Nicotinamide riboside (or commercially known as NIAGEN) is an anti-aging vitamin. Nicotinamide riboside supports healthy cellular metabolism, which in turn, could aid in preventing the occurrence of metabolic diseases, including cancer, neurodegeneration, obesity, and cardiovascular disease.
To ensure you maintain a healthy metabolism, cow’s milk is a key source for nicotinamide riboside (but far from the only option– we’ll discuss alternatives later in the article). Supplements are also available on the market containing nicotinamide riboside chloride or NIAGEN – the synthetic form of nicotinamide riboside. In 2016, the FDA concluded that NIAGEN supplementation is Generally Recognized As Safe.
What Is Nicotinamide Riboside?
Accidentally discovered in yeast, nicotinamide riboside is a form of vitamin B3, also known as niacin or nicotinic acid (completely unrelated to nicotine if you’re wondering) and a precursor for the molecule NAD+ – a key player in cellular metabolism due to its role in mitochondrial energy production. Since the discovery of nicotinamide riboside, researchers have identified nicotinamide riboside as a potential inhibitor of age-related metabolic diseases. This is due to nicotinamide riboside elevating levels of NAD+, which decline with age, to achieve regular cellular metabolism.
Subsequently, a mass-produced form of nicotinamide riboside called NIAGEN is now advocated as an anti-aging supplement. NIAGEN contains the synthetic version of nicotinamide riboside, nicotinamide riboside chloride, and ticks all the boxes for the FDA to class NIAGEN as a safe drug.
Niacinamide vs. Nicotinamide Riboside
Niacinamide (or nicotinamide), is a different form of niacin (another NAD+ precursor) and functions differently to nicotinamide riboside. Applied topically, niacinamide is effective in aiding the prevention of age-related skin changes.
Niacin vs Nicotinamide Riboside
Niacin, also known as nicotinic acid, is another precursor of NAD+ metabolism. Despite its efficacy in treating cardiovascular disease and lipid disorders, niacin carries various adverse side effects such as painful flushing, skin rashes, and in some cases, hepatic toxicity, limiting its use clinically. Unlike niacin, NIAGEN is thought to carry no adverse effects. However, this conclusion stems from preliminary trials with limited cohort sizes investigating NIAGEN and do not match the extensive research performed on niacin side effects.
Nicotinamide Mononucleotide Vs. Nicotinamide Riboside
Nicotinamide mononucleotide is another NAD+ precursor. Unusually, for nicotinamide mononucleotide to affect NAD+ metabolism, nicotinamide mononucleotide has to convert to nicotinamide riboside to chemically enter the cell. They then return to their original form within the cell and become NAD+. This complex pathway demonstrates nicotinamide mononucleotide’s inefficiency in NAD+ metabolism, compared to nicotinamide riboside. Therefore, for now, researchers believe nicotinamide riboside is the more effective NAD+ precursor.
What Is Nicotinamide Riboside Good For?
As you age, specific tissues within the body enter metabolic decline which increases your susceptibility to diseases including type 2 diabetes, cancer, neurodegeneration, cardiovascular disease, and obesity. Nicotinamide riboside aids the prevention of diseases associated with aging, and for improving longevity. This is due to the role of nicotinamide riboside in maintaining healthy cellular metabolism.
In the nervous system, scientists found that nicotinamide riboside is the only neuronal NAD+ precursor that may delay neurodegeneration. For example, when NAD+ levels were elevated via nicotinamide riboside administration, nerve cell degeneration slowed. Studies have since demonstrated nicotinamide riboside as a key neuroprotective agent.
Today, nicotinamide riboside is viewed as potentially effective in reversing neurodegeneration. One such example is in treating Alzheimer’s disease. Nicotinamide riboside halts the production of toxic beta-amyloid in the brain to improve cognitive function. To date, this result has only been shown in mouse models, but it reflects nicotinamide riboside’s potential for Alzheimer’s patients. Thus, if you are at risk for developing neurodegenerative disorders as you age due to family history, nicotinamide riboside supplementation is advisable.
Dysfunctional metabolic processes also damage DNA, which can consequently initiate chronic inflammation in certain tissues. In particular, chronic inflammation of the liver increases your risk of developing cardiovascular disease, obesity and type 2 diabetes. Nicotinamide riboside supplementation will restore NAD+ levels to normal and decrease levels of chronic inflammation.
Damaged DNA can also trigger cellular proliferation – a causative factor in tumorigenesis (the formation of cancerous tumors). Scientists identified that nicotinamide riboside kinases (proteins which convert nicotinamide into NAD+) can convert the cancer drug, tiazofurin, into toxic NAD+ precursors.These precursors up-regulate inhibitors that directly increase cellular anabolism to prevent tumorigenesis. However, scientists still debate the safety of taking nicotinamide riboside for treating cancer and it is currently not recommended.
Type 2 diabetes arises due to a lack of blood sugar control and is often seen in overweight people. Nicotinamide riboside supplementation aids in blood sugar control and reduces weight gain simultaneously in mice, thus potentially improving a diabetic’s prognosis. However, human studies contradict these results, so further study is required.
One of the most remarkable findings for nicotinamide riboside is its role in prolonging life. Studies in rodents have shown improved longevity by controlling NAD+ levels, which benefit stem cell and mitochondrial function. Healthy stem cell functioning means tissue maintenance and regeneration continues without age-related senescence. Similarly, age-related muscular dystrophy is reversed due to improved mitochondrial functioning.
More generally, nicotinamide riboside boosts cognitive function and energy levels. This is especially beneficial for older adults who lose their younger energy levels and cognitive function due to age-related depressed metabolic function. Therefore, people taking nicotinamide riboside could live longer, healthier lives.
Nicotinamide Riboside And NAD+
So far, we’ve discussed nicotinamide riboside and its effect on NAD+, but what exactly is NAD+? NAD+ (nicotinamide riboside dinucleotide) is an essential cellular metabolite that controls a variety of important cellular functions. In scientific terms, NAD+ is both a coenzyme for hydride transport (NAD+ + H- -> NADH) and a source for NAD+-consuming enzymes, which control vital cellular processes like mitochondrial functioning.
People who are deficient in NAD+ precursors (such as tryptophan and nicotinic acid) develop a condition called pellagra – a condition characterized by diarrhea, poor cognitive function, and dermatitis. Today, pellagra is commonly found in developing countries with poor nutrition, however not so long ago, pellagra was particularly common among the poor in the southern United States. Pellagra occurs due to abnormal cellular metabolism, wherein the necessary amount of NAD+ is not produced. Other than diet, NAD+ levels can be reduced due to alcohol metabolism, DNA damage, and aging.
To support a healthy metabolism, you can either ingest NAD+ precursors to boost NAD+ levels including tryptophan, nicotinic acid, nicotinic acid mononucleotide, and nicotinamide riboside or simply fast for a certain period of time. Interestingly, fasting activates sirtuins (NAD+-dependent enzymes) which carry anticancer benefits.
Nicotinamide riboside increases specific NAD+ levels to treat particular aging disorders. For example, taking nicotinamide riboside augments NAD+ levels to improve arterial stiffness and reduce blood pressure – two factors prevalent in cardiovascular disease.
What Foods Contain Nicotinamide Riboside?
To avoid pellagra and decrease the chance of suffering from aging disorders down the road, you can ingest nicotinamide riboside in the following foods:
- Milk. Nicotinamide riboside was first discovered as a nutrient in milk. Conventional milk may contain more nicotinamide riboside than organic milk due to the lowered amount of Staphylococcus aureus from increased processing. Many people, of course, have trouble digesting milk– for those who do, lactase-fortified milk products like Lactaid are available.
- Fermented foods. It is thought that nicotinamide riboside is present in fermented food due to the knowledge that yeast actively secretes the vitamin. Fermented foods produced by the fermentation process involving yeast include, but are not limited to beer, bread, and kombucha.
- Green vegetables. Currently, there is limited evidence concerning the presence of nicotinamide riboside in green vegetables, however, niacin, another NAD+ precursor is present.
- Fish. Similarly, NAD+ precursors have been found in fish, yet evidence remains scarce for whether nicotinamide riboside is present.
What’s The Best Nicotinamide Riboside Dosage?
It is now known that the administration of nicotinamide riboside increases NAD+ levels in a dose-dependent manner. Thus, studies are now exploring the effective dosage size of nicotinamide riboside without adverse side effects.
Most studies have been performed in both females and males between 45-65 years, with a dosage ranging from 100mg/day to 2000mg/day of nicotinamide riboside. No adverse events were reported. Consequently, the FDA conducted an extensive toxicology trial in rats to confirm 300mg/kg/day as the “no observed adverse effect level”.
Despite these promising results, as of yet no scientific research has explored the personalization of dosages. Thus, it is difficult to recommend an ideal dosage for NR for each person.
Is Nicotinamide Riboside Safe?
Nicotinamide riboside is Generally Recognized as Safe by the FDA. This conclusion derives from several clinical trials on both rats and humans, which have verified that prolonged nicotinamide riboside consumption (up to 1g/day) is not a hazard. These studies used NIAGEN (synthetic nicotinamide riboside) produced by ChromaDex. Thus, the ingestion of NIAGEN is deemed safe.
However, cancer researchers argue that some cancer cells depend on NAD+ metabolism for growth. In other words, aging is hypothesized as a defense mechanism against cancer, whereby NAD+ depletion limits DNA repair and energy production. Increased NAD+ levels via nicotinamide riboside supplementation could improve malignant cell growth and encourage tumorigenesis. Currently, this hypothesis remains theoretical and further research is required.
What’s The Best Nicotinamide Riboside Supplement?
Nicotinamide riboside supplements are available either as a pill or in powder form. Powder forms have a faster absorption time and are unflavored to avoid spoiling your favorite food/drink upon ingestion. Pill forms take longer to absorb, but pills are generally more transportable and easier to use.
The supplements sold online are largely authentic, however there are advertisements on Amazon for so-claimed nicotinamide riboside supplements which aren’t true to their word. These usually contain niacin – nicotinic acid, which causes flushing – or nicotinamide riboside mononucleotide (NMN) – a less efficient NAD+ precursor.
Below are some of the best nicotinamide riboside supplements on the market. Be aware that a good item design may not mean a true product.
Tru Niagen is dedicated to producing one product and that’s NIAGEN supplements. Backed by ChromaDex – the leading nutraceutical company for producing NIAGEN – this product is simple and straightforward. Each tablet contains 300mg of NIAGEN – a sufficient dosage for you to experience positive results. For vegetarians, this product is especially suitable as the capsule is made from plant sugars. Their product is available in either 30-day or 90-day bottles.
Contains other beneficial ingredients
Thorne research advocates using products from natural resources. Their product, Thorne ResveraCel, contains 300mg of ChromaDex’s NIAGEN, 150mg of resveratrol, 250mg of quercetin, and 50mg of Betaine – all within two capsules. Each component provides some kind of benefit. Resveratrol and quercetin activate sirtuins – key compounds in NAD+ metabolism, which aid in controlling inflammation and cell proliferation. Betaine restores healthy epigenetic regulation – epigenetic dysregulation can lead to the development of cancer.
Priced at $48 a bottle, two capsules are recommended to be taken 1-2 times a day. Following on from previous studies, two pills taken once a day will provide sufficient support for a healthy metabolism. Overall, Resveracel is a great product with extra health benefits in every pill.
UltraHealth is exceptionally impressive in that they provide their customers with the purest nicotinamide riboside chloride for enhanced bioavailability. They even offer evidence via a percent purity report, a certificate of analysis, and an allergen report to demonstrate the purity of their product on Amazon. Each serving provides 300mg – 2 capsules taken once daily at $39.95 for a 30-serving bottle. Their capsules are vegetarian and are produced in GMP-certified labs. On Amazon they are highly reviewed, with one such reviewer stating that they’re “at least as good as Tru Niagen”.
Nicotinamide riboside powder
Tru Niagen now also offers their product as a powder for faster, more efficient absorption. This product has added fiber, which is great for digestion. Just mix one packet daily into 16 ounces of your favorite hot or cold beverage. Some reviews on Amazon have noted a slightly bitter aftertaste with water, but bar that the reception is very positive. Unfortunately, this product is more expensive than the capsule form at $54.35 for 30 servings. Yet unlike other powder products, their website provides full transparency on the team of expertise Tru Niagen works with to produce high-quality, safe products.
Nicotinamide Powder Runner Up
Liftmode NR Powder contains 250 mg of nicotinamide riboside per serving, although the scooping directions are somewhat imprecise. Liftmode uses independent laboratories in the US to test their product. Product size ranges from a 1g tub at $16.88 to a 10g at $84.88 and it is vegan, vegetarian, non-GMO, and gluten-free. Liftmode currently has no reviews on this product, which is slightly discouraging.
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