From $140.3 billion in 2015, the global anti-aging market has been predicted to rise to $216.52 billion in 2021.
And even Google has joined this “race against time,” with the founding of Calico which aims to come up with interventions that will slow aging and prevent age-related diseases.
Aging is a great mystery.
And it is also one of man’s deepest fears.
Even William Shakespeare called it “hideous winter.”
With old age comes so many vulnerabilities and diseases — and the painful realization of our mortality.
It’s no wonder, for centuries, mankind has been obsessed with finding the mythical fountain of youth.
It’s been the subject of arts, books, and movies. Alexander the Great was said to have made his own quest for it by crossing the land of eternal night. A 16th century Spanish explorer also gained fame for his exploit to find an island in the New World where such fountain was rumored to have been located, Juan Ponce de Leon.
Today, the world depends on cosmetics and drugs to maintain youth for as long as possible.
So it comes as no surprise that interest in anti-aging pills continues to increase with reports that even doctors and scientists are now taking these NAD+ (short for Nicotinamide Adenine Dinucleotide) booster pills to extend their own health span. In fact, Leonard Guarente’s Elysium Health, whose advisory board boasts seven Nobel Laureates in chemistry and physiology, claims that 10 percent of “Basis” users, a supplement in the form of a pill announced by Guarente’s firm two years ago, are doctors.
But, how potent these pills really are?
Nicotinamide Riboside and Niagen
Niagen is the brand name of a raw form of Nicotinamide Riboside (NR) that’s exclusively manufactured by Chromadex in the United States of America.
Based on scientific research, NR is one of the precursors of NAD+ which is the oxidized form of nicotinamide adenine that’s found in the cells of all living things.
NAD+ was first discovered by Nobel laureate Otto Warburg in the 1930’s, as a cofactor in fermentation (cozymase). However, it’s only in recent times that the world has come to realize the many potencies of high NAD+ levels in the cells, such as:
- Maximize metabolism for better health and prevention of metabolic diseases e.g. type 2 diabetes and obesity
- Level up mental and physical energy through enhanced development and efficiency of the mitochondria
- Promote activation of the gene sirtuin, particularly SIRT1 and SIRT3 –SIRT1 is responsible for a wide-range of physiological functions including control of gene expression, aging, insulin secretion, and metabolism while SIRT3 regulates numerous aspects of the functions of the mitochondria such as modulation of response to oxidative stress, and generation of ATP (adenosine triphosphate)
- Cause a regression on the effects of aging on the brain and improve cognitive abilities
- Repair damaged DNA
These potencies of NAD+ caught world attention in 2013, when Dr. David Sinclair conducted an experiment which showed how this metabolite had remarkably reversed the effects of aging in mice. Upon administering NAD-producing compound on 2-year-old mice for just one week, it was observed that tissue from these mice had become as youthful as that of 6-month-old mice.
Since then, the anti-aging pursuit started to focus more deeply on what could help boost NAD+ levels.
Based on the 2010 endocrine review of NAD+ by the Auwerx Lab at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne, there are 4 precursors of NAD+ synthesis:
- Tryptophan: It is where primary de novo synthesis of this metabolite is generally initiated.
- Nicotinic acid (NA): This gets transformed into NAD+ via Preiss-Handler pathway.
- Nicotinamide (NAM): NAD+ gets synthesized in this yet another independent pathway where nicotinamide phosphorybosyltransferase (NAMPT) changes NAM into nicotinamide mononucleotide (NMN) which then gets converted into NAD+by NAM adenylyltransferease (NMNAT).
- Nicotinamide Riboside (NR): Through phosphorylation by the NR kinase (NRK), NMN is generated from NR then transformed into NAD+ by NMNAT.
Because it does not require NAMPT in its NAD+ synthesis, NR has shown superiority over niacin and nicotinamide in the vitamin B3 family in boosting NAD+ levels. This is due to the fact that when a person ages, NAMPT decreases and thus limits NAD+ synthesis from niacin and NAM.
These facts have helped NR supplements to become one of the most popular NAD+boosters, with Chromadex having intellectual property protection for its commercial production under the brand name Niagen.
Other dietary supplement or pharmaceutical companies purchase raw materials of Niagen from Chromadex for their NR anti-aging pills like Elysium’s Basis (which claims its pill is “clinically proven to increase NAD+ levels”), Live Cell Research Niagen, Jarrow Formulas Nicotinamide Riboside, and Nectar7 Niagen NAD+ Activator.
But, the companies selling NR supplements had been also largely criticized since NR’s potency had been so far proven only in mice studies.
Though, recently, the results of the very first controlled clinical trial of NR was published in Nature Communications. The study was led by Dr. Charles Brenner, the findings of which proved that NR is effective in boosting NAD+ levels in humans without adverse effects.
Meanwhile, according to Elysium, their human clinical trial which was conducted last year to evaluate Basis’ efficacy and safety did meet its primary and secondary endpoints. More specifically, the placebo-controlled, randomized, and double-blinded study had its 120 healthy participants between the ages of 60-80 divided into three groups. The first group received over an eight-week period the recommended daily dose of Basis (250 mg of Nicotinamide Riboside and 50 mg of Pterostilbene), the second group received double the recommended daily dose, and the third group received a placebo. After just four weeks, blood tests revealed that the first group’s NAD+ levels had increased by 40%—and maintained that increase for the duration of the trial. Participants taking double-doses of Basis saw a 90% baseline spike at four weeks, and a “significantly higher level of NAD+ (compared to the recommended dose of BASIS™) was maintained for the duration of the trial.”
More importantly, Elysium’s trial results, which are the first of their kind, demonstrated that the pill could increase NAD+ levels in the blood safely and sustainably.
Nicotinamide Mononucleotide (NMN): A More Promising Key to the Fountain of Youth?
Earlier this year, Dr. Sinclair made headlines again with his latest anti-aging pursuit. His team provided an insight into how and why the body’s ability to repair DNA damage deteriorates over time. They also demonstrated the significant role of NAD in regulating protein-to-protein interactions in DNA repair.
Their mice experiment has further shown that with NMN treatment, age-related damage in DNA from radiation exposure could be mitigated and prevented.
These latest findings caught even the attention of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), which plans to send a human mission to Mars. Astronauts suffer from muscle weakness, memory loss, and higher cancer risk during space travels even if only for short periods due to cosmic radiation. The agency is obviously deeply concerned about the health of its astronauts since a trip to the red planet will take around 4 years. If the safety and efficacy of NMN could be proven in human trials that have been scheduled this fall, it will help not only in making youth last a lot longer but also make the Mars endeavor more viable and inspire other space explorations without worries over the lethal effects of cosmic radiation.