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Does Niagen (Nicotinamide Riboside) Work Against Aging?

Jon has a Ph.D in chemistry. Living an active outdoor lifestyle, he also has an interest in nutrition science and nature conservation.

What is Niagen?

In 2011 Chromadex developed and patented a method to mass produce a compound called nicotinamide riboside and gave it the brand name of Niagen. While nicotinamide riboside (a form of vitamin B3) has always been present in milk as a trace element, it has been considered too rare and expensive for any practical applications until Chromadex developed this way of synthesizing the compound relatively cheaply.

What makes nicotinamide riboside particularity interesting, is its ability to boost NAD+ (nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide) levels in both humans and other mammals, which is considered by many to be a keystone in slowing and even reversing aging to some extent.

The molecular formula of nicotinamide riboside aka Niagen.

The molecular formula of nicotinamide riboside aka Niagen.

Why is NAD+ so Important?

NAD+ is an important co-enzyme which every cell in our body depends on to fuel all basic functions, as it enables the transfer of energy from the foods we eat to vital cell functions. As we age our NAD+ levels drop significantly, causing communication breakdown between the nucleus and mitochondria in living cells. This causes impaired mitochondria function, which gives rise to a vicious cycle of mitochondrial depletion, ending with many of the physical symptoms of aging and disease.

NAD+ is also connected to many important proteins and regulators related to DNA repair, such as PARP, Sirtain 1 and Sirtain 3, with NAD+ levels affecting the activity of those proteins and regulators.

The pathway for NAD+ formation. NR stands for nicotinamide riboside aka Niagen

The pathway for NAD+ formation. NR stands for nicotinamide riboside aka Niagen

Benefits of Increased NAD+.

In a study performed in 2014, Dr. Sinclair and his team explored the effects of nicotinamide riboside on mice by administering a specific dose of nicotinamide riboside. The mice's NAD+ levels increased, restoring communication between the nucleus and mitochondria, thus breaking this cycle of mitochondria depletion and reversing some signs of aging in mice.

Another study found that by increasing the NAD+ levels in mice, breast cancer development was dramatically slowed down, resulting in a longer life for the mice (1). It's important to note that this does not mean that elevated NAD+ cures cancer, it merely hinders the growth of cancer in mice and may prevent it from starting in the first place. Human trials are expected to begin soon and will hopefully show the same benefits in humans with breast cancer as well as other forms of cancer.

A third study showed that increased NAD+ largely prevented the detrimental metabolic effects of high-fat feeding, enhancing mitochondrial function, endurance performance and reduced cholesterol levels in mice (2).

Elevated NAD+ has an amazing effect on old lab mice.

Elevated NAD+ has an amazing effect on old lab mice.

Furthermore, low NAD+ levels have been linked to the following in humans:

  • Quicker aging
  • Increased sunburn and skin cancer
  • Increased visceral fat storage (increased belly fat)
  • Increased blood sugar levels and metabolic syndrome
  • Worsening cardiovascular diseases
  • Increased fat storage in the liver

With all this in mind one can expect at least some positive effects from supplementing on Niagen to boost NAD+ levels, which leads us to the big question. Does Niagen work against aging?

Effect of Elevated NAD+ on Human Lifespan

There have been no human trials to verify this yet, as such trials are by nature very long term studies. However, elevating NAD+ has been shown to extend lifespan in addition to improving both mitochondrial and stem cell function in mice (3).

What has been confirmed is that nicotinamide riboside does increase the NAD+ levels in humans by up to 90% (4). Importantly, one of the roles of NAD+ is connected to the activity of PARP (Poly ADP ribose polymerase) which is an enzyme that repairs DNA, with higher NAD+ levels increasing PARP activity. Also, a correlation between PARP activity and lifespan between 13 mammalian species has been shown, were the longest living mammal (humans) have 5X the PARP activity as the shortest-lived mammal (rats) in the study (5).

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This hints at the possibility that supplementing with nicotinamide riboside could, barring all illness and accidents, extend the natural lifetime of humans. It is however important to stress that this has not been tested in any study so far.

As we age NAD+ levels drop. Niagen has been shown to reverse this.

As we age NAD+ levels drop. Niagen has been shown to reverse this.

What is an Effective Dosage of Niagen and is it Safe?

The FDA has granted nicotinamide riboside a generally recognized as safe status with a clinical study showing no adverse effects at 300 mg/kg/day. Using the FDA guidelines this converts to a safe dosage of 2.215 mg per pound or about 440 mg for a 200-pound person.

An effective dosage is dependent on age and weight, with older and heavier persons needing more to reach optimum levels. At the moment, there are no clear guidelines on an optimum dosage of Niagen for humans, but relevant studies are being done. Studies which have already been completed hint that the best dosage would lie somewhere in the range of 250 - 500 mg for the average person. Still at this point it is best to follow the recommendations on the products label (usually 250 mg per day) as much is still unclear in regard to an optimal dosage.

What is the Difference Between Niagen Brands?

Being the only commercial source of Niagen, Chromadex authorizes certain companies to market products containing Niagen, such as Elysium with their Basis Product and HPN with their 125 mg Niagen capsules. Since every commercially available Niagen originates from Chromadex, there is no difference in the Niagen between brands. Some brands have however added other compounds to their products, such as Elysium adding 50 mg of Pterostilbene to each Basis capsule.

Having said that, there have been anecdotal reports of varying effects within certain brands. One such, from a long time user of Niagen, stated that he experienced different effects shortly after taking his pills depending on the bottle he was using within the same brand. That particular brand, which he refused to name, may have poor quality control, resulting in vast differences of the amount of Niagen in each production batch. Therefore, I would recommend using only trusted brands with a proven record to ensure you are getting the correct amount of Niagen listed on the label.

A bottle of Niagen from HPN with a few capsules shown.

A bottle of Niagen from HPN with a few capsules shown.

My Own Experience With Niagen.

My own experience with Niagen has been a positive one. By taking 250 mg a day, each morning before breakfast, I have noticed the following:

  • I feel less fatigued on a daily basis, not that I don't get tired, the effect is more like I am able to recover somewhat faster from ordeals
  • Being a regular gym goer, I feel as if my muscles recover faster after running or weight lifting.
  • My cholesterol levels, which were to high, dropped somewhat.

Nevertheless, it is important to remember that all such experiences might be due to the placebo effect or some other causes. Only through a detailed double-blind study can we be sure of the effects of this exciting supplement.

If you are already using Niagen daily I would love to hear about your experience with it and if you have any questions please use the comments below.

© 2017 Jon Sigurdsson

Questions? Comments?

Amin on October 14, 2017:

I started using Niagen 5 days ago. I feel a great improvement in my energy. Before i was tired very often and had some pain in my feet. All that disappeared.

Doug wilks. on July 08, 2017:

I am 77 and taking around 700 mg. Most notably the pre cancer growth on my head and hand have decreases in size almost disappeared. Seems like my memory and other mental functions have improved. I seldom get sore from exercise. I have always been active and slender. Don't know that it has improved my energy level. I'm now wondering if taking 125 mg before bed causes me to lay awake after a few hours of sleep.

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