This post is sponsored by ChromaDex — all opinions are my own.
In my nearly 30 years of the practice of cardiovascular medicine, the focus has shifted dramatically from waiting for the development of the end stages of disease — like heart attacks and heart failure — toward disease prevention and health maintenance. Quality of life and healthspan are now important goals for both patient care and satisfaction. Many of my patients follow hectic schedules at work and home — as I’m sure do many readers here — and solutions for providing greater energy and vitality in a safe and natural manner are important findings. One such finding is a new approach to supporting cellular energy metabolism and overall health through the support of the cellular molecule NAD+. An understanding of NAD+ and how one agent, nicotinamide riboside (NR) in the form of Tru Niagen, can aid in achieving the goal of sustained health is an important step forward to optimal health.
Aging is the new focus of evaluation and therapy in cardiovascular medicine, and discussing “arterial age” is a routine conversation in my preventive medicine clinic. Understanding why our cells age and die and how this affects the progression of life-threatening diseases in our later years is heavily discussed within regenerative science. A uniform observation across many animal experiments and some human studies is that dietary calorie restriction and periodic fasting may slow aging and maximize healthspan. Of course, science is always searching for even simpler methods toward these goals.
Restricting calories is hard, so any easier approach to aging better and maintaining health is a worthwhile endeavor. One such approach requires understanding a little more about that ever-important cellular molecule, nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD+). NAD+ is a signaling molecule that is thought to mediate many of the benefits of calorie restriction and periodic fasts. NAD+ is crucial for a class of cell regulators called sirtuins to function, helping cells react to the changes that come with aging and metabolic stress.
NAD+ can be synthesized from the amino acid tryptophan but this process is inefficient. Oral intake of vitamin B3 compounds like niacin are known to support healthy NAD+ levels, but side effects like flushing limit the acceptance of these vitamins.
Fortunately, there is another agent, nicotinamide riboside (NR), that increases levels of NAD+ in cells and improves a variety of activities in animal research studies. Boosting NAD+ by taking NR is a hopeful pathway to address aging at a cellular level while improving the efficiency of cellular metabolism and gaining vitality. Studies on NAD+ and NR are still an active field of research, and while many new developments are anticipated, scientists have already identified several hopeful findings in the animal studies highlighted below. More work will be needed to fully understand how all of this translates to humans, but it’s exciting to imagine the possibilities.
1. Improved Mitochondrial Function
The age-related decline in NAD+ levels may impact the efficiency of mitochondria, the power plants in our cells that turn food and oxygen into energy. NAD+ helps cells perform their energy production duties and repair cellular damage that naturally accumulates with aging. Preclinical findings in aging mice show that increasing NAD+ with NR improved mitochondrial and stem cell functions in muscles. It even improved stem cell function in hair follicles of old mice, which bodes well for anyone with a family history of male pattern baldness.
2. Potential for Maintaining Liver Health
Whenever we indulge in our favorite adult beverages, our livers go to work processing the alcohol we’ve imbibed — and they need NAD+ to do it. Drinking too much alcohol can stress out our cells, not only affecting NAD+ levels but also many important metabolic processes. A recent preclinical study found that feeding mice NR could help their livers counteract some of the damaging effects of chronic alcohol consumption. For example, liver cells from NR-treated mice had more efficient mitochondria and higher levels of sirtuin activity.
3. Maintenance of Muscle Function
Muscle strength tends to decline with age and is thus a focus in aging research. In a study of mice whose genes were altered so their muscle tissue contained only 15 percent of the normal amount of NAD+, the mice drinking NR-enriched water restored their muscle strength and exercise capacity nearly back to normal in one week.
4. Potential to Support Metabolic Health
While I teach patients in my clinic to follow a diet naturally lower in fat and from predominantly plants, many people choose higher fat meals. Eating a high-fat or high-calorie meal can stress out cells and even deplete cellular pools of NAD+. In a study of mice fed high-fat diets, those receiving NR gained approximately 15 percent less weight than they did on the same diets without NR. Like some of the studies above, NR also activated sirtuins and helped keep mitochondria functioning efficiently.
NR’s boost to NAD+ levels in humans is incredibly exciting. In a recent study of healthy middle-aged and older adults, the level of NAD+ in white blood cells was determined after 6 weeks of 1000 mg/day NR supplementation. NAD+ levels increased by approximately 60 percent compared to the placebo control. Measures of blood pressure and arterial stiffness, both signs of arterial health, tended to decrease during the study. However, further study is required to determine if this will translate into real benefits for maintaining cardiovascular health.
Tru Niagen, an available oral NR supplement, is a very hopeful advance in promoting healthy aging. Aging of the cardiovascular system in particular must be improved to make a meaningful difference in quality of life and healthspan.
NR is a promising agent with properties that support healthy cellular metabolism and energy production. While further studies are needed in many conditions of human health, the data around the safety of NR is reassuring, and with Tru Niagen comes exciting possibilities for sustained health.