Often dubbed the "healthy aging" vitamin, nicotinamide riboside (NR) is a novel form of vitamin B3 that improves the way we age.
To understand how we age, we have to look at our bodies' underlying core processes. As we age, our bodies slow down. Our joints ache, our muscles grow weary, and the way we sleep and eat changes.
But the true culprits of how we age lie deep within our cells. Cells are the foundation of our biology, and improving their efficiency may hold the key to answer the fundamental question, "Is there a way for us to reverse aging?"
Nicotinamide riboside (NR) supports our mitochondria.
No miracle pill reverses aging, but scientists began investigating a specific organelle in the cell, called the mitochondria.
Research shows we make fewer mitochondria as we age and have attributed mitochondrial dysfunction as one of the hallmarks of aging.
You may remember mitochondria from your high school biology class. These tiny yet powerful factories are responsible for producing 90% of your cell's energy. Without our mitochondria, we would not exist as the complex organisms we are today.
Vitamin B3 is a necessary nutrient that supports normal mitochondria function. Although there are other variants of vitamin B3, nicotinamide riboside is the most efficient form, like premium-grade fuel at a gas pump.
Nicotinamide riboside (NR) boosts NAD+ effectively.
A significant reason why nicotinamide riboside is closely associated with aging research is because of the vitamin's unique ability to increase NAD+ efficiently.
NAD+ is required for specific enzymes in your mitochondria, playing a direct role in your cell's energy creation.
Unfortunately, there is evidence to suggest that age has a direct correlation to our NAD+ levels. Research from the University of New South Wales uncovered NAD+ levels decline by over 50% between the ages of 40 and 60, and low levels of NAD+ are linked to mitochondrial inefficiency.
Thankfully, a review paper published in the Translational Medicine of Aging shows the positive potential of boosting NAD+. The review states,
"NAD+ replenishment may serve as a potential therapeutic strategy for aging and multiple conditions to improve the quality of life of the increasing aged population."
Why don't we take more NAD+?
Unfortunately, it's not so simple. NAD+ is very difficult to maintain in capsule form, and there are questions around its potency as a supplement. The molecule quickly degrades when exposed to light and heat and deteriorates when exposed to water.
Even if it were to maintain its pill form, your body doesn't appear to take NAD+ as readily. A paper in the Journal of Nutritional Science and Vitaminology shows that our digestive process breaks down orally-administered NAD+ into common NAD+ precursors before the cells get a chance to absorb it.
To simplify the process for our bodies, researchers have examined NAD+ precursors instead. NAD+ precursors already exist in the staple diet today as vitamin B3.
However, most of the available vitamin B3 comes in the form of niacin. Niacin has been around for some time, but its unsightly symptom of skin flushing challenged researchers to look elsewhere.
Nicotinamide riboside is favored because it's absent of these skin flushing effects, but it also raises NAD+ more efficiently than other vitamin B3s.
Nicotinamide riboside (NR) fights the effects of damaging free radicals.
Your mitochondria aren't perfect mechanisms. During their energy-making process, mitochondria produce byproducts—free radicals.
Free radicals can wreak havoc on your cells, damaging essential cell functions.
In standard settings, your body naturally produces enough antioxidants to combat these free radicals. However, certain situations of metabolic stress can tip the scales.
How does this happen? Your body requires significant energy resources to combat and recover from these activities, so your mitochondria kick into overdrive to provide the energy and offset the sudden demand.
By boosting NAD+, nicotinamide riboside can help limit free radical damage.
Nicotinamide riboside (NR) promotes cell repair.
Nicotinamide riboside activates sirtuin activity in the cell. Sirtuins are a class of enzymes in the body responsible for gene regulation, the systemic process of turning certain parts of your genetic code on and off.
Why is this system important? Turning off specific genes, aka "silencing," is critical to regulating the cell, maintaining its shape and health for optimal function.
But sirtuins play a critical role in cell repair as well. A review published in the Current Opinion in Genetics & Development states,
“In the past decade, the roles of sirtuins in maintaining genomic stability have been described, as regulators of DNA repair pathways, chromatin structure, and telomere maintenance.”
Like the mitochondrial enzymes, sirtuins cannot operate without the help of the coenzyme NAD+. And nicotinamide riboside helps boost NAD+, activating cell repair in effect.
Nicotinamide riboside (NR) supports heart health.
Your heart is one of the most critical organs in your body, requiring loads of energy to sustain your heartbeat.
Being one of the most energy-expensive functions in the body, thousands of mitochondria churn out energy in your heart cells.
However, your heart's physiology can change with age. Your valves can become stiff, your heart walls can grow thick, and your heart's mitochondria can become less efficient.
A review from Circulation Research shows that your mitochondrial count in cardiac cells declines as you age. Fewer mitochondria leave less help to divide the work—the labor of generating energy for your heart cells.
In combination with a healthy diet and exercise lifestyle, nicotinamide riboside supports your heart health by supporting your mitochondria.
Nicotinamide riboside (NR) helps support healthy muscles.
When you think about how nicotinamide riboside fuels your body's cellular energy, the first thing you might wonder is how it affects your workout.
Like the heart, your muscle cells require thousands of mitochondria because of their unique energy demand. And where there are mitochondria, there needs to be an abundant amount of NAD+.
A review published in Skeletal Muscle notes the need for NAD+ in muscle development. The abstract states,
"The vast majority of studies indicate that lower NAD+ levels are deleterious for muscle health and higher NAD+ levels augment muscle health."
But muscle function isn't all about energy and its expense. Every workout needs a recovery period, and with it comes sore muscles and a bag of ice. How does NAD+ play a role post-exercise?
According to a review published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences, the NAD-dependent enzymes, sirtuins, play a critical role in muscle repair. In response to exercise, sirtuins activate two functions that enable the body to be more readily prepared for your next workout: (1) mitochondrial biogenesis and (2) oxidative capacity.
(1) Mitochondrial biogenesis is a process where the body creates more mitochondria. With more mitochondria, the body is more readily capable of supporting the increase in energy demand that comes with exercise.
(2) Oxidative capacity is a measure of a muscle's maximal capacity to use oxygen. With higher oxidative capacity, the muscle can exert greater efficiency.
Nicotinamide riboside is the most efficient way to boost NAD+, best serving these NAD-dependent mechanisms in muscle cells.
Nicotinamide riboside (NR) promotes healthy aging.
"Anti-aging" is a marketing gimmick. There are no products out there that can effectively reverse the aging process. Instead, the World Health Organization (WHO) is focused on promoting the idea of healthy aging.
The WHO defines healthy aging as "the process of developing and maintaining the functional ability that enables wellbeing in older age."
Healthy aging is about maximizing your lifetime to its fullest potential, retaining your independence and mobility.
Nicotinamide riboside is classified as a healthy aging supplement because of its unique ability to support health on a cellular level at any age. By targeting the maintenance of cells, NR helps your cells sustain their resilience to aging.
Although being called the "anti-aging" pill is more of a misnomer, nicotinamide riboside's unique role in countering everyday wear and tear directly contributes to anyone's desire to age gracefully.