Tiny Titans of Life: Unravelling Nature’s Small Wonders with an Enormous Impact


Cyclic glycine proline, or cGP,  is a very small molecule, but one with a profound impact on the body and mind, such as on the ageing brain and health.

Dr Jian Guan, Neuroscientist and Chief Scientific Officer at The cGP Lab, New Zealand, focuses on understanding the role of IGF-1 hormone and cGP in brain health and cognitive function, and improving the ageing process overall.

Read the original research: doi.org/10.3390/molecules28031021

Visit the cGP website: cgpmax.com


Image Source: Adobe Stock Images / Ян Заболотний




Hello and welcome to Research Pod. Thank you for listening and joining us today.

In this episode, we look at the work of Dr Jian Guan, Neuroscientist and Chief Scientific officer at The cGP Lab, New Zealand, with a primary focus on understanding the role of IGF-1 hormone and cGP in brain health and cognitive function. Guan is involved in the development of nutraceutical products and is extremely passionate about improving the ageing process.

cGP is a small molecule, but one with a profound impact on the body and mind, such as on the ageing brain and health. Cyclic glycine proline, or cGP,  is a very small molecule produced by our body that helps regulate the hormone responsible for a healthy blood circulation and has a number of other functions in the body, including growth and development, energy metabolism, and wound healing. This hormone is known as IGF-1, or insulin-like growth factor-1.

The human body relies on IGF-1 to regulate and facilitate normal growth and development, as well as carry out several crucial biological processes including facilitating the building of blood vessels and maintain healthy blood flow. The maintenance of blood flow is one of the key functions of IGF-1. it does this by targeting the smallest blood vessels, called capillaries. Capillaries form a network around organ tissues. The blood circulation through capillary networks is responsible for nutrient exchange and removal of waste, from tissues, an essential process for healthy organ function. These capillaries constantly undergo a degeneration and regeneration process.  The main function of IGF-1 in our blood circulation is to keep regenerating new capillaries for a healthy capillary and subsequently, organ function. This process critically affects our body includingthe brain, heart, skeletal muscle bone and peripheral nerves maintaining organ health and function.  IGF-1 is produced consistently throughout one’s life for its use in various biological processes and peaks around puberty. Interestingly, the lowest levels are found during infancy and old age. The resulting decline in IGF-1 levels as a person ages is a big problem; as a person ages, organ function slowly begins to deteriorate. Conversely, organs require more IGF-1 to maintain their function, and this IGF-1 is most often not readily available in old age, causing a whole range of issues.

So how does cGP fit into the picture? cGP is a tiny molecule that essentially comes in to save the day. It is endogenously (internally) produced by the body.

It is a key factor that works with IGF-1 synergistically. IGF-1 by itself, is highly unstable and hence, needs to stay bound. In the blood stream, IGF-1 binds to a specific protein which stabilizes it and inactivates its function. As the need arises, IGF-1 breaks this bond with the protein and binds to its receptors, activating it and becoming functional. cGP, produced by the body to regulate IGF-1 function, is similar in structure to IGF-1 and binds to the protein which allows freeing up of bound IGF-1, making it available for functional use by the receptors. More cGP in blood stream means more IGF-1 will be freed up, this process tightly regulates IGF-1 function. This way, cGP promotes the activity of IGF-1 when it is insufficient but inhibits the activity of IGF-1 when it is excessive, either of which contribute to adverse health implications. This means cGP dynamically and critically controls the balance between bioavailable and non-bioavailable IGF-1 to ensure healthy functioning of cells.

Age-related conditions such as hypertension, cognitive decline, Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s Disease are associated with low IGF-1 function. Studies suggest that higher amounts of cGP, or a higher cGP to IGF-1 molar ratio, is associated with better IGF-1 function. Research has shown that in the elderly, those who can produce more cGP have better memory retention. Subsequently, decline of cGP production with age can cause age-related cognitive decline and dementia. Thus, suggesting that increasing cGP levels in the bloodstream might provide for an opportunity to safely increase IGF-1 bioavailability.

Our bodies are self-regulated and increase production of cGP to preserve IGF-1 function during old-age, i.e. when the production of IGF-1 reduces. We maintain our health if our body produces enough cGP, otherwise we start to experience discomfort and develop age-related symptoms and subsequently age-related vascular diseases such as hypertension, stroke, and cognitive impairment. Fortunately, cGP can be resourced from natural foods when our bodies are unable to produce enough of its own. What’s more, patients who have been supplemented with food-based cGP have shown improvements in anxiety, depression, peripheral nerve function, blood pressure and glucose metabolism.

So, how can we ensure we are obtaining adequate cGP? The caveat is that cGP levels are insufficient with age. Since IGF-1 declines with age, the body’s requirement for cGP increases. The body, however, is not able to meet these high demands, creating a deficit and worsening symptoms related to ageing.   This process begins around age 45 and can be earlier if you live a stressful lifestyle or have a lifestyle disease such as metabolic syndrome.  The unmet demand of cGP levels can disrupt blood-flow to tissues and organs, negatively impacting their health and function. The result of this is a whole host of symptoms related to ageing, such as difficulty sleeping, cognitive decline, irritability, anxiety, and a decrease in overall quality of life. In order to offset these effects, the body’s demand for cGP increases while its ability to produce enough cGP, unfortunately decreases.

Fortunately, cGP can be acquired from natural sources. There are no known side effects of natural cGP, and it is highly bioavailable, meaning it is readily available for use to cells in the body. This means IGF-1 can bind more effectively to its target receptors and kickstart the formation of new blood vessels, regulate nerve cells and DNA synthesis and protect the brain. Thankfully, cGP has indeed been discovered in natural food sources. And where is this miracle cGP found? From blackcurrants all the way over in New Zealand!

Researchers have found that when patients with Parkinson’s disease were given NZ blackcurrant-based capsules, their levels of depression and anxiety decreased dramatically. They believed this improvement was related to IGF-1 functioning. When they tested the patients, they found that levels of cGP in the spinal fluid was increased after taking the blackcurrant supplement, meaning the cGP in the blackcurrant is bioavailable – which is vital when ingesting a nutrient, as bioavailability means the body can actually use it. This has potential remarkable consequences as Parkinson’s disease is the second most common neurodegenerative condition.

The next step was to perform more studies to confirm how effective the supplementation of blackcurrant-based   capsules is and provide clarity in how it should be developed into a usable supplement. From these, the cGP lab was able to validate how much cGP the body needs. Your first thought might be to stock up on blackcurrant supply, but consuming blackcurrants alone is not enough to meet your body’s daily requirement of cGP. This is why researchers in New Zealand have created a range of promising supplements which can deliver a high concentration of cGP, derived from cGP rich foods. Their first product  is called cGPMAX Brain Health, and the great thing about their supplement is that it is made from 100% natural ingredients, including NZ grown blackcurrants.

This research opens up an opportunity for natural cGP supplementation to slow down the degradation of organs and the ageing process. One of the researchers leading the study, Dr Jian Guan, identified the molecule almost 30 years ago. She commented that while NZ blackcurrants are uniquely rich in cGP, they are also exploring other natural sources of the nutrient.

Founder of the cGP lab, Jim Grierson is a New Zealand agronomist.  He claims that 45 different options have been tested and even associated berries like blueberries and cranberries don’t have the cGP. He said the reasons why New Zealand blackcurrants are unique for cGP content is not very well understood, but scientists think that it may be linked to a combination of New Zealand’s soils, maritime climate, and lower atmospheric ozone levels.

While blackcurrant was the first fruit identified that increases the internal levels of cGP, it certainly is not the sole fruit. Many other plant, animal and fungi sources have since been identified. The cGP lab is committed to conducting research and development aimed at improving and ensuring the stability of cGP derived from diverse sources of food that are naturally rich in cGP. The cGP lab has a patent pending for the use of natural cGP in over 30 countries worldwide. For those looking to protect their brain or slow the natural cognitive decline that comes with ageing, there is hope in the form of an easily accessible supplement. Or, as Dr. Mahajan Research Scientist at The cGP Lab says, looking to the future: “As global life expectancy rates are on the rise, we as a community need to invest in better elderly care and adopt integrative approaches for a healthy lifestyle as we age.”

That’s all for this episode – thanks for listening. Links to Dr. Jian Guan, Dr Vishakha Mahajan and the cGP lab’s research can be found in the show notes below and, as always, stay subscribed to Research Pod for more of the latest science!

See you again soon.

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