New research has found that supplementing older people with GlyNAC – a combination of glycine and N-acetylcysteine – wards off several key indicators of aging and keeps people healthier as they age. Not only that, but older people also appeared to be fitter and stronger with slimmer waistlines after taking the GlyNAC supplement.
As reported in the Journals of Gerontology Series A, scientists at Baylor College of Medicine studied the effect of GlyNAC supplementation on 24 older adults and 12 younger people in a randomized, double-blind human clinical trial.
After 16 weeks, the GlyNAC supplementation was found to be associated with a host of benefits for key hallmarks of aging and age-associated defects. This included oxidative stress, glutathione deficiency, mitochondrial dysfunction, mitophagy, inflammation, insulin resistance, endothelial dysfunction, genomic damage, stem cell fatigue, and cellular senescence. Meanwhile, no improvements were seen in those receiving a placebo.
In turn, the older people who received doses of GlyNAC acquired stronger muscles, lower blood pressure, and smaller waist measurements. They could exercise harder, and their walking speed improved, which is a surprisingly good indication of ill-health in old age.
The researchers explain that the key to GlyNAC’s benefits lies in its ability to restore mitochondrial health and the correction of oxidative stress.
Mitochondria – the “powerhouse of the cell” as school textbooks like to say – generate most of the energy needed to fuel the cell's biochemical reactions. As we age, however, they become less efficient at producing energy. Just as their previous mice studies have suggested, this clinical trial showed that GlyNAC supplementation appeared to lift the mitochondrial function of older people to levels found in young people.
As for oxidative stress, this describes the process in which the body takes damage from high levels of toxic waste products, known as reactive oxygen species or free radicals, resulting in the breakdown of cells and DNA damage. Our body produces a natural anti-oxidant – glutathione – to counteract this, but levels of this also drop as we age. The latest trial showed that GlyNAC supplementation helps to remedy this glutathione deficiency and lowers oxidative stress in older humans.
The GlyNAC supplementation also appeared to have some real impacts on the participants’ health and wellbeing. Older people that received GlyNAC experienced improvements in muscle strength and increased exercise capacity, as well as a significant improvement in walking speed, which is known to be linked to increased chances of survival in old people.
“One of the intriguing questions from this trial is why so many improvements occur toward promoting health. We believe that this is due to the combined effort of three separate components – glycine, cysteine (from NAC), and glutathione, and not just due to glutathione itself. Glycine and cysteine are both very important for cellular health on their own, and GlyNAC provides both,” Dr Rajagopal Sekhar, corresponding study author and professor of medicine at Baylor, explained in a statement.
“Glycine and cysteine are building blocks to form glutathione, which also has health benefits. We believe that the improvements in this trial and in our previous studies are the result of the combined effects of glycine and NAC and glutathione, and we refer to this combination as the ‘Power of 3,” he added.
Despite how important the aging process is to everyone, scientists still know surprisingly little about how it unfolds. Through clinical trials like this, we could help to unravel some of its mysteries and find ways to ensure the world's growing older population lives happier and healthier lives.
“It is believed that correcting aging hallmarks could help people age in a healthier way,” Sekhar added. “However, we do not fully understand why these aging hallmarks occur in the first place, and therefore there have been no proven solutions via human randomized clinical trials to improve or correct aging hallmarks in aging humans.”