IRVINE, Calif.—New discoveries in the quest for a more healthful aging process have emerged from ChromaDex Corp., and along with this, the company has released findings indicating that nicotinamide riboside (NR) is an essential precursor to cellular conversion to NAD+ (NAD being nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide and NAD+ the oxidized version). ChromaDex markets and sells nicotinamide riboside as an ingredient under the brand name Niagen.
“The body of scientific evidence confirming the importance of NAD+ in promoting healthy aging is overwhelming. With this established, we have seen the conversation shift from ‘How important is NAD+’ to ‘How do we most efficiently and effectively boost NAD+?’ NR continues to prove itself the leader over and over again,” says ChromaDex Founder and CEO Frank Jaksch.
NAD+ is a cellular co-enzyme critical for energy production and mitochondrial health. NAD+ activates cellular metabolism and energy production within the cell’s “power stations,” the mitochondria. Mitochondria are constantly working to convert the food we eat into the energy necessary to power all bodily systems as well as help us stay healthy enough to ward off illness. The challenge is that both NAD+ levels and mitochondrial functions decline as we age, fueling research into strategies for NAD+ repletion with B3 vitamins in order to maintain a youthful metabolism. Recent work that appeared in Nature Communications demonstrated that NR is not only the most efficient and effective B3 at upregulating NAD+, but it is also the most effective activator of longevity-promoting sirtuin proteins.
In 2011, Cornell University granted ChromaDex exclusive worldwide rights to a novel manufacturing process for NR, a vitamin found in milk that is a more potent version of niacin (or vitamin B3). Like niacin, NR is a precursor to NAD. Increasing cellular NAD has been shown to have cell-protective and positive metabolic effects. In laboratory tests, NR has demonstrated promise for improving cardiovascular health, glucose levels and cognitive function, in addition to showing evidence of anti-aging effects.
NR is converted to NAD+ in a two-step process initiated by NRK1, a gene discovered by leading NAD+ researcher Dr. Charles Brenner. Because the product of NRK1 is nicotinamide mononucleotide (NMN), Brenner noted that, “Some people believed that NMN would be better at boosting NAD+ levels because NMN comes after NR in the pathway.” Their theory was that NMN could diffuse or be transported into tissues such as the liver and be directly converted to NAD+. “But that theory doesn’t take into account how compounds get into cells,” Brenner explained.
By disabling NRK1 in laboratory mice, researchers found that NMN is converted to NR before entry into liver cells and cannot be converted to NAD+ without the presence of NRK1. These results explain why NR and NMN have similar benefits in protecting against metabolic disease, neurodegenerative disorders and physiological decline in mammals. Brenner stated, “Anything NMN does, NR is going to be able to do because NMN must become NR to get into cells.”
Roughly 10 years’ worth of preclinical research, together with recent clinical work in humans, have shown that supplementing with NR effectively boosts NAD+ levels. Brenner noted in a press release that “Neither NMN, niacin nor nicotinamide are more efficient than NR at boosting NAD+,” and that “Mega-doses of nicotinamide and ribose are not equivalent to NR because high doses of nicotinamide inhibit sirtuin activities.”