Glycine
What is it? Overview Usage Side Effects and Warnings
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Glycine Overview

Written by FoundHealth.

Glycine is the simplest of the 20 different amino acids used as building blocks to make proteins for your body. It works in concert with glutamine, a substance that plays a major role in brain function. Glycine has shown some promise as an aid in the treatment of schizophrenia and may have other uses related to the brain as well, such as enhancing mental function .

Requirements/Sources

Your body is able to make glycine using another amino acid, serine. Because you can manufacture glycine, you don't really have to consume any, so it's called a "nonessential amino acid." Most of us get about 2 g of glycine a day from the foods we regularly eat anyway. This dietary glycine comes mostly from high-protein foods like meat, fish, dairy products, and legumes. For treating certain disease conditions, however, much larger amounts than are normally consumed have been advocated; such high doses can only be obtained by taking supplements.

Therapeutic Dosages

Dosages of oral glycine used in clinical trials for therapeutic purposes range from 2 to 60 g daily.

What Is the Scientific Evidence for Glycine?

Schizophrenia

Glycine might enhance the effectiveness of drugs used for schizophrenia , especially those in the older phenothiazine category. It has also shown equivocal promise for the drugs risperidone and olanzapine. However, it may not be helpful for people using clozapine .

Phenothiazine drugs are most effective for the "positive" symptoms of schizophrenia, such as hallucinations and delusions. (Such symptoms are called "positive" because they indicate the presence of abnormal mental functions, rather than the absence of normal mental functions.) In general, however, these medications are less helpful for the "negative" symptoms of schizophrenia, such as apathy, depression, and social withdrawal. Glycine might be of benefit here.

A double-blind, placebo-controlled trial enrolled 22 participants who continued to experience negative symptoms of schizophrenia despite standard therapy. 1 The results showed that the use of glycine significantly improved negative symptoms. In addition, glycine also appeared to reduce some of the side effects caused by the prescription drugs. No changes were seen in positive symptoms (for instance, hallucinations), but it isn’t possible to tell whether that is because these symptoms were already being controlled by prescription medications or if glycine simply has no effect on those particular symptoms of of schizophrenia.

Three earlier double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trials of glycine together with standard drugs for schizophrenia also found it to be helpful for negative symptoms. 2 All of these studies used very small groups (from 12 to 18 people), so much larger trials are still needed to verify glycine's effectiveness.

The trials just discussed were conducted before atypical antipsychotics were widely available. These drugs cause fewer side effects and also provide benefits for the negative symptoms of schizophrenia along with the positive. One study found that glycine augmented the effectiveness of two of these drugs: olanzapine and risperidone. 3 However, another study suggests that adding glycine to the atypical antipsychotic clozapine may not be a good idea. 4 In this study, glycine was found to reduce the benefits of clozapine. Two other double-blind, placebo-controlled trials of glycine and clozapine simply failed to find benefit. 5 Another recent study, not specifically limited to clozapine, also failed to find benefit with glycine. 6

Stroke

Glycine's potential usefulness for treating individuals who have undergone strokes was investigated in a double-blind, placebo-controlled study with 200 participants. 7 The results suggest that glycine can protect against the spreading damage to the brain that usually follows a stroke. Participants were given either 1 to 2 g of glycine sublingually (dissolved under the tongue) or placebo treatment for a period of 5 days. The results suggest that glycine can prevent neural damage. This appears to be an impressive result, but further research is necessary.

Although other researchers using glycine for brain disorders have reported that such small doses of glycine would not be sufficient to cross the blood-brain barrier, 8 measurements of amino acids in the cerebrospinal fluid during the above study suggest that it did enter the brain. However, there are potential concerns that high-dose glycine could increasestroke damage (see Safety Issues below).

References

  1. Heresco-Levy U, Javitt DC, Ermilov M, Mordel C, Silipo G, Lichtenstein M. Efficacy of high-dose glycine in the treatment of enduring negative symptoms of schizophrenia. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 56(1):29-36.
  2. Heresco-Levy U, Javitt DC, Ermilov M, Mordel C, Horowitz A, Kelly D. Double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover trial of glycine adjuvant therapy for treatment-resistant schizophrenia. Br J Psychiatry. 169(5):610-7.
  3. Heresco-Levy U, Ermilov M, Lichtenberg P, Bar G, Javitt DC. High-dose glycine added to olanzapine and risperidone for the treatment of schizophrenia. Biol Psychiatry. 55(2):165-71.
  4. Potkin SG, Jin Y, Bunney BG, Costa J, Gulasekaram B. Effect of clozapine and adjunctive high-dose glycine in treatment-resistant schizophrenia. Am J Psychiatry. 156(1):145-7.
  5. Evins AE, Fitzgerald SM, Wine L, Rosselli R, Goff DC. Placebo-controlled trial of glycine added to clozapine in schizophrenia. Am J Psychiatry. 157(5):826-8.
  6. Buchanan RW, Javitt DC, Marder SR, Schooler NR, Gold JM, McMahon RP, Heresco-Levy U, Carpenter WT. The Cognitive and Negative Symptoms in Schizophrenia Trial (CONSIST): the efficacy of glutamatergic agents for negative symptoms and cognitive impairments. Am J Psychiatry. 164(10):1593-602.
  7. Gusev EI, Skvortsova VI, Dambinova SA, Raevskiy KS, Alekseev AA, Bashkatova VG, Kovalenko AV, Kudrin VS, Yakovleva EV. Neuroprotective effects of glycine for therapy of acute ischaemic stroke. Cerebrovasc Dis. 10(1):49-60.
  8. Heresco-Levy U, Javitt DC, Ermilov M, Mordel C, Silipo G, Lichtenstein M. Efficacy of high-dose glycine in the treatment of enduring negative symptoms of schizophrenia. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 56(1):29-36.
 
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