Supplementing with the antioxidant precursor combination provides a simple and effective means to enhance human health.(syahrir maulana | iStock)
· Older adults supplementing with the glutathione antioxidant precursor combination GlyNAC reduces cellular stress.
· GlyNAC supplementation also improves physical functioning, muscle strength, inflammation, and cognition in older adults.
Getting older typically involves physical and cognitive decline as well as a diminished quality of life. At the root of this deterioration of physical fitness is damage to mitochondria, the cells powerhouse, and, ultimately, cells caused by oxidative stress — the buildup of harmful, oxygen-containing molecules and lack of antioxidants. So, scientists have been actively searching for ways to block oxidative stress to prevent age-related ailments.
Sekhar and colleagues from the Baylor College of Medicine published a pilot clinical trial in Clinical and Translational Medicine where they found that supplementing aged adults with GlyNAC improved physical function and cognition. They show that GlyNAC raises the levels of the antioxidant glutathione to lower cellular stress. Their findings offer promise in the search for methods to promote health and mitigate age-related physical deterioration.
“The overall findings of the current study are highly encouraging,” said Sekhar in a press release. “They suggest that GlyNAC supplementation could be a simple and viable method to promote and improve healthy aging in older adults.”
GlyNAC consists of two antioxidant precursors glycine and N-acetylcysteine. Cells use these precursors to synthesize glutathione, which is the most abundant antioxidant made by our own cells. When given to older mice, GlyNAC enhances their mitochondrial function and improves metabolism. These promising rodent results prompted Sekhar and colleagues to see if these results would translate to human health.
To examine GlyNAC supplementation i in humans, the research team from the Baylor College of Medicine supplemented eight older adults (five women, three men; 71–80 years) with 1.33 mmol/kg/day of glycine and .81 mmol/kg/day of N-acetylcysteine over the course of 24 weeks. Before looking into the possible effects of GlyNAC on human health, it was critical for the researchers to see if GlyNAC even raised glutathione levels in humans. When they looked at the glutathione levels in red blood cells, they found that the levels of glutathione doubled. Not only that, they also found about a 75% decline in measures of cellular stress. But when they stopped GlyNAC supplementation, the buildup of glutathione reversed, indicating that GlyNAC increases glutathione levels and reduces cell stress.
To see what effects increased glutathione levels and cell stress reductions have on physical performance, Sekhar and colleagues looked at walking speed and grip strength. GlyNAC supplementation improved older adult walking speed, matching the performance of young adults. GlyNAC also improved hand grip strength and exercise capacity. Stopping GlyNAC, though, led to a reversal in the physical benefits from supplementation.
Physical health goes hand-in-hand with cognitive abilities, so Sekhar and colleagues took a look at whether supplementing with GlyNAC also enhanced cognition. They found lower scores indicating cognition impairments on assessments of dementia and verbal fluency in older aged people. Twenty-four weeks of GlyNAC supplementation, though, significantly improved measures on cognitive functional assessments in these older adults, indicating that GlyNAC improves aged adult cognition.
“We speculate that GlyNAC represents three forces which could be operating simultaneously to result in such widespread improvements,” said Sekhar and colleagues in their publication in relation to how GlyNAC works.
Those three forces include the correction of the glutathione deficiency that helps against cellular stress and mitochondrial dysfunction. The second force could be that one of the glutathione precursors in GlyNAC, glycine, is important for normal brain function and may contribute to improved cognition. The third force relates to the other antioxidant precursor, N-acetylcysteine, which contributes to energy generation aside from contributing to glutathione formation.
The aging global population is in urgent need for new, health-promoting strategies. The study from Sekhar and colleagues presents findings suggesting that GlyNAC may provide a means to diminish cellular stress and improve strength, physical function, and cognition in aged adults. A limitation to the study comes from testing GlyNAC supplementation on a small number of people, so future studies should find whether similar results come from testing more people.
“I am particularly encouraged by the improvements in cognition and muscle strength,” Sekhar said. “Alzheimer’s disease and mild cognitive impairment (MCI) are serious medical conditions affecting memory in older people and leading to dementia, and there are no effective solutions for these disorders. We are exploring the possibility that GlyNAC could help with these conditions by conducting two pilot randomized clinical trials to test whether GlyNAC supplementation could improve defects linked to cognitive decline in Alzheimer’s disease and in MCI, and possibly improve cognitive function. We also have completed a randomized clinical trial on supplementing GlyNAC vs. placebo in older adults and those results will be forthcoming soon.”