Skepticism is a trait that makes for a good consumer. The fact of the matter is that due to regulatory differences between dietary supplements and conventional drugs, there’s a lot of wiggle room out there.1
Safety may not be a massive concern, but effectiveness is. As a result, when a product like Niagen comes around promising that it will be able to help you fight aging by boosting cell production, questions are raised. Can this really help?
What Does Niagen Promise?
You may have already invested in cosmetic or nutritional approaches for aging support. However, Niagen works towards handling this issue at the cellular level. Part of the good work Niagen does has already been proven in the past. For example, we already know that vitamin B3 helps support heart health and lower cholesterol. The same applies to brain health and glucose regulation.2 However, there is now a solution to tackle this at the cellular level.
Niagen is currently the only nicotinamide riboside (NR) product available commercially, and it, in theory plays a role in fighting aging from the cells up. As a start, it increases NAD+ levels in cells and tissues. NAD+ is a stem cell that plays a vital role in several health processes. Producing higher levels of this is one of the major reasons to use Niagen. Niagen also promotes mitochondrial function and beneficial effects on blood lipids by maintaining healthy cholesterol levels already within normal range.3
Why does this matter? The body naturally produces vitamin B3 as we grow, and can also be found in dietary sources like beets, fish, sunflower seeds, peanuts, and liver. However, the body produces less and less of this naturally as we age. 4 On top of this, low levels of B Vitamins may negatively affect us in various ways as we age, especially with cognitive function.5 As a result, simply eating right may not be enough to carry us through as they get older.
Where’s the Proof?
Of course, it’s important to know exactly how the story plays out under scientific scrutiny. The research, reported in the journal Nature Communications, led by Charles Brenner, Ph.D., professor and Roy J. Carver Chair of Biochemistry at the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine, in collaboration with colleagues at Queens University Belfast and ChromaDex Corp. which supplied the NR used in the trial as Niagen.
Six men and six women, all otherwise healthy, took part in the trial. Each participant received single oral doses of 100 mg, 300 mg, or 1,000 mg of NR. This took place in different sequences with a seven-day gap between doses. Following each dose, blood and urine samples were collected and analyzed to show measured levels of a cell metabolite—known as NAD+. As levels of NAD+ decrease with age, some believe that they may play a role in the cellular decline.
The end results showed that using nicotinamide riboside increased NAD+ metabolism by amounts directly related to the dose. In addition, there were no major side effects.
“This trial shows that oral NR safely boosts human NAD+ metabolism,” Brenner says. “We are excited because everything we are learning from animal systems indicates that the effectiveness of NR depends on preserving and/or boosting NAD+ and related compounds in the face of metabolic stresses. Because the levels of supplementation in mice that produce beneficial effects are achievable in people, it appears that health benefits of NR will be translatable to humans safely.”
Brenner had also done a bit of prior testing on this himself, taking things into his own hands. Prior to the trial, he performed a pilot study on himself using Niagen. This was in 2004, where he discovered that NR is a natural product found in milk and that there is a pathway to convert NR to NAD+ in people. To test this, he took 1 gram of Niagen once a day for seven days, while having his blood and urine samples tested.
The experiment showed that Brenner’s blood NAD+ increased by about 2.7 times. “While this was unexpected, I thought it might be useful,” Brenner says. “NAD+ is an abundant metabolite and it is sometimes hard to see the needle move on levels of abundant metabolites. But when you can look at a low-abundance metabolite that goes from undetectable to easily detectable, there is a great signal to noise ratio, meaning that NAAD levels could be a useful biomarker for tracking increases in NAD+ in human trials.”
It’s also important to note that science is still marching on, and the most important tests on Niagen may still be yet to come. A collaboration between Keio University School of Medicine in Tokyo and Washington University School of Medicine is going to be the first long-term clinical trial for Niagen in humans. This is going to be checking for:
- change in insulin sensitivity
- change in beta-cell function
- works to control blood sugar
- blood vessels dilate
- effects of NMN on blood lipids
- effects of NMN on body fat
- markers of cardiovascular and metabolic health
Similar tests in rodents have shown positive results, so with any luck, even more, support for Niagen’s many healthful properties will come out soon