Scientists May Have Found the Secret to Staying Young

Hint: It's not a magical fountain in a far-away land

Feb 3, 2019

Tags:

Health, Youth, Science

(Olesia Bilkei / Shutterstock.com)

Although the fountain of youth might not exist, as more research emerges, scientists may have uncovered the secret ingredient to slow down aging. Glycine, an amino acid providing a building block for protein, has all sorts of proven benefits, from treating metabolic disorders and sleep problems to reducing fatigue and protecting the liver from the harmful effects of alcohol.

If that wasn’t enough, a recent study now indicates that the amino acid can slow down the process of aging. Professor Jun-Ichi Hayashi and his team at the University of Tsukuba in Japan published their compelling research in Nature Scientific Reports demonstrating that glycine treatment can reverse signs of aging.

How does it work exactly? That requires a bit of a scientific explanation.

Glycine Under the Microscope

In the past, scientists generally supported the mitochondrial theory, an idea that aging results from the accumulation of mutations in the mitochondrial DNA. According to this idea, the build-up of these mutations results in a shorter lifespan and aging-related characteristics like weight and hair loss and osteoporosis.

Professor Hayashi and his researchers decided to put that theory to the test. They looked at the mitochondria in human fibroblast cell lines from fetuses and children up to age 12. Then the team compared those cells with ones derived from elderly people between the ages of 80 to 97. When comparing younger cells to the older, scientists saw hardly any difference between the DNA damage in the mitochondria of the two groups. This calls to question the original mitochondrial theory of aging.

So if aging doesn’t occur because of the accumulation of DNA damage in the mitochondria, then how does it happen? Hayashi and his team decided to keep looking. They discovered that, contrary to previous assertions, “the aging process in the mitochondrion is controlled by epigenetic regulation, not by mutations.” In other words, the process of aging does not actually change the DNA sequence itself.

Through their research, the team found the two genes that regulate glycine production in mitochondria, CGAT and SHMT2, hold the answer to staying young. To test their idea, they changed the regulation of these genes. Astonishingly, they found that the addition of glycine for 10 days to the 97-year-old fibroblast cell line restored damages caused by getting older. The results suggest that glycine treatments could reverse signs of aging and help older populations live longer.

Benefiting from the Anti-Aging Effects of Glycine in the Diet

Hayashi and his research team aren’t the only ones proposing that glycine has the power to reverse aging. Harvard graduate and founder of the Tahoma Clinic, Dr. Jonathan Wright, suggests that consuming enough of the amino acid can improve sleep and keep you looking younger.

Glycine is an important, natural component of collagen, a protein that forms part of the body’s connective tissues like the tendons, ligaments, skin, cartilage, bone, and blood vessels. These areas tend to undergo constant physical stress and eating more foods and supplements containing glycine can keep collagen in good shape, a sign of healthy aging.

People may ask, “Why bother taking supplements if you can consume glycine naturally?” In the past, our ancestors tended to eat the entire animal, “nose-to-tail”, which included areas like the joints and skin of animals which naturally consist of high levels of collagen, and therefore, glycine. However, the modern diet tends to lack collagen. Today, people opt for boneless or skinless cuts of meat rather than collagen-rich foods like chicken gizzards, chitlins (intestines), or tripe (stomach lining). To balance glycine intake, Dr. Wright recommends eating more of those nasty bits and taking supplements in order to restore tissue and benefit from other anti-aging effects of the amino acid.

While scientists continue to test the benefits of glycine, many studies seem to point to the same conclusion. With the fountain of youth still nowhere in sight, simply adding a bit of glycine to your diet could keep you looking and feeling younger.

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ALLISON MICHELLE DIENSTMAN, CONTRIBUTOR
Working from her laptop as a freelance writer, Allison lives as a digital nomad, exploring the world while sharing positivity and laughter. She is a lover of language, travel, music, and creativity with a degree in Chinese language and literature.