Glycine's Viral Memes Are TikTok's Latest Obsession

Glycine, made by a Chinese company called Donghua Jinlong Chemical, recently took TikTok by storm, quickly becoming the material for endless memes. As glycine can also be used as a supplement, we break down its possible benefits and risks.

When a Shijiazhuang-based company launched a TikTok account to promote their glycine, little did it expect that the videos showing the factory facilities and boasting about their products strictly following production standards would become a viral hit.

The company sells industrial-grade glycine and products that can be used as food additives and for pharmaceutical purposes. With 25 kg being the smallest amount of glycine you can buy online, TikTokers are an unlikely target for the manufacturer.

But social media users will do anything for a good laugh, including creating fake glycine commercials and songs, suggesting what other brands Donghua Jinlong Chemical should collaborate with, or simply talking about the alleged importance of glycine in their lives.

“If you’re not using Donghua Jinglong’s food-grade glycine, what are you doing?” a TikToker asked rhetorically.

@aerielgabriella Hot girls don’t gatekeeper their industrial or food grade glycine info! If you’re not using Donghua Jinglong’s food grade glycine what are you doing? #industrialgradeglycine #fyp #foryourpage #donghuajinlong #foryou ♬ Yacht Club - MusicBox

“Don’t even talk to me before I’ve had my Donghua Jinlong industrial-grade glycine,” a user on X, a social media platform, warned.

“All of our moms use industrial-grade glycine because this is what we have. But we are grown-ups — just try pharmaceutical glycine. If it’s not your thing, stick to what you know,” another TikToker suggested.

@shwankfelder Glycine shouldn’t be this hard to decide on. #glycine #glycine_06 #righttochooseglycine ♬ original sound - Damon Wells

It is unclear if the product's fans, dubbed as glycine girlies, actually use it, whether industrial—or pharmaceutical-grade. Nevertheless, glycine may have modest health benefits when used as a supplement.

What is glycine?

Glycine is an amino acid that performs essential functions in the body. It acts as a neurotransmitter in the central nervous system and is a component of collagen, the most abundant protein in the body.

Glycine is also an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and cryoprotectant, meaning it helps to prevent cells or tissues from damage due to freezing.

The body normally produces enough glycine on its own. However emerging research suggests that, in some instances, like during pregnancy, more glycine may be needed from diet. It is found in meat, eggs, dairy products, soybeans, and other protein sources.

What are the benefits of glycine?

Research has linked glycine supplementation to various health benefits, ranging from better sleep to improved glucose removal from blood. However, the studies include only a small number of participants and show associations rather than prove the benefits of glycine.

A 2007 study examined the effect of 3 g of glycine taken before bedtime in 11 adults dissatisfied with their sleep. Glycine appeared to enhance sleep quality as it shortened the time participants needed to fall asleep and reach slow-wave sleep. As a result, the participants reported reduced daytime sleepiness and improved daytime cognitive function.

High doses of glycine supplements were associated with improved schizophrenia symptoms in patients already treated with antipsychotics olanzapine or risperidone, according to a 2004 study. However, the study was small, as it involved only 17 participants, and the dose tested was impractically high — 800 mg/kg a day.

A study that included nine participants suggests that ingesting 3.6 to 5.4 g of glycine with 25 g of glucose reduced the total glucose response over two hours by 50% compared to glucose alone. The authors concluded that oral glycine stimulates the secretion of a gut hormone that strengthens insulin's effect on glucose removal from the circulation.

Does glycine improve longevity?

Glycine was found to extend lifespan in rats and improve health in other mammalian models. Research suggests that glycine prolongs life by mimicking the restriction of amino acid methionine and activating autophagy, a process of breaking down aging or damaged cell parts to reuse them for cell repair or formation.

Andrea Maier, M.D. Ph.D. FRACP, a professor at the National University of Singapore, says that the direct effect of glycine on longevity has not yet been proven in humans.

Positive effects have been shown for the nervous system, including improved mood and better sleep. This could indirectly result in enhanced longevity, but large human studies are needed.

Maier

What are the side effects of glycine?

Although glycine is generally recognized as safe in humans, Maier says people should be cautious about taking it at high dosages and prolonged periods.

High amounts of glycine supplementation may cause gastrointestinal symptoms, including nausea, abdominal pain, and soft stools.

In clinical trials, glycine was used without serious adverse effects in doses up to 0.8 g/kg — 56 g for a 154 lbs person, for example.

The use of a single amino acid supplement, like glycine, may lead to a negative nitrogen balance, potentially affecting protein metabolism and making the kidneys work harder.

As Congress is poised to ban TikTok in the United States, citing national security concerns, Donghua Jinlong Chemical’s fame may soon be over. However, with the global amino acids market projected to reach $39.43 billion by 2028, glycine itself may survive just fine.


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