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Nicotinamide Riboside: Effective Anti-Aging Supplement or Hype?

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Nicotinamide riboside - Dr. Axe

Nicotinamide riboside (NR), a newly discovered form of vitamin B3, is getting a lot of attention recently. It’s being touted as an anti-aging vitamin because of its ability to raise NAD+ levels, a coenzyme that plays an important role in many biological processes.

So is NR really a more effective form of vitamin B3 for boosting metabolism, cardiovascular health and brain function? Although research on this topic is scant, there are human and animal studies that indicate this vitamins many health benefits, similar to an NAD supplement.

What Is Nicotinamide Riboside? How Does It Work?

Nicotinamide riboside, which is also called niagen, is a form of vitamin B3. It serves as a precursor for nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD+), a coenzyme that’s needed for important body functions, like metabolism, energy production, regulating the body’s circadian rhythm and repairing DNA damage.

You may be used to seeing “niacin” as a common form of vitamin B3. Niacin is often added to packaged foods in order to reduce the risk of vitamin B3 deficiency.

Like niacin side effects, nicotinamide riboside works to increase NAD+ levels, but NR actually requires less energy to do so.

Researchers have found that NR becomes NAD+ faster than other forms of vitamin B3, which is exactly why it’s getting praise as an anti-aging, health-promoting supplement. Plus, NR requires less energy from the body to boost NAD+, so the body can use that energy for other needs.

As we age, our NAD+ levels naturally decline, and low levels of the coenzyme have been linked to aging and some common health conditions, like heart disease and neurodegenerative disease.

Nicotinamide riboside has gained attention because of its ability to raise NAD+ levels. This may improve symptoms of chronic diseases, reverse signs of aging and improve vision loss, according to recent research.

Related: Niacinamide Benefits for Skin + Uses, Side Effects, Dosage & More

Potential Benefits

1. Stimulates NAD+ Metabolism

A recent study conducted at the University of Colorado found that supplementing with nicotinamide riboside effectively stimulates NAD+ metabolism in healthy middle-aged and older adults.

Researchers found that not only was NR supplementation well-tolerated among participants, but it may be beneficial for reducing blood pressure and arterial stiffness too.

NAD+ deficiency is a common central cause of aging and a number of diseases, and studies show that restoring NAD+ levels has great therapeutic and nutritional value.

By increasing NAD+ levels, nicotinamide riboside benefits the following body functions:

  • metabolic regulation
  • energy storage
  • DNA synthesis

2. Improves Exercise Performance

A 2019 study published in the European Journal of Nutrition found that using nicotinamide riboside supplements improved physical performance and decreased oxidative stress in older individuals.

Researchers believe that NR supplementation benefits NAD+ deficient individuals, which explains why it would be more effective in older adults than younger people.

3. Boosts Cognitive Health

As an NAD+ precursor, nicotinamide riboside works to protect brain cells against oxidative stress that can cause age-related brain disorders.

NAD+ also increases the production of PGC-1-alpha, a protein that supports mitochondrial function and reduces the incidence of cognitive dysfunction, according to research published in Neurobiology Aging.

Researchers at the National Institute on Aging in Maryland found that, among mice, NAD+ depletion plays a pivotal role in neuro-inflammation, DNA damage and neuronal degeneration in Alzheimer’s disease.

More research is needed to fully understand how raising NAD+ levels with NR supplementation can promote cognitive health, but the current research looks promising.

4. Reduces the Risk of Cardiovascular Disease

A 2019 study on middle-aged and older adults indicates that using oral NR for six weeks works to decrease systolic blood pressure and arterial stiffness.

High blood pressure and arterial stiffness are both strong predictors of cardiovascular disease, so this study suggests that using nicotinamide riboside may reduce the risk of related morbidity and mortality.

Supplement and Dosage Info

Nicotinamide riboside supplements are available in tablet, capsule and powder forms. You can find them online or in health food or vitamin stores.

The most common nicotinamide riboside dosage recommendation is taking between 250–500 milligrams per day. Serving sizes depend on the brand, but the recommended use is typically one to two capsules per day.

NR supplements are sometimes advertised or branded as being “flush-free.” This is because nicotinamide riboside is less likely to cause flushing, which can be a niacin side effect known as niacin flush.

Using a NR supplement is the most common way to increase NAD+ levels, but the vitamin is also found in smaller amounts in cow’s milk and yeast.

Risks and Side Effects

Nicotinamide riboside is likely safe and well-tolerated when it’s used appropriately.

The safety and metabolism of NR supplements were evaluated in a study published in Scientific Reports.

Researchers found that when NR was given at 100-, 300- and 1,000-milligram doses during an eight-week, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial, it effectively increased NAD+ levels and didn’t cause any adverse events.

In other human studies, taking up to 2,000 milligrams per day had no side effects and was considered well-tolerated. But before taking higher doses of NR, be sure to seek advice from your health care professional.

As mentioned, using nicotinamide riboside supplements is likely safe when you stick to the recommended dosage on the manufacturer label. Before exceeding the general serving size of 250–500 milligrams per day, consult your doctor.

Final Thoughts

  • Nicotinamide riboside (or niagen) is a form of vitamin B3 that serves as a precursor to NAD+, a coenzyme that plays a critical role in many body processes.
  • NR supplements are commonly used to support energy production, promote DNA repair, boost cognitive health and reduce the risk of heart disease.
  • There is no official recommended dosage for NR, as more studies are needed to fully understand its role in human health, but the most common serving is 250–500 milligrams per day.
  • Research indicates that NR is well-tolerated and safe when used appropriately.
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