable habit of eating a diversity of organ meats. They also have a milder braunschweiger and an even milder head cheese that gives you similar benefits, as well as a wide array of other meat products, all from animals raised on pasture. Head to grasslandbeef.com and enter promo code “Chris” at checkout to get a 15% discount on any order that is at least 7 pounds and is at least $75 after applying the discount but under 40 pounds (it can be 39.99 lbs, but not 40). You can use this discount code not once, but twice!

Ways You Can Use the Podcast Notes

Scroll back up to listen.
Meet the panel.
Read the show notes.
Get the supplement recommendations.
See relevant lab tests.
Check out the related links and research.
Check out other posts related to glycine.
Leave a comment.

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Glycine and Collagen Supplement Recommendations

The best way to get glycine is from hydrolyzed collagen. Great Lakes offers the best balance of quality, transparency, and price. Vital Proteins, while more expensive, uses enzymatic digestions rather than heat to hydrolyze the collagen, and some people find that their digestion tolerates Vital Proteins but not other brands.

Some people respond better to pure glycine. For these cases I recommend Bulk Supplements pure glycine powder. It has the same sweetness as sugar and can be used as a sweetener.

You also can use gelatin, though it's less bioavailable than hydrolyzed collagen.

Lab Tests Related to Glycine

The Genova ION Panel + 40 Amino Acids has glycine, sarcosine, pyroglutamate, xanthurenate, kynurenate, and quinolinate. If glycine is below the middle of the range, you may need more. If pyroglutamate is mid-range or higher, you do not have enough glycine to synthesize the amount of glutathione your body is trying to make. If sarcosine is mid-range or higher, your glycine is being depleted as a methyl buffer. If xanthurenate, kynurenate, and quinolinate are elevated, you are probably deficient in B6, which compromises endogenous glycine synthesis and makes the hydroxyproline in collagen more likely to generate oxalate.

24-hour urine oxalate (LabCorp) while consuming the amount of collagen you usually consume or random urine oxalate (Quest) after a collagen-rich meal can be used to test whether collagen supplementation is raising your urinary oxalate levels.

These tests are covered in more detail, with all other nutritional testing one click away, in Testing Nutritional Status: The Ultimate Cheat Sheet.

Show Notes for “Why You Need Glycine: A Panel Discussion”

00:44 Introducing Alex Leaf and Vladimir Heiskanen

02:43 Cliff Notes

16:43 Vladimir, Alex, and Chris each share their favorite underappreciated fact about glycine.

19:27 Roles of glycine include detoxification, glutathione synthesis, heme synthesis, creatine synthesis, collagen synthesis, removal of intermediates when metabolic pathways are backed up, and it acts as a calming neurotransmitter.

25:21 Glycine synthesis is almost entirely dependent on folate utilization and generates about 3 grams per day.

31:52 Glycine is consumed in the diet, but methionine, found abundantly in animal protein, increases the need for glycine.

34:49 MTHFR mutations worsen glycine status.

37:25 Over the course of evolution, our collagen requirements increased substantially, but our ability to synthesize glycine stayed the same.

41:41 We run a deficit of our ability to synthesize glycine relative to our needs of about 10 grams per day, according to the most conservative estimate.

46:25 Running a glycine deficit is an intrinsic part of the biology of large vertebrates, but our ancestors mitigated this deficit by eating collagen-rich diets.

50:10 Glycine competes with other amino acids for intestinal absorption, and free glycine is absorbed less efficiently than glycine in the form of di- or tripeptides, as found in collagen.

55:11 In animal studies, glycine protects against the metabolic consequences of obesogenic diets, diabetes complications, cancer, liver injury, and kidney injury; and it has anti-inflammatory effects that might protect against endotoxins.

59:34 In human studies, glycine supplementation promotes healthy sleep and blood glucose regulation.

01:02:40 Glycine is overwhelmingly safe.

01:05:16 Collagen supplementation may increase urinary oxalate excretion.

01:07:21 Strategies to minimize risk of kidney stones: ensure optimal B6 status; measure urinary oxalate excretion; monitor urine pH; get 800-1200 mg calcium; other protective factors are vitamin A, magnesium, and citrate.

01:19:12 Practicalities of glycine supplementation; how Vladimir, Alex, and Chris get their glycine; and how collagen and glycine fit into the overall protein requirement.

01:38:01 Lab tests to assess glycine status

Meet the Panel

A Panel Discussion with Dr. Chris Masterjohn, Alex Leaf, and Vladimir Heiskanen about Why You Need Glycine
Click the picture to view it on Instagram!

Alex Leaf, MS in Nutrition, CISSN.

A certified sports nutritionist and personal trainer, Alex Leaf holds a master’s degree in Nutrition from Bastyr University. He is a full-time researcher at Examine.com involved in updating the supplement database, writing and editing Examine Research Digest articles, and blogging about nutrition. Alex also teaches young minds about human nutrition and functional medicine at the University of Western States. He enjoys blending the scientific aspects of nutrition with the pragmatic realities of life to help others achieve their goals. Alex contributed to Examine's glycine page and is in the process of updating it.

A Panel Discussion with Dr. Chris Masterjohn, Alex Leaf, and Vladimir Heiskanen about Why You Need Glycine
Click the picture to view it on Instagram!

Vladimir Heiskanen is based in Finland and has been researching and writing about health for several years. Currently a dental student at the University of Helsinki and a blogger since 2010, he has a keen interest in human biology, and has studied scores of books and cutting-edge scientific reports. His special interests are photobiomodulation (red light therapy), nutrition, mitochondrial function and obesity research. Vladimir wrote an extensive review of glycine research on his blog several years ago.

Links and Research Related to Glycine

The Examine.Com page on glycine.

Gelatin, Stress, and Longevity by Ray Peat was the article that initially inspired Vladimir to research glycine.

Health Benefits of Glycine is Vladimir's own review.

Meléndez-Hevia et al. A weak link in metabolism: the metabolic capacity for glycine biosynthesis does not satisfy the need for collagen synthesis. 2009.

Gannon et al. The metabolic response to ingested glycine. 2002.

Cruz et al. Glycine treatment decreases proinflammatory cytokines and increases interferon-gamma in patients with type 2 diabetes. 2008.

Brind et al. Dietary glycine supplementation mimics lifespan extension by dietary methionine restriction in Fisher 344 rats. 2011.

Sugiyama et al. Effect of dietary glycine on methionine metabolism in rats fed a high-methionine diet. 1987.

Sekhar et al. Deficient synthesis of glutathione underlies oxidative stress in aging and can be corrected by dietary cysteine and glycine supplementation. 2011.

Honeyguide: Bone Broth, Gelatin, Oxalate, and Kidney Stones

Knight et al. Hydroxyproline ingestion and urinary oxalate and glycolate excretion. 2006.

Other Posts Related to Glycine

Chris Masterjohn Lite: Get Better Sleep With Glycine

Chris Masterjohn Lite: Collagen Before Your Workout For Tendon Health

Chris Masterjohn Lite: Glycine With a Meal for Blood Sugar

Chris Masterjohn Lite: Oxalates — Should You Be Concerned About Collagen?

Chris Masterjohn Lite: Ten Tips for Preventing Kidney Stones

Chris Masterjohn Lite: What to Do About MTHFR

Chris Masterjohn Lite: This is the Blood Work You Should Get for MTHFR

Mastering Nutrition: Living With MTHFR

Mastering Nutrition: Methylate Your Way to Mental Health With Dopamine

Mastering Nutrition: Creatine — Far More Than a Performance Enhancer

For even more, search the site for “glycine.”

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26 Comments

  1. Here is a study my oncologist is putting his money on right now:

    Serine, but not glycine, supports one-carbon metabolism and proliferation of cancer cells

    Christiaan F Labuschagne 1, Niels J F van den Broek 1, Gillian M Mackay 1, Karen H Vousden 2, Oliver D K Maddocks 3

    Abstract
    Previous work has shown that some cancer cells are highly dependent on serine/glycine uptake for proliferation. Although serine and glycine can be interconverted and either might be used for nucleotide synthesis and one-carbon metabolism, we show that exogenous glycine cannot replace serine to support cancer cell proliferation. Cancer cells selectively consumed exogenous serine, which was converted to intracellular glycine and one-carbon units for building nucleotides. Restriction of exogenous glycine or depletion of the glycine cleavage system did not impede proliferation. In the absence of serine, uptake of exogenous glycine was unable to support nucleotide synthesis. Indeed, higher concentrations of glycine inhibited proliferation. Under these conditions, glycine was converted to serine, a reaction that would deplete the one-carbon pool. Providing one-carbon units by adding formate rescued nucleotide synthesis and growth of glycine-fed cells. We conclude that nucleotide synthesis and cancer cell proliferation are supported by serine–rather than glycine–consumption.

    Also just wondering about undermethylation and glycine?

  2. Considered a “non essential amino acid” because we have multiple alternative pathways to make it, but still have a 10 gm deficit, particularly with age. It is the most abundant protein in the body (80%), that’s NOT a “non essential protein”!

  3. I won’t bother saying anything worthwhile, the lack of replies suggests Chris would like people to simply leave messages of praise, sorry Chris ego is a dirty word, and I don’t like to swear.

  4. So glycine helps you prevent cancer cells? What do you recommend foods that have glycine and how much amount would one person consume?

  5. Hi Chris – big fan of your work.

    I would just like to add a little of my experience here. I am homozygous 677t amongst some other methylation polymorphs and have been having a very hard time navigating nutritional supplements fixing my issues (fatty liver, chronic heartburn, sleep issues, and brain fog which I believe may be supplement induced hypoglycemia or liver related as it started happening once working on methylation / B vitamins).

    Anyways, in marches your work on glycine and bringing it into my life. It can assist with stabalizing blood sugar and liver function, reduce stomach acid, and help you sleep – is this too good to true? It wasn’t and I believe (i’ve only been taking for a week) may be turning things around for me.

    I have a question regarding NAC and glycine. I have tried NAC in the past and would get very bad reactions to NAC (excitotoxic feeling, clamminess, sweating, anxiety, heart palps, high blood pressure, and think it boosted nitric oxide which should help blood pressure?) quite rapidly after taking it. Interesting that they say to not take it after alcohol as it can be excitotoxic, but there’s very little info why and how long you need to wait. I think that it might be simple that if there is no way to use NAC to produce glutathione, it can be excitotoxic and make you feel high glutamate. I did comprehensive blood work a while ago and looking through it and discovered I had high benzoic acid levels, which is likely showing a glycine deficiency.

    Do you think a glycine deficiency may have been the reason I couldn’t tolerate NAC? I would love to be able to take NAC for all it’s benefits.

    1. I’m homozygous 677t as well, and have terrible reactions to NAC just like you mentioned.
      I have no idea about glycine affecting NAC, but sounds like it could be.
      I also seem to have bad reactions to Betaine TMG, anyone else have this? From looking through a bit of stuff it could also be glycine status-related as well.

  6. As others have posted here in the comments, the evidence presented seems very one sided. Glycine is a NMDA agonist and NMDA overload is implicated in a wide range of chronic health and mental health conditions.

    1. That is bullshit, there are easily just as many issues associated with lack of NMDA activation/function than anything else, and usually people only fall for the hysteria against it, probably leading to many issues in many, focusing on wrong things or doing the opposite of what they should be doing. Just mindless stereotypes and hysteria. Accordingly, GABA is way overrated. And many have it backwards: while they should temporarily block NMDA it is for it to function more healthily (recover)…

  7. A very interesting and lively discussion about the health benefits of Glycine.

    This has made me more of a believer that this amino acid does indeed have far reaching health benefits.

  8. I looked at the research about vegetarian diet and GSH production and foudn teh opposite:
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8297917
    In an exploratory analysis the determinants of plasma total glutathione (GSHt) were investigated in a group of 100 volunteers aged 18-61 years in Atlanta, Georgia, USA during June and July 1989. Data on demographic and health-related factors were collected by interview and plasma GSHt was measured using a recently modified laboratory method. The mean concentration of plasma GSHt for all 100 participants was 761 micrograms/l, with a standard deviation of 451 micrograms/l, a range of 86-2889 micrograms/l and a median of 649 micrograms/l. Men had significantly higher levels of plasma GSHt than women (924 v. 692 micrograms/l; P = 0.006). Seventh-day Adventists participating in the present study had higher plasma GSHt levels than other subgroups defined by race and/or religion. Among Seventh-day Adventists consumption of a vegetarian diet was associated with increased plasma GSHt concentration (P = 0.002).

  9. What is your opinion on getting glycine through magnesium glycinate supplements? It is well known to be the most highly absorbable form of magnesium. The key is a high quality chelate form such as those from Albion Labs.

  10. Lots of us seem to have problems with oxalate – including our typical “oxalate” type symptoms after eating gelatin, but no family or personal history of kidney stones. So I wouldn’t rule out oxalate problems if you don’t have a kidney stone history.

    My children and I can’t tolerate gelatin without intolerable side-effects and I think it makes my husband worse too. We are endogenous oxalate producers.

  11. As other readers pointed out, I am too concerned about glycine’s insulin raising properties:
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28323968
    Endocrinology. 2017 May 1;158(5):1064-1073. doi: 10.1210/en.2017-00148.
    Impaired “Glycine”-mia in Type 2 Diabetes and Potential Mechanisms Contributing to Glucose Homeostasis.

    Abstract
    The onset and/or progression of type 2 diabetes (T2D) can be prevented if intervention is early enough. As such, much effort has been placed on the search for indicators predictive of prediabetes and disease onset or progression. An increasing body of evidence suggests that changes in plasma glycine may be one such biomarker. Circulating glycine levels are consistently low in patients with T2D. Levels of this nonessential amino acid correlate negatively with obesity and insulin resistance. Plasma glycine correlates positively with glucose disposal, and rises with interventions such as exercise and bariatric surgery that improve glucose homeostasis. A role for glycine in the regulation of glucose, beyond being a potential biomarker, is less clear, however. Dietary glycine supplementation increases insulin, reduces systemic inflammation, and improves glucose tolerance. …”
    If caught early, pre-diabetes is characterized by hyperinsulinemia and normal glycemia. I didn’t understand the researchers’ assertions.

    1. What don’t you get? Lower levels = higher levels of insulin resistance. Higher levels = more insulin, less inflammation and lower blood sugar!

      Lower levels are found in T2D because it’s being depleted trying to correct the problem!

      I wish I had known about the importance of glycine 10 years ago…

  12. Interesting podcast, as are the comments- I hope to hear some responses to the above. How heat stable is free glycine powder? Can I sweeten baked goods with it? (Not that I bake much).

  13. I just wanted to point out that the study I looked at that had to do with blood glucose actually saw an increase in insulin response.

    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4121211/

    This may not be the most relevant study, but it does refer to blood glucose studies that have been done with just glycine.

    From what I understand, the amount of insulin released is increased by glycine with the carbohydrate load, this serves to improve the peak and total sugar in the blood. The study shows a total “glucose area response” improvement of 66%. This is the total amount of sugar that makes it into the blood. But this is achieved by increasing the total insulin excretion. Any amino acid will have this affect, but glycine does it best.

    Not sure if Alex contradicted this point or not. Thoughts?

  14. Dietary glycine supplementation mimics lifespan extension by dietary methionine restriction in Fisher 344 rats

    Link for this topic goes to the wrong article I think.

  15. Hey Chris,

    I’m curious what you think of these studies that seem to show increased cancer, ischemic injury and stroke risk associated with glycine.

    ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24657017
    ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24813884
    ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17510459
    jn.nutrition.org/content/145/4/720.long

    This one, interestingly, showed the opposite effect on cancer though:
    ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10334195

  16. I appreciate there is good evidence for glycine however I think the takeaway is possibly premature. Pure speculation but in 10 years might we be saying: well actually too much glycine causes x to…

  17. Looking forward to reading the transcript. My concern about glycine is that it is a neurotransmitter antagonist. When I take it pure (small mg amounts) or even in the form of Zinc Glycinate I have a really bad time to get out of the bed in the following morning.

  18. Are you familiar with the research by Jason w locasale about the role of glycine in cancer metabolism? see: Locasale Jw, Serine, Glycine and one-carbon units: cancer metabolites in full circle. NA Rev Cancer. 2013. Aug; 13 (8): 572-83.

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