Summary: Nicotinamide riboside (NR), a form of vitamin B, increased levels of NAD report researchers in a new study. [This article first appeared on LongevityFacts and was updated on April 3, 2018. Author: Brady Hartman. ]
Researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder (UCB) reported that nicotinamide riboside (NR) – a unique form of B vitamin – increased levels of NAD, in a clinical trial of healthy older adults. Senior study author Doug Seals, a professor and researcher in the Department of Integrative Physiology said
“This was the first ever study to give this novel compound to humans over a period of time,” adding “We found that it is well tolerated and appears to activate some of the same key biological pathways that calorie restriction does.”
The study, published in the journal Nature Communications, included 24 trim and healthy men and women ages 55 to 79.
In a crossover design, the researchers gave half the participants 500 mg nicotinamide riboside (NR), also known as Niagen, twice daily. After the first six weeks, the groups traded places as the placebo group took NR, while the other group was given placebo for the next six weeks.
The scientists took blood samples and measured the participant’s health at the end of each treatment period. The study participants did not report any serious adverse effects.
The authors of the study found that 1,000 mg daily of NR boosted levels of a natural molecule called nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide, or NAD+ for short, by 60 percent.
Seals teamed up with lead author Chris Martens, then a postdoctoral fellow at Colorado University at Boulder, who said
“The idea is that by supplementing older adults with NR, we are not only restoring something that is lost with aging (NAD+), but we could potentially be ramping up the activity of enzymes responsible for helping protect our bodies from stress,”
The researchers found that in 13 test subjects with stage 1 hypertension, a condition in which blood pressure is elevated to 120-139 over 80-89 mmHg, the systolic blood pressure of the participants was about 10 points lower after supplementation with nicotinamide riboside.
However, some caution is in order. The authors point out that the blood pressure drop was not statistically significant, meaning that the drop in blood pressure could have been due to chance, rather than the nicotinamide riboside.
However, a blood pressure drop of that magnitude would translate to a 25% reduction in heart attack risk, the authors of the study note
“If this magnitude of systolic blood pressure reduction with NR supplementation is confirmed in a larger clinical trial, such an effect could have broad biomedical implications,”
NAD is a molecule found in every cell in our body and is necessary for a variety of metabolic activities. Research shows that NAD levels substantially decline as we age, leading to lack of energy, heart disease, decreased muscle strength, and diminished cognitive capacity. NAD activates longevity genes called sirtuins, which are credited with the beneficial health effects of calorie restriction.
Mitochondria, the tiny powerhouses within our cells, rely on NAD to convert food into a form of energy that our cells can use. These power stations rely on NAD as an essential factor to produce the energy our body needs to sustain all its functions. Mitochondrial decline is blamed for the increasing lack of energy we experience in our senior years and NAD helps maintain healthy mitochondrial function.
The UCB researchers stress that the trial was a small pilot study, as Martens said
“We are not able to make any definitive claims that this compound is safe or going to be effective for specific segments of the population,” adding “What this paper provides us with is a really good stepping stone for future work.”
Larger Trial of NR
Because the current trial was small and too short to assess the long safety and efficacy of NR, and their measurements did not reach statistical significance; Seals and Martens are hoping to conduct a larger clinical trial. The duo has applied for a grant to fund the future study that examines the health impact of nicotinamide riboside supplementation on blood pressure and arterial health. Moreover, Martens is launching a separate trial looking at the impact of NR on older adults with mild cognitive impairment, a precursor to Alzheimer’s disease also known as dementia.
NAD Declines with Age
Over our lifetimes, various stressors and other assaults destroy the NAD molecule leading to a general decline in levels in our body. Our cells consume NAD when we are under stress due to such things as cigarette smoking and other toxins, such as air pollution. Researchers link the fall-off in NAD with decreased health and reduced metabolism as well as diminished capacity for cellular repair and resilience to stress. The age-related decline in this key molecule impairs the ability of our cells to generate energy, which is critical in maintaining strength and repairing DNA damage. This fall-off in NAD leaves us at higher risk for degeneration in our muscles, brain, heart, lungs, and other tissues and organs.
On the flip side, researchers believe that maintaining youthful NAD levels is essential to increasing the years we spend in good health.
In an experiment announced a week ago, Harvard professor David A. Sinclair reported that a NAD-boosting compound fed to aging mice reversed vascular aging in the mice enabling them to run at least 50% farther than their untreated brethren. Sinclair has also reported promising results using the NAD boosting compound NMN in previous experiments.
Human Trials of NR
Seals and Martens’ study is not the first to test NR on otherwise healthy adults. A team of researchers completed an eight week clinical trial of NR in December of last year. They used smaller daily doses of 250mg and 500mg NR combined with a resveratrol derivative. The scientists did not report a vascular improvement, perhaps due to the lower doses used in their study.
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Cover Photo: HAKINMHAN / Getty Images.
Diagnosis, Treatment, and Advice: This article is intended for informational and educational purposes only and is not a substitute for qualified, professional medical advice. The information and opinions expressed in this article should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. Consult a qualified and licensed physician for the diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Experimental NAD treatments carry a much higher risk than FDA-approved ones. Dial 9-1-1, or an equivalent emergency hotline number, for all medical emergencies. As well, consult a licensed, qualified physician before changing your diet, supplement or exercise programs.
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