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Glycine: A Key Player in Cancer Prevention and Cellular Health

Published by Connealy, MD on June 11, 2024

Glycine- A Key Player in Cancer Prevention and Cellular Health

Glycine is a nonessential, anti-inflammatory amino acid with a wide range of benefits. Many people like to use glycine to promote healthy sleep and restore the gut lining, but it has several anticancer mechanisms as well. Glycine provides antioxidant support, anti-inflammatory effects, modulates the immune system, and promotes collagen synthesis. 

A 2020 study published in Nutrition & Metabolism reports that the dietary supplement of glycine inhibits the growth of certain types of tumors, such as liver tumors and melanoma tumors. This could be due to several actions: 

  1. Glycine increases glutathione production. 

Glycine plays a pivotal role in synthesizing glutathione, the body’s master antioxidant. Glutathione is crucial for defending cells against oxidative stress. This stress, caused by free radicals, damages cells and can contribute to cancer development. By boosting glutathione levels, glycine indirectly enhances the body’s ability to neutralize these harmful molecules.

Animal studies have found that giving glycine supplements increased glutathione levels in tissues. Researchers also found that low levels of glycine in the diet might limit how much glutathione the body can make. Taking extra glycine might have many health benefits like improving heart health, controlling diabetes, reducing inflammation, and promoting better sleep. (PMID: 29559876)

  1. Glycine decreases glutamine levels.

Glutathione is made of cysteine, glutamine, and glycine. Glycine is essential for linking the other two amino acids (glutamine and cysteine) together to form glutathione. Without sufficient glycine, this synthesis pathway is hindered, leading to lower glutathione levels and higher free glutamine levels. By supporting glutathione production, glycine helps limit the availability of glutamine in the body. This is important because after glucose, glutamine is the primary nutrient that cancer cells use to support their proliferation.

  1. Glycine increases collagen.

Glycine is a fundamental component of collagen, a structural protein that maintains the integrity and function of tissues throughout the body. Glycine promotes collagen synthesis, ensuring robust and healthy tissue architecture. This is important for cancer because collagen has been demonstrated to stabilize the extracellular matrix, which effectively prevents tumor cells from penetrating surrounding tissues. In doing so, collagen prevents the potential for metastasis. A deficiency of glycine has demonstrated to decrease collagen turnover. (PMID: 34976388)

  1. Glycine acts as an inhibitory neurotransmitter.

Glycine, as an inhibitory neurotransmitter, helps promote  relaxation and reduces anxiety 

by calming the nervous system. A balanced and regulated nervous system is crucial for controlling stress responses and reducing chronic inflammation, both of which are linked to cancer development and progression. By reducing excitatory signaling, glycine helps create an environment less conducive to cellular abnormalities, uncontrolled cell growth, and contributes to cancer prevention. Glycine also improves sleep quality, enhancing memory and cognition, and may have neuroprotective effects, helping to maintain brain health. (PMID: 36188468)

Some dietary sources of glycine include red meat, fish, bone in meats, bone broth, dairy products, and gelatin. Glycine supplements are also available at Perfectly Healthy for those looking to boost their intake. 

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