A Natural Metabolite Has Fast and Lasting Beneficial Effects on Metabolism and the Inflammatory Response in Healthy 50-60 Year-Olds
Researchers are always on the lookout for compounds that can have anti-aging effects. Take the natural organic metabolite called D-glyceric acid (DGA), which is found in very small amounts in animals and plants — notably the peanut, common grape, garden tomato (variety), and french plantain. All we really knew about this compound was that there are some data showing that DGA levels are higher in younger people and that DGA supplementation has positive effects on the metabolism of rats.
In a study published in Frontiers in Aging, Hirvonen and colleagues examined DGA’s effect on metabolism and the inflammatory response — both thought to be integral to the quality of healthy aging — in adults aged 50 to 60 years old. The researchers from the University of Jyväskylä in Finland revealed an improvement in various indicators of healthy metabolism, including healthier cell power generators (mitochondria) and increased levels of metabolites related to aerobic energy production, and supported a healthier systemic inflammatory response.
The study was groundbreaking because clear health effects of mitochondrial activation like those found had not been previously observed. Together, these effects may alleviate acute and chronic energy metabolic challenges in main organs like the liver, brain, and skeletal muscles, which could be beneficial especially for the aging population.
The Metabolism and Inflammatory Response Loop
Metabolism and the inflammatory response are partners in a dance to maintain health. When one of them takes a bad step, it takes the other with it on its way down.
Take the example of poor weight management, which causes a slow down in metabolism and increased inflammatory response. In the elderly population, poor weight management causes a heightened inflammatory response stemming from adipose tissue (fat), which leads to the secretion of immune molecules that target different parts of the body. These immune molecules have been shown to affect the liver — which plays a pivotal role in the metabolism of nutrients and exhibits alterations in the regulation of genes associated with the inflammatory response and cellular stress — as well as the linings of your arteries or intestines, the cells in your brain, or the tissues of your muscles and joints.
All in all, poor metabolism and prolonged inflammatory responses undermine healthy aging. So, reducing chronic inflammation can therefore have important public health implications.
DGA May Support Grade-A Aging in Older Adults
The study conducted at the University of Jyväskylä analyzed the health effects of a patented DGA compound and compared them to the effects of exercise. The study group consisted of randomly recruited healthy volunteers aged 50 to 60 years. Even in this age group, the health decline associated with aging begins to show. The main target in the present study with 27 healthy 50- to 60-year-old human volunteers was to find out whether an “acute” 4-days and a longer 3-week DGA regimen caused moderate activation of the mitochondrial energy metabolism and influenced the inflammatory response.
After showing that the DGA regimen was well-tolerated and safe, Hirvonen and colleagues revealed that, during the DGA treatment, the subjects' metabolism and blood parameters related to liver and muscle function improved significantly. In addition, the new study found that the liver function of the subjects was significantly activated during the DGA treatment, again resembling the indirect liver activation induced by exercise. Liver function is crucial for health and recovery from disease. The liver processes and produces nutrients for the muscles and other organs while maintaining the important blood sugar balance.
In addition, the researchers observed a healthier low-grade inflammatory response. These changes occurred both rapidly within a few days and remained at an improved level throughout the three-week study period. Mitochondria in blood immune cells were also quickly activated, which may partly explain the surprisingly rapid decrease in inflammation levels. Since the DGA treatment had a strong positive effect within just a few days, this allows the use of an acute short course. It can significantly contribute to the body's own recovery from various acute health challenges, such as those with respiratory and intestinal health.
A Walk in the Park
The newly published study revealed that the DGA compound reinforces similar health responses to those typically brought about by taking up exercise. Previous exercise studies have consistently shown that increasing physical activity, especially in older people or those who are less mobile and more sedentary, supports the body's chronic inflammatory response after just a few weeks. Consistently, low-grade inflammation was effectively reduced following a three-week course of DGA.
Since older people and those struggling with persistent systemic inflammation are often unable to get in enough exercise, the dance between metabolism and the inflammatory response can spiral out of control. And that’s where the significance of this paper lies: DGA activation of mitochondria can be of significant help in interrupting this spiral.
Hirvonen OP, Kyröläinen H, Lehti M and Kainulainen H (2021) Randomized Trial: D-Glyceric Acid Activates Mitochondrial Metabolism in 50–60-Year-Old Healthy Humans. Front. Aging 2:752636. doi: 10.3389/fragi.2021.752636