The search for the elusive fountain of youth is as old as man itself. Very few of us enjoy watching ourselves age, and while our outsides provide clear evidence of the ravages of time, on the inside we’re aging just as quickly – if not more so – as our cells break down and our organs age. Several studies have found that restricting calorie intake in the long-term by about 30 percent can slow down this process, extending lifespan and preventing many chronic diseases. However, very few of us have the discipline for this restrictive type of diet, and for some people it would be a positively unhealthy way to live. Besides, who wants to live longer but never be able to eat anything?
But there might be a shortcut, one that has the additional benefit of lowering blood pressure and improving arterial health. A study by researchers from the University of Colorado Boulder, published in the journal Nature Communications, found that daily consumption of a dietary supplement called nicotinomide riboside (NR), a form of vitamin B3, mimics the anti-aging effects of calorie restriction, providing the same health benefits.
A shortcut to the fountain of youth?
The researchers included 24 lean and healthy Boulder-area men and women between the ages of 55 and 79 in their study. Twelve of these were given a placebo for the first six weeks, followed by 500 milligrams of NR chloride (NIAGEN) twice a day for a further six weeks. The other 12 were first given the supplement for six weeks and then the placebo for the final six-week period. Blood samples and other health tests were taken after each treatment period and no adverse effects were reported by the participants.
Integrative Practitioner reported on the results:
The researchers found that 1,000 mg daily of NR boosted levels of another compound called nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD+) by 60 percent. NAD+ is required for activation of enzymes called sirtuins, which are largely credited with the beneficial effects of calorie restriction. It’s involved in a host of metabolic actions throughout the body, but it tends to decline with age.
Research suggests that as an evolutionary survival mechanism, the body conserves NAD+ when subjected to calorie restriction. But only recently have scientists begun to explore the idea of supplementing with so-called “NAD+-precursors” like NR to promote healthy aging.
The study’s senior author, Professor Doug Seals, noted that this was the first ever study of its kind in humans, and that the supplement was well tolerated and appeared to activate some of the same important biological pathways that are activated by calorie restriction. (Related: Blueberries contain a specific substance that can prolong your life.)
The study’s lead author, Chris Martens, who was a postdoctoral fellow at the university at the time of the study, added, “The idea is that by supplementing older adults with NR, we are not only restoring something that is lost with aging (NAD+), but we could potentially be ramping up the activity of enzymes responsible for helping protect our bodies from stress.”
An important – but perhaps unexpected – finding of the study was the fact that the 13 participants who had mildly elevated blood pressure levels at the start of the study benefited from an average 10-point reduction in their systolic blood pressure readings as a result of receiving the supplementation. That translates to a whopping 25 percent reduction in heart attack risk!
While the authors stress that the study was only a pilot and was small in scope, it certainly provides a tantalizing glimpse at the chance that humans could live longer, healthier lives in the near future.