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Have we finally found the fountain of eternal youth?

We decode glycine, an amino acid produced by the human body that positively impacts metabolic health and can even slow down ageing

Red meat is a great source of glycine
Red meat is a great source of glycine (Pexels)

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The mythical fountain of youth has been part of popular imagination for centuries. And, in its absence, there have always been hydrating masks, retinol, anti-oxidant-packed superfoods and, if all else fails, botox.

Turns out, however, that there is something else that comes close to doing what mysterious fountains are purported to do: glycine.  Before you decide to pop in that glycine supplement, here is what you should know about it.

What is glycine? 

Glycine is an amino acid produced by the human body.It was discovered in 1858 by French chemist Auguste Cahours when he hydrolysed gelatin with sulphuric acid. 

Also read: Five must-have nutritional supplements

Though not an essential amino acid--the human body can synthesise glycine from the amino acid serine--it also does occur naturally in meat, egg, seafood, nuts and gluten-based products. Since this sweet-tasting amino acid makes up around 33% of the collagen in the human body, a connective tissue found in muscles, bones, and the skin that gives smoothness and elasticity to the skin, it can play an important role in ageing. 

Why should I increase my glycine intake? 

While research around glycine continues to be limited, it does look promising. Here are some of the possible benefits. 

1. Recent studies have shown that this amino acid may decrease the risk of heart diseases and treat schizophrenia

2. Glycine is also believed to help regulate the nerve impulses in the central nervous system, which consists of the brain and the spinal cord. 

3. Glycine could help regulate mood. Research shows that it stimulates the production of serotonin, ‘the happy hormone’, which is known to elevate mood.

4. It could help you get better sleep. Several studies and experiments indicate that glycine can be very useful to people struggling with insomnia since it alters body temperature and circadian rhythms, both important factors in sleep regulation.

5. Certain studies indicate that glycine is believed to have anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative (slows cell damage) properties that reduce the risk of heart disease. A 2015 study in the Journal of the American Heart Association also found that people with high glycine plasma levels were at a lower risk of heart attacks.

6. Glycine could also help prevent/support the treatment of leg ulcers, insulin resistance, enlarged prostate, liver damage and type 2 diabetes.

7. Anti-ageing properties in glycine reduce the formation of advanced glycation end products (AGES), which make the skin and blood vessels stiffer with age. It can also help reduce oxidative stress in the elderly.

How do you take it?

Glycine is most commonly available as oral gel capsules of 500 mg to 1000 mg, It can also be incorporated into shakes and smoothies in a powder form. If you take a collagen supplement, you will already get enough glycine. Do remember to check with your healthcare provider before supplementation of any sort. 

Additionally, since many foods, including meat, fish and dairy, contain glycine, it is good to add those to your diet. 

Possible side-effects

For people taking glycine supplements, side effects such as an upset stomach and nausea are common. An overdose may cause glycine toxicity which could lead to visual disturbances, drowsiness, skin flushing and vomiting. And in very rare cases, it can even prove fatal.

Also read: Should you fall for the eternal allure of the keto diet?

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