Can nicotinamide mononucleotide (NMN) supplements help you to live longer?

The fight against the onset of aging and age-related diseases has a new champion. Step forward NMN supplements, but is the hype justified?

The supplements market is always on the look out for new solutions which can improve longevity. One of the most promising new kids on the block is a substance known as nicotinamide mononucleotide (NMN). Taken in supplement form, this promises to increase your levels of NAD – a miracle molecule which is being seen by some as the solution to aging.

What is NMN?

NMN is not valued for what it can do, but what it turns into. Recent years have seen scientists turn their attention towards a molecule called nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD) which is viewed as a biomarker for aging.

NAD is a critical ingredient in our cells. It is believed to help with all sorts of functions such as cell energy levels, immunity and to reduce senescent cells (cells which no longer divide). Unfortunately for us, our NAD levels decline with age so keeping NAD high should, in theory, keep us younger and fitter for longer.

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How do NMN supplements work?

How do NMN supplements work

NMN is crucial to the search for NAD because the latter is not very bioavailable. Ingesting it directly in supplement form is difficult, which is why scientists have turned their attention to other molecules such as NMN and nicotinamide riboside (NR). Both of these are precursors to NMN which means once inside the body they break down into NAD via a chemical reaction. Take a supplement of these – so the theory goes – and you will increase your levels of NAD.

Can NAD really stop aging?

There is plenty of evidence about the effectiveness of NAD in the fight against aging. Studies show that it can increase longevity within mice [1] and boost mitochondria which are the cell’s energy factories [2]. It works as a carrier electron moving one to the other and helping cells to do their job. We literally can’t function without it, which is why, as levels decline with age, we become more susceptible to certain conditions. It is possible to boost levels and slow this decline with a healthy exercise and dietary regime, but you can give yourself a helping hand with supplements. For this you will need either NR or NMN.

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Is NMN better than NR?

There is no way to conclusively determine whether NR or NMN supplements are better. However, most of the focus has been on NR as it is smaller than NMN and easier to get into cells. NMN transforms via a series of chemical reactions in the body including some which turn it into NR before it transforms into NAD.

Simply introducing NR through supplementation, therefore, seems like a more efficient approach. However, both have been shown to successfully increase levels of NAD in the body and to have a beneficial impact on the body’s metabolism – the process by which it transforms nutrients into energy.

Do NMN supplements raise NAD levels

As research grows, it is likely to become clearer that NMN and NR may have differing benefits depending on the part of the body and their use. For example, recent research discovered a transporter protein found only in the gut of mice which can carry NMN. Where such transporters are found elsewhere, they could make one more preferable over the other. NMN has also been found to improve insulin activity and production which could help to accelerate metabolisms and make the body more glucose tolerant.

Do NMN supplements raise NAD levels?

Multiple studies show that NMN supplements can raise NAD levels. A study in Nature Magazine showed that oral supplementation of NMN was well tolerated by the body and led to increased levels of NAD in middle aged and older adults [3].

There is also evidence of direct biological benefits. Studies have shown that it has positive impacts on conditions ranging from diabetes to Alzheimer’s and ischemia [4] while another showed that it improved insulin activity in mice.

Are NMN supplements safe?

Although research is ongoing, there is no reason to believe NMN has any safety issues in high doses. It is a safe and effective way to boost NAD levels in your body, thereby promoting all sorts of healthy knock-on benefits. As clinical studies continue, scientists are learning more about how NMN works all the time.

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References:

[1] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27127236/
[2] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24360282/
[3] https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-018-03421-7
[4] https://jbiomedsci.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12929-019-0527-8

Photograph: Jack Lemon, Anshu A, Tyler Nix/Unsplash

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