The Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Leon never found the fountain of youth but it now appears researchers have found something close to it through laboratory experimentation. Following up on their groundbreaking study that showed a 24% increase in lifespan for mice, scientists at the Baylor University College of Medicine have found supplementation with GlyNAC, a combination of glycine and N-acetylcysteine, reverses many hallmarks of aging in elderly humans.
Researchers conducted a randomized, double blind study and published their findings in The Journals of Gerontology: Series A. They found GlyNAC supplementation for 16 weeks improved many characteristics associated with aging such as oxidative stress, glutathione deficiency as well as many signs of mitochondrial dysfunction like mitophagy, inflammation, insulin resistance, endothelial dysfunction, genomic damage, stem cell fatigue and cellular senescence.
Improvements were also seen in muscle strength, gait speed, exercise capacity, waist circumference and blood pressure.
"This is the first randomized clinical trial of GlyNAC supplementation in older humans, and it found that a wide variety of age-associated abnormalities improved in older adults supplemented with GlyNAC, while no improvements were seen in those receiving placebo," said Dr. Rajagopal Sekhar, professor of medicine—endocrinology, diabetes and metabolism at Baylor.
The study results showed the improvements in oxidative stress, glutathione levels and mitochondrial function in the muscle tissue of humans were similar to what researchers found in the heart, liver and kidneys of mice during their previous study.
"GlyNAC supplementation in aging mice increased their length of life mice by 24%," said Sekhar. "Gait speed is reported to be associated with survival in older humans. Our randomized clinical trial found a significant improvement in gait speed in older humans supplemented with GlyNAC. This raises the interesting question of whether GlyNAC supplementation could have implications for survival in people."
Sekhar compared mitochondria to like the battery of a cell. Mitochondria support cellular function which is important for a healthy life. He believes proper mitochondrial function is the key to healthy aging.
"Energy supports life and mitochondria provide energy," Sekhar said. "I believe that mitochondrial health is vitally important to our well-being, and maintaining mitochondrial health as we age should be a high priority in our efforts to improve overall health."
Another major area the GlyNAC supplementation helped was with oxidative stress, which is caused by high levels of toxic waste products known as reactive oxygen species or free-radicals. Oxidative stress is very common in aging and is responsible for damage to cells, membranes, lipids, proteins and DNA.
Glutathione is a natural antioxidant made in our cells and protects them from oxidative stress. But glutathione levels are normally low in older people and oxidative stress is normally high. GlyNAC supplementation was able to correct glutathione deficiency and reduce oxidative stress back to levels normally associated with people much younger.
Sekhar believes the improvements in many age-related conditions were the result of improved mitochondrial health and decreased oxidative stress from the elevation of glutathione levels triggered by the GlyNAC supplementation.
"It is really important to understand that this trial supplemented GlyNAC, and did not supplement glutathione," says Sekhar. "This is because our body does not get its glutathione from food, but the body has to make its own glutathione every day. This is why GlyNAC is a natural solution for correcting glutathione deficiency, because it provides the raw materials to help cells to make their own glutathione in just the right amount. We have seen that this repeatedly in all our prior studies supplementing GlyNAC, including this trial."