As we grow older, we should aim to maintain a healthy lifestyle that benefits both our body and mind. A dedicated team of neurologists from Baylor College of Medicine in Houston is currently engaged in a study to explore the underlying biological factors behind age-related cognitive decline. Their aim is to identify nutritional strategies that can support healthy brain aging. Recently, they published their findings in the journal Antioxidants, focusing on the effectiveness of a dietary supplement called GlyNAC. This supplement combines glycine and N-acetylcysteine (NAC) as precursors to glutathione, a natural antioxidant. The researchers are investigating whether GlyNAC can help reduce or even reverse age-related cognitive decline.
Rajagopal Sekhar, the lead author and a professor of medicine, endocrinology, diabetology, and metabolism at Baylor, sheds light on their research. He explains that their study offers valuable insights into the connection between age-related cognitive impairment and various factors, such as glutathione deficiency, increased oxidative stress, mitochondrial dysfunction, abnormal glucose metabolism and insulin resistance, inflammation, and low levels of neurotrophic or neuronal support factors. By supplementing with GlyNAC, they have observed the potential to reverse these defects and improve cognitive function in aging individuals.
The study was conducted in aged mice that received GlyNAC for 8 weeks.
Compared to young mice, the older mice showed cognitive impairment and various abnormalities in the brain, such as glutathione deficiency, increased oxidative stress, decreased mitochondrial function, elevated inflammation, genomic damage, and lower levels of brain support factors.
In older mice, there is also a deficiency of glucose transporters, which are the main fuel of the brain.
This problem is further exacerbated by dysfunction of the mitochondria, the cellular micro-energy centers that burn glucose to provide energy. The brain requires a very large amount of energy to function, and these defects suggest that the aging brain lacks energy, which can promote cognitive decline.
However, after supplementation, these mice showed a strong reduction in markers associated with brain aging, compared to control mice that did not receive the supplement. These observations are consistent with previous studies conducted in 2021 by the same team in older participants who received the same “GlyNAC” supplementation.
GlyNAC supplementation corrected brain glutathione deficiency, improved brain glucose transporters, reversed mitochondrial dysfunction, and improved cognition.
Finally, GlyNAC supplementation reduced oxidative stress, inflammation, and genomic damage and improved neurotrophic factors.
A limitation of human studies, especially in the brain, is that they allow only whole-body measurements, with little or no access to the aging brain. The implications of such animal studies are no less important. Here the research was able to assess the reversibility of natural cognitive decline with aging; identify advanced age as the major risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease; and study these natural abnormalities directly in the brains of animal models.
“It is really exciting to see so many improvements in the brain with GlyNAC supplementation because this suggests that it is now possible to improve the health of the aging brain.”
A larger randomized clinical trial will be conducted in older participants to validate and clarify the effects of GlyNAC on cognitive and brain health with aging. This will likely have implications for Alzheimer’s disease and mild cognitive impairment, as similar abnormalities are also seen in these conditions.
GlyNAC (Glycine and N-Acetylcysteine) Supplementation in Old Mice Improves Brain Glutathione Deficiency, Oxidative Stress, Glucose Uptake, Mitochondrial Dysfunction, Genomic Damage, Inflammation and Neurotrophic Factors to Reverse Age-Associated Cognitive Decline: Implications for Improving Brain Health in Aging