February 16, 2017 / Tracey Porter Nelson, MALC, M.Ed.
A recent rat study showed that glycine supplementation extends their lives from 88 weeks to 113 weeks (the median rate) and a maximum rate of 91 weeks to 119 weeks. This included significant reductions in fasting glucose, insulin, IGF-1, and triglycerides. Glycine is a nonessential amino acid (a basic building block for protein).
Might this work for people?
Aging is known to be caused by dysfunctional mitochondria. Until recently, no one really knew why these little generators within our cells stopped functioning. The theory was that as we age the DNA within our mitochondria mutate. But an in vitro study on human cells, the discovery was made that dysfunctional mitochondria are not caused by permanent damage to the DNA, but due to genetic expression or epigenetic regulation. This is great news. As my studies in epigenetics reveal, that means that nutrients or other strategies can be employed to change the expression of those genes. According to Mangan in Rougue Health and Fitness,
The Japanese scientists doing the study found that reversing the epigenetic changes caused the mitochondria in cells from very old people, aged 80 to 97, basically to become like brand new mitochondria”
In searching for the genes that controlled mitochondrial respiration, [researchers] found two, and these two control glycine production in mitochondria. Glycine is a non-essential amino acid, also available as a cheap over-the-counter supplement. When glycine was added to culture media containing cells from the 97-year-old, the mitochondria in these cells became like new.
Can you imagine people, especially someone at an advanced age, being able to turn back the clock?
How Much Glycine is Needed?
Because this study was not conducted directly on humans, it is too early to tell how much glycine it will take to have therapeutic effect. However, the belief is we should at least take in the amount considered normal for young people.
How does it work?
In the rat study, the glycine acted as a helped to restrict or clear methionine, another amino acid. When one cannot restrict one’s methionine through diet, the glycine acts like a mimetic to accomplish that goal. Other studies have been done which suggest that calorie restriction extends life. Some have speculated that the restriction of methionine may be why. If that is true, then this is why a vegan diet, which is already much lower in methionine, may extend life.
What Type of Glycine to Take?
I’d like to focus on glycine made with AKG (alpha-ketoglutarate). The supplement industry often attaches AKG to amino acids in the hopes they will work better. AKG is produced by the body when converting amino acids into energy. Why might this help?
According to another study on nematodes, the addition of AKG reduced the production of ATP (adenosine triphosphate). This resulted in the extension of life. The life extending effect of ATP reduction through the use of AKG was confirmed by doing the following:
When the researchers modified the nematodes genetically so that their cells produced less ATP [atp-2 RNAi], they saw that the nematodes lived longer as a result – and that AKG supplementation no longer had a life-extending effect. AKG is released during caloric restriction, the researchers write, so supplementation probably imitates the effects of caloric restriction.
Wild speculation on our part:
It may just be the case that AKG and glycine reinforce each other’s life-extending effects. They are both linked to energy processes in the cell, but not in the same way. In addition, AKG inhibits the breakdown of glycine in the liver, so AKG boosts the bioavailability of glycine.
Again, none of this has been tested in human beings as of yet. So, there is no assurance the addition of AKG pr glycine would help for sure. Nevertheless, with or without AKG, I think it would be a good idea to supplement one’s diet with glycine.
Copyright 2016 Tracey Porter Nelson
- Brind, J. Malloy, V., Augie, I., Caliendo, N., Vogelman, J.H. Zimmerman, J.A., Orentreich, N. (2011, April). “Dietary glycine supplementation mimics lifespan extension by dietary methionine restriction in Fisher 344 rats.” The FASEB Journal 25,1 Supplement 528.2. (Journal Article-Website). Retrieved from http://www.fasebj.org/content/25/1_Supplement/528.2
- Hashizume, O., Ohnishi, S. Mito, T., Shimizu, A., Ishikawa, K. Nakada, K., Soda, M., Mano, M. Togayachi, S., Miyoshi, H., Okita, K., Hayashi, J. (2015, May 22). “Epigenetic regulation of the nuclear-coded GCAT and SHMT2 genes confers human age-associated mitochondrial respiration defects.” Scientific Reports. [Journal Article-Website] Retrieved from http://www.nature.com/articles/srep10434
- Mangan, P.D. (2015, June 8). “Worth years of subscriptions to Men’s Health.” Glycine supplementation could reverse aging.” Rougue Health. [Website]. Retrieved by http://roguehealthandfitness.com/glycine-supplementation-could-reverse-aging
- “Glycine AKG a longevity supplement?” Ero-Log. [Website]. Retrieved from http://www.ergo-log.com/glycine-akg-a-longevity-supplement.html
- Kochi H, Seino H, Ono K. (1986, September). “Inhibition of glycine oxidation by pyruvate, alpha-ketoglutarate, and branched-chain alpha-keto acids in rat liver mitochondria: presence of interaction between the glycine cleavage system and alpha-keto acid dehydrogenase complexes.” Arch Biochem Biophys. 249(2):263-72. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3753002
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