Have you heard about NIAGEN®? As the first and only commercially available “NAD+ booster,” NIAGEN made headlines late in 2014 when an animal study demonstrated it had unique mitochondria-enhancing and anti-aging activities. Now, researchers have announced promising early results of a new clinical trial that suggests NIAGEN may have the same beneficial effects in humans.
Based on this new study, scientists are proposing that NIAGEN may increase our mitochondrial power in multiple ways: It may “charge” mitochondria to fire with peak energy, promote youthful performance of mitochondria, and “fertilize” mitochondria to proliferate efficiently throughout the body.
These mitochondria-supportive activities have compelled researchers to suggest NIAGEN as a potential therapy for a broad range of mitochondrial health concerns.1 Both Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) and Fibromyalgia (FM) fall under this category, having both been linked to mitochondrial dysfunction.2
How Does NIAGEN Help?
Backed by five patents, NIAGEN is a nutritional supplement that supplies bio-identical Nicotinamide riboside (NR), which is a naturally occurring metabolite of Vitamin B3 (niacin). NR is important for vitality because it acts as a precursor to NAD+, which is a coenzyme that catalyzes mitochondrial energy production.3
Of all the coenzymes in the body, NAD+ is believed by some scientists to be the very most important and effective for enhancing mitochondrial performance. This has made NAD+ a topic of interest among CFS and FM patients, all of whom contend with vitality challenges and other frustrating symptoms that may be traced back to poorly performing mitochondria.
When the body’s NAD+ levels decline, so does mitochondrial function – depleting adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the “cell energy currency” that powers all living things. In CFS patients, it has been shown that as mitochondrial function gets worse, low energy problems and other CFS symptoms grow more severe.4 In addition, in CFS/FM and other populations, poor mitochondrial performance is closely associated with accelerated aging.5
For these reasons and more, sustaining healthy NAD+ levels is important for all populations, but especially for CFS/FM patients and those seeking support for healthy aging – because NAD+ is a major contributor to overall cell energy production that also exhibits anti-aging effects within the mitochondria. Some scientists have suggested that if we can optimize our mitochondrial health by raising our levels of NAD+, we may unlock profound wellness benefits.
NIAGEN: A Better Way to Boost NAD+
Regular niacin has been suggested in the past to boost NAD+ while performing key roles in cell survival and cell longevity.6 However, the basic form of niacin is considered to have some limitations: It is hard to synthesize, can be diminished by poor diet, may be inefficient at raising NAD+, and may sometimes cause unpleasant “niacin flush” side effects.7
A patented advancement of NR, NIAGEN works like niacin, but is much more effective: It boosts NAD+ levels higher than niacin does, with greater efficiency than niacin, and without any “flushing” effects.
Beyond “charging” mitochondria, NAD+ appears to act as a “super fertilizer” for mitochondria – triggering and nourishing the proliferation of fresh, healthy new mitochondria throughout the entire body. Finally, NAD+’s ability to support youthful mitochondria performance while blocking certain aging enzymes may hold promise for anti-aging applications.
NIAGEN Study In Mice: Beneficial Activities
What might NIAGEN’s mitochondrial support mean for health and wellness? One animal study, co-sponsored by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), investigated how NR might affect mice afflicted with Cockayne Syndrome (CS), a condition linked to mitochondrial dysfunction that is associated with accelerated aging of the brain.8
In the study, researchers reported that NR appeared to be effective at restoring NAD+ to mitochondria in mice with CS, and concluded it may hold promise as a potential therapy for the condition. In addition, researchers reported that NAD+ appeared to activate an enzyme called SIRT1.9
Earlier research has shown SIRT1 is dependent on NAD+, and that low NAD+ levels appear to have a limiting effect on SIRT1 and related sirtuin enzymes.10 This is critically important because SIRT1 and other sirtuins are closely tied to the cellular aging process, including within mitochondria.
SIRT1 in particular may help stimulate the generation of new mitochondria, which has been theorized to boost the body’s metabolic rate and potentially slow the effects of aging.11 For these reasons, NAD+ dependent SIRT1 has been suggested to protect mammals from metabolic and age-related health concerns.12
NIAGEN Study in Humans: A One-Dose Wonder for NAD+
With NR showing intriguing benefits to mitochondria and SIRT1 in mice, researchers launched an investigation to see how it might work in humans. This study administered NIAGEN to human volunteers and then drew blood from them at random points over a span of 24 hours. Blood samples underwent metabolomic analysis at the University of Iowa under the direction of Dr. Charles Brunner.
At the study’s end, Brunner and his researchers reported that with NIAGEN, for the first time, NR had been shown to significantly raise NAD+ levels in humans. Notably, NR was also able to raise NAD+ levels after only one dose. Full study results, including the effective NR dosage range for humans, will be revealed when the study has been approved for journal publication. In the meantime, Brunner is calling for additional research based on his study’s positive results.
What NIAGEN Might Mean for CFS/FM
So what potential benefits might people experience by raising their blood NAD+ levels with NIAGEN? If the human study echoes the animal study as early results suggest, then NIAGEN may restore healthy NAD+ levels and activate SIRT1, which in turn may help to:
- Enhance mitochondria performance: NIAGEN may raise blood levels of NAD+, which is critical for cell energy metabolism and mitochondrial function.
- Boost mitochondria number: NIAGEN may help activate SIRT1 enzymes, which in turn enhance the proliferation of mitochondria – multiplying their life-energy output and restoring their youthful peak performance.
- Support healthy longevity: NIAGEN’s activation of SIRT1 enzymes may also mimic the effects of calorie restriction, the only clinically supported pathway for extending maximum life span.
For CFS/FM patients, whole-body enhancement of mitochondrial function may bring feelings of better day-to-day vitality, while activation of SIRT1 enzymes may quietly support healthy cell longevity behind the scenes.
Healthier mitochondrial performance is suggested to have additional health benefits too, across physical stamina, weight loss, heart health, mental sharpness and more.
The recent human study on NIAGEN is awaiting publication, but NIAGEN supplements are available in the meantime. NIAGEN is typically presented in capsule form, supplying a serving size of 500 mg Nicotinamide Riboside (NR).
- Castro-Marrero J, Cordero MD, et al. Could mitochondrial dysfunction be a differentiating marker between chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia? Antioxid Redox Signal. 2013 Nov 20;19(15):1855-60.
- Alberts B, Johnson A, et al. Molecular Biology of the Cell. New York: Garland Science, 2002. Excerpt.
- Bengtsson A, Henriksson KG. The muscle in fibromyalgia–a review of Swedish studies. J Rheumatol Suppl. 1989 Nov;19:144-149. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2680051/
- Dao-Fu Dai, Ying Ann Chiao. Mitochondrial oxidative stress in aging and healthspan. Longev Healthspan. 2014; 3: 6. Published online 2014 May 1
- Faqi Li, Zhao Zhong Chong. Cell Life Versus Cell Longevity: The Mysteries Surrounding the NAD+ Precursor Nicotinamide. Curr Med Chem. 2006; 13(8): 883–895.
- Scheibye-Knudsen M, Croteau D, Bohr V. Mitochondrial deficiency in Cockayne syndrome. Mechanisms of Ageing and Development. Volume 134, Issues 5–6, May–June 2013, Pages 275–283.
- Scheibye-Knudsen M, Mitchell S. A High-Fat Diet and NAD+ Activate Sirt1 to Rescue Premature Aging in Cockayne Syndrome. Cell Metabolism. Volume 20, Issue 5, p840–855, 4 November 2014.
- Denu JM. Vitamin B3 and sirtuin function. Trends Biochem Sci. 2005 Sep;30(9):479-83.
- Houtkooper R, Cantó C. The Secret Life of NAD+: An Old Metabolite Controlling New Metabolic Signaling Pathways. Endocr Rev. 2010 Apr; 31(2): 194–223. Published online 2009 Dec 9. doi: 10.1210/er.2009-0026
- Donohoe D, Bultman S. Metaboloepigenetics: Interrelationships between energy metabolism and epigenetic control of gene expression. J Cell Physiol. 2012 Sep; 227(9): 3169–3177.