As the human body ages, we naturally lose some of our functionality. For many aging people, losing cardiac function is a major concern. In fact, the main risk factor for developing cardiovascular disease (CVD) is age – the older you get, the more likely you are to experience a cardiac event. What’s more, CVD is the number one cause of sickness and death in industrial and post-industrial societies (1).
Although aging a natural part of life, at the same time, there are things we can do to slow the natural aging process and keep our hearts healthy. Recent studies show that taking a nicotinamide riboside supplement may help maintain heart function.
What is Nicotinamide Riboside (NR)?
Like niacin and nicotinamide, nicotinamide riboside (often shortened to NR) is a B3 vitamin. However, certain unique properties set NR apart from those forms of B3 (2). What’s more, in a pre-clinical study, NR proved to be more effective than either niacin or nicotinamide for boosting nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD+) levels. Also, unlike niacin, NR does not cause flushing (reddening of the skin).
Overall, pre-clinical trials show that NR is superior these standard forms of vitamin B3 (niacin and nicotinamide) (3). Marketed as NIAGEN by ChromaDex Corp., the company states that
Cells can use NR to create nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD+), which is an essential molecule found in every living cell (4).
Why NAD+ is Important
Clinical trials show that when taken as a supplement, NR can increase NAD+ levels in humans. What’s more, additional ongoing studies continue to investigate NR’s potential (4). Although aging is unavoidable, improving NAD+ levels as people age can potentially do several things to support healthy aging (4). Specifially NAD+ can:
- Increase cellular metabolism and energy production
- Help maintain healthy mitochondria
- Promote cellular repair
Even though scientists have known about NAD+ for over a century, its importance has only recently come to light. Without NAD+ the human body cannot properly generate energy from food. What’s more, research shows that this important molecule may decrease in our body’s as we age. In some cases, metabolic stress can lower NAD+ in your body. In fact, some researchers believe that decreasing NAD+ may lead to declines that we associate with aging (4).
Studies show that NR supplementation definitely raises NAD+ levels. In a 2018 study, 60 healthy middle-aged and older men and women between 55 and 79 years old were given either an oral NR supplement or an oral placebo. In the end, the NR supplement raised NAD+ levels by about 60% when compared to the placebo (1).
NR and Heart Function
Other studies point to NR’s heart-specific benefits. Last month, ChromaDex Corp. reported on a preclinical study done on mice which shows that NR supplementation helps maintain their heart function. NR does this by stimulating ‘the mitochondrial unfolded protein response’ (UPRmt).
This response (UPRmt) is the mechanism that helps mitochondria to function properly. The results of this independent study (led by Principal Investigators Prof. Ajay M. Shah and Dr. Ioannis Smyrnias from Kings College London) have been published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology (JACC) (5).
Specific to heart function, preliminary studies like the one above show that NR supplementation could help treat a range of age-related cardiac conditions, including heart failure. According to a 2018 research article published in the American Heart Association’s journal Circulation,
Myocardial metabolic impairment is a major feature in chronic heart failure. As the major coenzyme in fuel oxidation and oxidative phosphorylation and a substrate for enzymes signaling energy stress and oxidative stress response, nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD+) is emerging as a metabolic target in a number of diseases including heart failure (6).
Furthermore, the Circulation article lists some important clinical implications of a diet that includes NR supplementation (6):
- Could possibly help patients who have experienced heart failure to improve their myocardial ATP supply by improving NAD+ levels.
- Could also help improve muscle function and metabolic flexibility in individuals who are obese and/or suffer from diabetes mellitus making NR a great option for treating metabolic therapy of heart failure syndrome.
Taking a Nicotinamide Riboside Supplement to Stay Heart Healthy
Staying ‘heart healthy’ as we age has become increasingly important. Because of this, more and more people pay attention to their cardiac health. One way to potentially improve cardiac function and prevent cardiovascular disease (CVD) is by taking a nicotinamide riboside (NR) supplement.