Nicotinamide riboside. (Image from Wikimedia Commons, distributed under a CC-BY 2.0 license)
Nicotinamide riboside gained traction as a recent study conducted by a team of scientists from the University of Colorado Boulder reported the first clinical trial research. The results implicate its potential health benefits, especially among middle-aged and older adults. One of its major benefits is it boosts nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD+), which, in turn, is beneficial for healthy aging and in extending lifespan.
The biology of nicotinamide riboside
Nicotinamide riboside is one of the many forms of vitamin B3. Similar to other forms of vitamin B3, it is capable of boosting NAD+ in the body. Based on a pre-clinical study conducted by Trammel et al1, it appears that it is the most effective among the other forms in terms of increasing NAD+ levels. The study was also able to point out that it is the most effective in promoting sirtuins. A sirtuin is an enzyme involved in mitochondrial biogenesis and in the regulation of circadian clocks. It is also credited for its beneficial effects on calorie restriction. NAD+ precursors, such as nicotinamide riboside, are effective sirtuin activators. It, therefore, has a role in the stimulation of peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma coactivator 1-alpha (PGC1α)-dependent mitochondriogenic pathway. It is also involved in promoting mitochondrial gene transcription and augmenting respiratory chain activity.2
For healthy aging
A recent study by Christopher Martens et al. presented proof that supplementation led to an increase in NAD+ metabolism in healthy middle-aged and older adults. This was observed in a six-week randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled crossover clinical trial of healthy individuals, aged 55 to 79. Half of them were given a placebo while the other half, a 500mg-dose of nicotinamide riboside chloride twice daily, followed by a placebo. Based on the results from blood tests and physiological measures post-treatment, the supplement increased the levels of NAD+ by 60%.3 Increasing NAD+ in older adults is beneficial in terms of promoting healthy aging since NAD+ levels tend to decline with age. NAD+ is involved in a myriad of metabolic pathways, serving as a coenzyme in various redox reactions. It shuttles energy within the cell, particularly during cellular respiration. It is also a vital activator of sirtuins. Apart from NAD+ boost, nicotinamide riboside was also found to be associated with reduced blood pressure and arterial stiffness.3
Other biological effects
Nicotinamide riboside as a form of vitamin B3 and a precursor to NAD+ may prove essential as a supplement that protects against DNA damage and oxidative damage, and therefore, it may also help avert cancer. It may also be useful in improving general health and in lowering the risk of cardiovascular diseases. At present, there are no ample reports on its side effects. Niacin (another form of vitamin B3) has been found to cause mild flushing (i.e. red, warm, itchy or tingling sensation). The flushing though is generally harmless and subsides within an hour or two. Nonetheless, no flushing has been reported with nicotinamide riboside supplementation. More studies, therefore, are vital in order to identify and delineate its potentially undesirable effects.
Future of nicotinamide riboside supplementation
The recent study raised the benefits of nicotinamide riboside supplementation, especially among older adults. It also suggested its potential use in modulating hypertension. However, Martens et al. pointed out that their results served as an initial insight into the potential benefits. More studies in the form of clinical trials are warranted to establish the efficacy and the safety of long-term supplementation of nicotinamide riboside in humans.
— Written by Maria Victoria Gonzaga
1Trammell, S.A., et al. (2016). Nicotinamide riboside is uniquely and orally bioavailable in mice and humans. Nat. Commun. 7: (12948).
2Zeviani, M. (n.d.). Novel Therapies: Activation Of Biogenesis. Retrieved from http://www.mrc-mbu.cam.ac.uk/projects/58/novel-therapies-activation-biogenesis.
3Martens, C.R., Denman, B.A., Mazzo, M. R., Armstrong, M. L., Reisdorph, N., Mcqueen, M.B., Chonchol, M., & Seals, D. R. (2018). Chronic nicotinamide riboside supplementation is well-tolerated and elevates NAD in healthy middle-aged and older adults. Nature Communications 9(1286 ). DOI: 10.1038/s41467-018-03421-7