Scientists have long known about a true “fountain of youth’’… a way to increase lifespan beyond the normal range.
The problem is, few people want to do it because it’s so difficult.
Eating drastically fewer calories—about 30% fewer than normal—has been shown to make animals and humans live longer. It also prevents age-related diseases.
Studies have found that calorie restriction makes animals and humans live longer. It also prevents age-related diseases.i ii
But who wants a longer life if it means living with severe hunger every day?
Now, researchers have discovered that there may be a way to get the longevity benefits of calorie restriction without starving yourself.
Scientists at the University of Colorado, Boulder studied the effects of a natural supplement called nicotinamide riboside (NR). It is a form of vitamin B3.
The researchers split subjects into two groups. Half were given a placebo for six weeks. Then they took 500 mg of NR twice a day. The other group reversed the order. They first took NR for six weeks. Then they took the placebo.
During the study, all participants ate their usual diet. They didn’t change their exercise habits, either. Throughout the study, their health was closely monitored with blood tests and other measurements.
Does This Supplement Slow Aging?
The researchers found that when the participants took NR, they raised their levels of a compound that is closely linked with cell youthfulness.
It’s called nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD+). Taking NR raised the subjects’ levels by about 60%. During a calorie-restricted diet, this compound increases by about the same amount.
NAD+ allows the mitochondria, the power station within the cells, to ramp up production.iii
When NAD+ is plentiful, it activates an important group of longevity-promoting enzymes called sirtuins. They improve the metabolic action of the cells throughout the body.
Sirtuins keep the body functioning efficiently. As we age, the enzyme levels decline and our metabolic functioning deteriorates as a result.iv
Dr. Chris Martens is a postdoctoral fellow at CU Boulder. He led the study. “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,” he said.
The study concluded that NR “appears to activate some of the same key biological pathways that calorie restriction does.”
Calorie restriction comes with side effects that make it difficult to follow. Besides hunger pangs, people may suffer fatigue, dizziness, insomnia, weakness, mental fogginess, and hair loss. NR, however, was well-tolerated by study subjects. There were no reported side effects.v
The study was published in the journal Nature Communications.
25% Reduction in Heart Attack Risk
Besides improving a key marker of longevity, taking NR also reduced blood pressure in subjects with hypertension. They had an average drop of 10 points when taking the supplements. The researchers said this translates to 25% reduction in heart attack risk.vi
And the researchers found that NR improved aortic artery flexibility. Lack of blood vessel flexibility is one of the hallmarks of aging. It is a major risk factor for a heart attack or stroke.vii
Where to Get NR
It is widely available online and at health food stores. Sometimes it is sold as Niagen or NAD+. It typically comes in capsule form. Follow the dosage on the label.
Nicotinamide riboside supplements have few, if any, side effects. But some people have reported mild nausea, fatigue, or headaches.
NR may be the painless way to get the get the benefits of calorie restriction without the suffering that goes along with being constantly hungry.
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