When you consume nicotinamide riboside, a compound related to niacin (vitamin B3), it can energize the neurons in your brain and help your memory stay sharper — especially as you age.
Added to that, some researchers have produced evidence that taking this supplement could possibly defend against neurological problems like Parkinson’s.
And these are just some of the latest findings that lend extra credence to what alternative practitioners have known for quite a while – B vitamins are important for maintaining a healthy brain.
Recently, we’ve written about the positive impact B vitamins such as vitamin B6 have on brain cells. Today, we’ll take a look at the surprising benefits of another little-known B vitamin.
Studies have shown that consuming nicotinamide riboside (vitamin B3) increases the body’s levels of nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD), a nutrient that’s crucial for maintaining cellular energy supplies derived from mitochondria (organelles that fuel each cell’s activities).
The NAD the body makes from nicotinamide riboside also supports the repair of DNA damage and produces important epigentic effects that influence how genes are expressed. In addition, laboratory tests have linked increased life expectancy and healthier old age to higher NAD levels.1
Supports Memory And Learning
A review study by researchers in Australia explains how a wealth of lab tests have indicated that this compound can defend against harmful inflammation in the brain, help the blood-brain barrier keep toxins out of brain tissue and improve the functions of the hippocampus (an important memory center), while improving memory and learning.2
And in other research, Norwegian scientists have looked more closely at how nicotinamide riboside produces its brain benefits by increasing the amount of NAD in neurons.
In this study, researchers spent a month giving 30 people with early Parkinson’s disease a daily helping of either 1,000 mg of nicotinamide riboside or a placebo (a non-active substance).
At the end of that month, the people taking nicotinamide riboside supplements had significantly higher levels of NAD in their brain cells as well as improved metabolism in neurons and less brain inflammation as indicated by substances in the fluid that enveloped their brain and spinal cord.
The scientists also found that the higher levels of NAD were associated with mild — but significant — improvements of the study subjects’ Parkinson’s symptoms.3 “We believe that augmenting the brain’s NAD metabolism will not only target and rectify disease-related processes specific to Parkinson’s disease, but may also optimize neuronal metabolism and fortify neurons, rendering them more resilient against age-related stress and neurodegenerative diseases,” says researcher Charalampos Tzoulis, PhD, who is with the University of Bergen. “The results of the trial are highly encouraging and nominate nicotinamide riboside as a potential neuroprotective therapy for Parkinson’s.”
And the Norwegian scientists have already started further clinical trials of nicotinamide riboside.
Improving Brain And Brawn
Along with strengthening the brain, other studies are showing that nicotinamide riboside can help strengthen aging muscles.
According to research in Europe, bumping up NAD in our bodies by consuming nicotinamide riboside could defend against the misfolding of proteins in muscle tissue that becomes more common in aging. That distortion of proteins weakens muscles and can lead to disabling fraility with the passing years.4
As we get older, says researcher Johan Auwerx, PhD, who is with the École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland, “Our cells struggle to maintain correct protein folding, leading these misfolded proteins to precipitate and forming toxic protein aggregates within the muscles. The most prominent component of these protein aggregates is beta-amyloid, just like in the amyloid plaques in the brains of patients with Alzheimer’s disease.”
Dr. Auwerx’s research also shows that nicotinamide riboside switches on the defense systems of mitochondria which helps muscles perform better and can improve fitness and life expectancy.
A Promising Future For Nicotinamide Riboside
The research into the benefits of nicotinamide riboside is moving ahead at warp speed.
According to a review study in Europe, clinical trials right now are under way to better understand the potential for using this simple B vitamin in treating cardiovascular problems, supporting better cognitive and neural function, dealing with diabetes and other metabolic problems, relieving muscular and kidney injuries, and improving the symptoms of aging.5
Foods relatively high in nicotinamide riboside include whole grains, fish, dairy products, yeast and green vegetables.
Right now, supplements of nicotinamide riboside are expensive. But these European researchers believe as interest in this compound continues to grow and it becomes increasingly available, the vitamin will become more affordable.