It’s an unavoidable fact of life that our bodies break down as we age. We lose strength and muscle, we are at greater risk of developing heart disease and other ailments, and our minds may not be as sharp as they once were.
But science offers hope. Recent breakthroughs in biochemistry have improved our understanding of why these mental and physical degenerations may occur. Importantly, they’ve also helped us understand where they can occur: at the cellular level.
The story began with research into a molecule called nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD), which helps regulate many essential functions of the cell, such as metabolism, healthy mitochondrial function and energy production.
Research has shown that as we age, our bodies naturally produce less NAD, and our cells function less efficiently. External factors like overeating, alcohol consumption and sun exposure can also contribute to a reduction in NAD levels. Increased levels of NAD could help keep our body’s cells functioning properly as we get older or as we’re subjected to external stressors, resulting in boosted cellular metabolism. Higher NAD levels could also improve our opportunity for enhanced mental focus, stronger memory and increased muscle endurance.
Recently, a cutting-edge form of vitamin B3 called nicotinamide riboside (NR) — a nutrient also known as Niagen — has been shown to help increase production of NAD. There’s strong evidence that as we face the challenges of age, regular Niagen supplementation might help support our health in a variety of ways, from maintenance of cognitive function to aiding muscle recovery.
“NAD is central to metabolism and the function of every tissue — just as cellular stress is real, so is cellular resiliency,” said Charles Brenner, PhD, the researcher who first discovered how nicotinamide riboside helps increase NAD in the body. “Our metabolism, cognition and ability to respond to stresses and damages all decline in age in concert with the decline of NAD. We think that by boosting NAD, we can help protect these processes and stay resilient to cellular stress as we get older.”
Today, Brenner serves as the Roy J. Carver Chair of Biochemistry and a director of the Obesity Initiative at the University of Iowa, and he’s the chief scientific advisor at ChromaDex, a Southern California nutraceutical company that produces a supplement featuring Niagen (NR), called Tru Niagen. (The company also owns robust intellectual property rights to NR and its production.)
“Some people claim NR has ‘anti-aging’ properties in people, but that term seems unrealistic,” Brenner said. “I prefer to say that NR can help people age better because it helps us reinforce ourselves against multiple metabolic stresses and against the many downfalls of aging.”
However, daily Niagen supplementation is the best way to significantly increase NAD levels over a long period. “We’ve shown that single oral doses of Niagen safely boost NAD in people, and we’ve seen dramatic effects in animal tests, protecting damaged nerves in the heart and brain,” Brenner said. NR has also undergone extensive toxicology testing, is registered as a new dietary ingredient, and is generally regarded as safe by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Before Brenner performed the first fully consented clinical trial of NR to test whether it safely boosted NAD, he needed to figure out the time course and optimize his research methods. So he proposed to his university’s institutional review board that he test NR on himself…and he did.
“It was remarkable to watch my blood NAD levels surge about four hours after taking NR, peaking at eight hours post-dose,” he said. “I initially noticed improved workouts. I don’t weigh myself regularly, but people commented to me about my physical shape. I’ve kept up with Tru Niagen supplementation, and I feel like I’m sleeping better and that I’m mentally sharper.”
Additional human clinical trials of Niagen are currently underway to confirm whether humans will experience the same positive effects of NR that have already been shown in animals (and in Brenner).
“Multiple trials have confirmed that Niagen is a safe way for people to boost NAD,” Brenner said. “People are reporting many metabolic benefits in their sleep, stamina and cognitive functions, and increased NAD might be just the reason.”