What is Niagen?
Niagen is the brand name of Nicotinamide Riboside (NR), a naturally-occurring form of Vitamin B3 (Niacin). NR has been attracting lots of attention from researchers of late as a result of some astounding studies which have demonstrated its key role in blood sugar management, weight management, endurance, performance, cardiovascular health and extended longevity.
Yes, you read that right. Extended longevity. Most of the buzz about NR arose after the 2013 publication of a paper by a Harvard-led team of researchers who were studying the process of cellular aging. The Harvard team, working in conjunction with the National Institute on Aging and the University of New South Wales, demonstrated that NR could rewind aspects of age-related health conditions in mice.
The research team called their paper “A New—and Reversible—Cause of Aging.” Scientists around the world soon began to hail NR as one of the most significant discoveries of 2013. This event kicked off an explosion of NR research which has shown it to be a surprisingly effective treatment for a plethora of health conditions in mice.
NR works by boosting levels of a coenzyme known as NAD+, which is short for Nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide. To understand the impact of that, it is necessary first to understand what NAD+ does and why it is essential in the human body.
NAD+ is found in all living cells. NAD+ is needed for converting fuel to energy with the cells and is known to decline with age. It plays a vital role in cellular metabolism within the mitochondria by transferring electrons between molecules.
Mitochondria are often referred to as the “powerhouses of the cell”. They are cell organs that act much like a digestive system, taking in nutrients, breaking them down, and creating energy-rich molecules for the cell. When the cell’s mitochondria cease to function, the cell dies.
This is where NAD+ comes in. NAD+ is vital to maintaining the efficiency and health of mitochondria. When NAD+ levels in the body decline, as occurs naturally with age, so do the number and density of mitochondria, and mitochondrial functions are impaired. Health issues related to declining NAD+ levels include:
- Type 2 diabetes
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Neural cognitive dysfunction
- Inflammation of vascular systems leading to hypertension, heart attack and stroke
- Fatty liver
- Increase in belly fat
- Increased blood sugar levels, Insulin resistance, and metabolic syndrome
- Increased fatigue and loss of muscle strength
Quick recap: NR increases levels of NAD+, which typically start to drop off as we age. NAD+ is what keeps the mitochondria working efficiently, and mitochondria fuel the cells. Without enough healthy mitochondria, numerous adverse health conditions arise, many of which tend to be associated with aging.
What about the converse? In other words, what happens when NAD+ levels increase?
This is where it gets really cool and what jump-started the mounting excitement about NR within the scientific community.
New research studies in mice have suggested that stimulating mitochondrial function by increasing the production of NAD+ with NR is directly related to preventing and even reversing many of the adverse effects of the above list of health conditions caused by low levels of NAD+. Again, that includes Type 2 diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, cognitive dysfunction, hypertension, heart attack, stroke, fatty liver, increased belly fat, increased blood sugar, fatigue, and muscle weakness.
Does Niagen really work?
Yes. NIAGEN has been scientifically proven to raise levels of NAD+ in humans. A single dose has been shown to increase NAD+ levels in human subjects by 30-50%.
There is a lot of scientific research to back up the claim that using Niagen as an NR supplement will produce all the benefits associated with increased NAD+ levels. However, it is important to note that thus far this has only been demonstrated in mice. Still, human trials are underway and, at this point, scientists are optimistic that the same benefits they have seen in mice will also be seen in humans.
Below is a summary of some of the promising research that supports the benefits of NR.
Harvard Medical School
Now we can return to our Harvard researchers and their science of aging study. They performed their research in conjunction with the National Institute on Aging and the University of New South Wales.
Through the course of their experiments, they discovered that boosting the NAD+ levels of mice by administering NR caused the muscles of two-year-old mice to resemble those of six-month-old mice. This was after only one week administrating NR. As has been pointed out by others, this is the equivalent of a 60-year-old’s mitochondria becoming more like those of a 20-year-old. In one week.
The team reported its findings in a ground-breaking paper that was published in 2013 in the scientific journal Cell. In this paper, they presented their discovery of NR as an NAD+ booster along with additional findings regarding the important role of NAD+ (and therefore NR) in aging.
In the words of the study’s authors, the mitochondria were “rejuvenated” as a result of the administration of an NAD+ booster. The excitement in the scientific community was immediate.
Charles Brenner, Ph.D., Professor and Chair of Biochemistry at the University Of Iowa Carver College Of Medicine, put it like this:
“There is a real fascination right now in the world of personalized nutrition, biotechnology, and pharmaceutical research to find strategies to boost NAD+ levels. NR has emerged as the lead molecule to elevate NAD+ metabolites.”
The Harvard research spawned an explosion of amazing new research by scientists, including Brenner, who have since been studying the effect of NR on other health conditions.
Ecole Polytechnique Federale
Even before the Harvard paper came out, a group of French and Swiss researchers presented research showing that mice that were given NR and then placed on high-fat diets gained 60% less weight than they did on the same diets with NR. None showed signs of developing diabetes, and their energy levels and endurance were improved.
These scientists characterized NR’s effects on metabolism as “nothing short of astonishing.”
Weill Cornell Medical College and Gladstone Institutes
Shortly after the Harvard research came out, a research team from Weill Cornell Medical College and the Gladstone Institutes began studying the use of NR in preventing noise-induced hearing loss. In December 2014, the scientific journal Cell Metabolism published their findings that the administration of NR prevented noise-induced hearing loss in mice.
Noise-induced hearing loss occurs when exposure to loud noises damages the synapses connecting the nerves and the hair cells in the cochlea. The researchers endeavored to see if they could prevent this nerve damage by giving mice NR before or after exposing them to loud noises. What they found was that NR was in fact successful at preventing the nerve damage, avoiding both short-term and long-term hearing loss.
What’s more, they also found that NR was effective regardless of whether it was given before or after the noise exposure.
The first author of the paper was Kevin Brown, MD, Ph.D., associate professor of otolaryngology-head and neck surgery at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine. According to Brown:
“One of the major limitations in managing disorders of the inner ear, including hearing loss, is there are a very limited number of treatment options. This discovery identifies a unique pathway and a potential drug therapy to treat noise-induced hearing loss.”
The researchers believe their findings could have broader applications beyond preventing hearing loss. This is due to the underlying way NR protects nerve cells. The scientists showed that NR and NAD+ increase the activity of the protein sirtuin 3 (SIRT3), which has a critical involvement in mitochondrial function.
Dr. Verdin, an investigator at the Gladstone Institute of Virology and Immunology and professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, had this to say:
“The success of this study suggests that targeting SIRT3 using NR could be a viable target for treating all sorts of aging-related disorders—not only hearing loss but also metabolic syndromes like obesity, pulmonary hypertension, and even diabetes.”
University of Helsinki
In 2014 a research team from the University of Helsinki published results of a study they performed to investigate NR as a possible treatment of Mitochondrial Myopathy. NR had already been shown by the Harvard researchers to be involved in maintaining mitochondrial health.
Based on the findings from the Harvard study, the Helsinki researchers were hoping NR might be helpful in the treatment of adult-onset mitochondrial disorders. Mitochondrial myopathy, one of the most common of these disorders, is progressive in nature and has long been considered to be incurable.
The Helsinki team found that administration of NR as an oral supplement efficiently prevented development and progression of mitochondrial myopathy in mice, even in mice that already manifested the disease. The team called these results “remarkable.”
“… they underline the utmost importance of specific vitamin cofactors as modifiers of metabolism in disease, and emphasize the role of nutritional signaling in the pathogenesis of adult-onset mitochondrial disorders.”
University of Iowa Medical School
In early 2016, researchers at the University of Iowa and the Iowa City VA Health Care System, led by Dr. Brenner, published their research findings that NR can lower blood sugar levels, reduce fatty liver, and prevent peripheral nerve damage in mice with prediabetes and type 2 diabetes.
The team studied six groups of mice, including diabetic, prediabetic, and healthy mice. Some were fed healthy diets, some were fed high-fat diets and some in each group were given an NR supplement and some not. What they found was the NR substantially protected the diabetic and prediabetic mice from weight gain due to the high-fat diet.
It also showed that NR had other benefits on whole body metabolism. It protected all the high-fat fed mice from fatty liver and liver damage. It also significantly improved blood sugar levels in all the mice and protected the prediabetic and diabetic mice against common and serious complications of diabetes such as painful peripheral nerve damage.
The study’s author presented the following conclusion:
“We have successfully addressed mouse models of prediabetes and type 2 diabetes with the naturally occurring vitamin NR. What we have seen to date in mice justifies clinical testing of NR in overweight adults and adults with diabetes.”
This is the “but wait, there’s more!” section.
In addition to the above, there has been research at other leading universities, including Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Mayo Clinic, demonstrating NR’s role in increased endurance due to enhanced mitochondrial functioning, improved cognitive function due to protection against age-related axonal degeneration, and improved cardiovascular health since NAD+ boosters are known to have beneficial effects on blood lipid levels.
Again, all of the NR research described involved mice. ChromaDex, the company that launched and controls the patents for Niagen, began conducting clinical studies with humans in July 2014.
In a press release ChromaDex stated the following:
“The ongoing research on the role of NAD+ in a wide range of health conditions is ushering in a new era in which nutritional supplementation is focused less on treating individual diseases and more on improving health at the most basic level – the cell and its energy powerhouses, the mitochondria.”
What are the ingredients in Niagen?
Patents on the commercial production of NR are controlled by Chromadex, who market NR under the brand name Niagen. They license several companies to bottle and distribute Niagen and there is not much difference in the ingredients across all brands of Niagen products.
There are minor differences as manufacturers use different capsule sizes, and some add fillers to aid in the bottling process and/or preservatives to extend shelf life. For almost all brands, the sole ingredient inside the Niagen capsule is NR.
BASIS by Elysium Health is the only brand on the market so far that uses a different ingredient formula. They add pterostilbene, a kind of resveratrol, that they claim increases the supplement’s effectiveness.
Is Niagen safe to use?
Short answer: So far, it seems to be.According to a safety study published in January 2016, there have been no reported health issues associated with NR at dosages up to 3,000 mg per day. Currently, the recommended dosage is 500 mg per day. There is, however, a study currently underway to validate the best and maximum recommended dosages.
It is important to keep in mind, that NR is a very new supplement without a history, so it is advisable to remain on the lookout for new research.
What are the benefits of Niagen?
Below are some of the benefits of Niagen that have been proven to occur in studies with mice.
- Reversed indications of aging in muscles
- Cardiovascular health
- Improved Energy
- Decreased Muscle Soreness
- Improved Memory
- Better Sleep
- Enhanced Hearing and Vision
- As of now, the following benefits have been proven in human subjects:
- Protection from hearing damage
- Increased NAD+ levels
All research completed to date has been positive, but testing with humans is much slower. Much more testing of Niagen is underway, including:
- Weight loss
- Improved memory
- Neuroprotection for college football players for protection against concussion
- Endurance for athletic performance
What are the side-effects of Niagen?
Thus far, there have been no reported side effects of any kind in dosages less than 3,000 mg per day.
Again, it is important to consider that NR is a very new supplement without a history, so it is advisable to remain on the lookout for new research.
Why should you use Niagen?
Preliminary research shows that Niagen’s ability to increase NAD+ could have an immensely positive impact on how we age, as well as our overall health.
On the other hand, it is important to keep in mind that nearly all research has been conducted on mice. As such, there’s no way to know if these same benefits will transfer over to humans, at least not yet.
Still, with no known side effects or dangers, it is definitely worth a try.
What is the Niagen pricing and refund policy?
Niagen®’s patent-holder, Chromadex, regulates the retail pricing for all the brands who bottle and distribute it. However, the brands do differ in their pricing options and quantities. Remember, the recommended dosage is 500 mg per day.
Below are the Niagen products, along with their current pricing model and quantities.
HPN offers quantity deals for 3-bottle and 6-bottle packages. Also, each bottle contains 60 250 mg capsules, so it lasts for 30 days.
Live Cell Research has a good price for single bottle purchase, but a single bottle contains 30 250 mg capsules, so it only lasts for 15 days. It offers a quantity discount for a 2-bottle package which would last 30 days.
Life Extension offers its product in 100 mg capsules. A single bottle contains 30, so it will only last for 6 days. Life Extension does offer a quantity discount for a 2-bottle package, but that package will only last 12 days.
BASIS is the only Niagen® product you can buy that uses a different formula. Because of this, it is also the most expensive. Quantity discounts are not offered, and the capsules contain a 30 day supply at 250 mg per capsule.
Doctors Best does not offer quantity discounts and their capsules only contain 75 mg of NR. They claim their bottle will last 30 days, but that is based on their recommended dosage which is only 150 mg.
F1rst will be available soon at GNC stores. So far no quantity discounts have been announced. The capsules will contain 100 mg.
None of the above brands are currently offering a refund policy.