As we age, our mitochondria, referred to as cellular batteries, become less efficient at producing energy. This decline in mitochondrial function can impact our overall well-being. Additionally, the accumulation of toxic byproducts from energy production, known as free radicals, can cause oxidative stress and damage cells, membranes, lipids, proteins, and DNA. Glutathione helps combat this oxidative stress, but its levels decline as we get older.
The short version:
- Whilst there have only been two notable studies conducted in humans, both showed that supplementing with GlyNac increased glutathione in older adults by 200%. For context glutathione is used for tissue repair.
- The studies also found that oxidative stress markers were lower (suggesting improved aging).
- But, levels bounced back almost immediately after stopping taking GlyNAC.
- Strength and blood pressure were also noted to improve during supplementation.
Understanding the Defects of Aging
Aging is a complex process that involves various factors, including oxidative stress, mitochondrial dysfunction, and the accumulation of age-related defects.
There have been a few key factors that have been highlighted to as reasons for said decline, and whilst this isn’t exhaustive, they are the ones that do seem to be combatable.
These factors include glutathione deficiency, increased oxidative stress, mitochondrial dysfunction, abnormal glucose metabolism, insulin resistance, inflammation, and low levels of neurotrophic factors.
The Role of GlyNAC in Reversing Cognitive Decline
GlyNAC is a combination of glycine and N-acetylcysteine. Glycine and N-acetylcysteine are precursors of glutathione, a natural antioxidant that plays a vital role in protecting cells from oxidative stress. By supplementing with GlyNAC the theory is that individuals can replenish their glutathione levels and combat the harmful effects of oxidative stress.
There have been a series of studies on both mice and humans to evaluate the effects of GlyNAC supplementation on cognitive function and age-associated defects. Of course the mice ones aren’t that useful, but the other ones have been somewhat interesting.
The GlyNac Studies
To investigate the potential benefits of GlyNAC supplementation in humans, a recent RCT was conducted at Baylor College of Medicine. The study involved a group of older adults (ages 71 to 80) and a group of young adults (ages 21 to 30) who served as a comparison group. The participants were instructed to eat normally but refrain from alcohol while taking GlyNAC supplementation for 24 weeks. The study collected various data, including blood and urine samples, cognitive and physical function tests, body composition, glutathione concentration, and biomarkers of inflammation.
The results of the study showed that GlyNAC supplementation increased glutathione concentrations in older adults by 200% but declined once supplementation ended. The study also found that markers of oxidative stress reduced during the supplementation period but rebounded after supplementation stopped. While these findings are promising, further research is still needed to confirm the long-term benefits of GlyNAC.
In a larger follow-up study conducted by the same team, GlyNAC supplementation for 16 weeks was found to increase glutathione concentrations and improve various aging biomarkers. In older adults, oxidative stress markers decreased by 42% within two weeks and reached levels similar to those of the young adults within 16 weeks. Muscle strength, gait speed, exercise capacity, waist circumference, and blood pressure also improved after GlyNAC supplementation. These findings suggest that GlyNAC may have positive effects on cellular function in multiple organ systems.
There had previously been a few mice studies which showed similar results.
The Future of GlyNAC Research
The researchers at Baylor College of Medicine are committed to further exploring the health benefits of GlyNAC supplementation. They plan to conduct larger randomized clinical trials in older individuals to study the effects of GlyNAC on cognitive function and brain health. These studies will provide valuable insights into the long-term effects of GlyNAC and its potential to improve the lives of aging individuals.
Additionally, the researchers are investigating the potential implications of GlyNAC supplementation for conditions such as Alzheimer's disease and mild cognitive impairment. The similarities between the defects observed in age-related cognitive decline and these neurodegenerative conditions suggest that GlyNAC could have broader applications in promoting brain health and preventing cognitive decline.
The Safety of GlyNAC
Safety is a crucial consideration when it comes to any supplement. The blood tests conducted during the Baylor study found no increases in liver function tests among the older adults who received GlyNAC compared to the placebo group. However, it's important to note that this study had a small sample size and was only powered to detect changes in blood glutathione levels.
GlyNAC vs. NAC Alone
While N-acetyl-cysteine (NAC) alone is sometimes used as a supplement, studies have shown that GlyNAC offers unique benefits compared to NAC alone. In a study conducted on worms (C. elegans), NAC supplementation alone resulted in accelerated aging and reductive stress. However, when GlyNAC was supplemented in mice, it increased longevity without the risk of reductive stress. The combination of glycine and cysteine in GlyNAC seems to provide additional benefits beyond what can be achieved with NAC or glutathione alone.
The Mechanism of Action: How GlyNAC Works
GlyNAC's efficacy can be attributed to the amino acids it contains. Glycine and cysteine play essential roles in the synthesis of glutathione. By providing these amino acids, GlyNAC supports the production of glutathione, which is crucial for multiple cellular reactions and acts as an antioxidant, protecting cells against oxidative stress.
GlyNAC supplementation definitely shows some early promise in improving cellular function and potentially promoting longevity. The combination of glycine and N-acetyl-cysteine supports the production of glutathione, an antioxidant that helps combat oxidative stress. The evidence from studies suggests that GlyNAC supplementation may have positive effects on aging biomarkers, muscle strength, exercise capacity, and blood pressure in older adults.