Many of us want to live longer lives, and the supplement marketplace is becoming flooded with products that hold that promise. Dr. Brenner – known for his discovery of the behavior of nicotinamide riboside, NR, a precursor to coenzyme NAD, a central regulator of metabolism – is skeptical.
“While I am comfortable with a use case for NR of aging better, I don’t think there are drugs or supplements for longevity, and I don’t even know how you would test them in a reasonable amount of time. Aging is a complex process that is very easy to accelerate, and a lot of people are claiming age reversal but all they’re doing is looking at biomarkers.”
In simple terms, according to Dr. Brenner, “Metabolism is the conversion of everything that we eat into everything that we are and everything that we do.”
NAD is the crown jewel of metabolism, it helps transfer electrons from one molecule to another. In simple terms, it can be considered a catalyst, an antioxidant and a repair factor. Given these roles, the thinking is that greater damage repair and more sustained biosynthetic processes could improve the way we age. In the course of normal living, we encounter a number of metabolic stressors that place NAD coenzymes under attack and minimize the availability of NAD coenzymes for repair.
Certain daily activities lead to metabolic stress on our body. Time zone disruption (jet lag), obesity, alcohol metabolism, enough noise to produce hearing loss, infection, inflammation, coronavirus, even too much exposure to sunlight are metabolic stressors. All of these stressors tax the amount of NAD in your body and render your DNA vulnerable to mutations.
Does taking NAD supplements lead to a greater reservoir of NAD and activate your longevity genes?
There is much discussion in the popular press about boosting NAD by taking supplements. Brenner explains that the use case for NR is maintenance of metabolism and repair in the face of inevitable metabolic stresses. He eschews magical mechanisms like “activating your sirtuin genes,” which are important in one type of aging model in one type of yeast but have not been shown to be longevity genes in animals. While there is NAD in unprocessed foods that breaks down to NR and the other NAD precursors in order to regenerate cellular NAD, there are appear to be benefits from taking NR.
According to Dr. Brenner, studies have found other early positive results from NR boosting. Some studies show it can lower chronic inflammatory markers. In another study, overweight women taking NR had improvement in body composition, more lean mass, less fat mass and higher metabolic rate; COVID-19 time to recovery was accelerated; and cerebral blood flow was improved in Parkinson’s patients. These studies are all in the early days and need continued research.
No one can provide ‘solid’ evidence for enhancing longevity by taking drugs or supplements.
Dr. Brenner is cautious when it comes to other lifespan claims.
“You’re not going to get to 100 years old with fad diets. Or resveratrol. Or rapamycin. Statins are great if you have high cholesterol. Metformin is terrific if you need blood sugar control” All supplements come with downside risk, and often that risk doesn’t manifest itself for years. Biology is complex system and promotional claims by celebrity scientists that must be viewed with caution. There is real potential future harm that is unknown right now. NR has an excellent safety profile and has a use case in potentially helping people manage their molecular stresses better but it’s not something he’s willing to call a longevity molecule.
Dr. Brenner did the foundational work on TruNiagen, the safety tested NR and showed 15 years ago that it extends lifespan in yeast but he doesn’t claim that yeast and people age the same way and doesn’t make claims that get ahead of what’s been shown in people.
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“Eat good food. Get good sleep,” says Dr. Brenner. “Be physically active, mentally engaged. Don’t take medicines you don’t need. Don’t take lots of drugs. Don’t smoke. The people that live the happiest, best lives are active and doing the things they want to do.”