Update 12/19/22. Nicotinamide riboside (Niagen) is a compound related to the B vitamin niacin. I've been hearing a lot about this supplement regarding its ability to slow aging, help diabetes, and improve exercise performance and other things. So I became curious. Does nicotinamide riboside really work? What does the research say? In this review, I'll show you the studies on nicotinamide riboside (also known as Tru Niagen) and the health benefits it's supposed to have. Keep reading, and let's see if you need to start taking nicotinamide riboside or not.
See These Reviews Too
- Reasons To Be Skeptical Of Nicotinamide Riboside (Niagen)
- My Niagen 30 Day Experiment
- Elysium Basis Review
- NMN Review
- Does Niacin Raise NAD levels?
What Is Nicotinamide Riboside?
Nicotinamide riboside is a form of the B vitamin, niacin. It boosts our production a molecule called NAD (nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide). The NAD molecule, in turn, is something that helps us make energy (ATP). The NAD molecule also seems to play a role in the aging process.
Defects in our ability to make energy (APT) seem to play a role in aging. So, anything that could supply us with NAD might fix these problems and –theoretically – reduce the risk of aging-related diseases – and maybe the aging process too.
Nicotinamide vs. Niacinamide
Remember that both nicotinamide and niacinamide, refer to the B vitamin, niacin. Another name is nicotinic acid.
- nicotinamide =niacin
- nicotinic acid = niacin
All these different names can easily confuse some people. Also, nicotinic acid is not the same thing as nicotine you get from tobacco.
Nicotinamide Riboside Benefits
According to various advertisements, Niagen supplements are touted to help with a variety of problems such as:
All this sounds great. But is there any proof? In this review, I'll show you both human proof and lab animal evidence. This will help you best understand what we know – and do not yet know – about what Tru Niagen supplements mean for humans.
Let me know if you find any research I did not cover here.
How Do We Make NR?
Small amounts of nicotinamide riboside are found in milk. We also make NR from the amino acid, tryptophan, and vitamins, niacin, and niacinamide. Both niacin and niacinamide are thought to be better at producing NR than tryptophan.
Video: Raise Cellular NAD Levels Naturally
Nicotinamide Riboside And The Mitochondria
The mitochondria are often called the “powerhouses” of the cell. Basically, they are fat-burning batteries. They provide us with energy by burning fat. One of the benefits of nicotinamide riboside is it's supposed to help the mitochondria work better.
Researchers in Finland noted nicotinamide riboside, given to mice caused the growth of mitochondria in both muscle and brown fat cells. In this study, the mice were given 400 mg per kilogram per day. How much in people? For someone weighing 180 pounds (82 kg), it's about 2.6 grams per day.
While this is just a mouse study, it's interesting because NR was shown to increase mitochondria in brown fat.
Brown fat burns more calories. By having more brown fat, some say, it can help people lose weight. So, by increasing the mitochondria in brown fat, might NR make brown fat work better? Might this help people lose more weight?
I believe this study is what first got people interested in nicotinamide riboside as a weight loss supplement. See the weight loss section below for more on this study.
Nicotinamide Riboside And Exercise
Can nicotinamide riboside / Tru Niagen supplements help people in the gym? Well, in one rat study, researchers gave rats either a placebo or nicotinamide riboside (300 mg per kilogram) for 21 days. For people, this is about 3.5 grams per day.
They made the rats do a swimming test. The rats which received NR performed worse than those given the placebo. It was not a “significant” decrease (significant in the world of science), but it was a decrease nonetheless.
What about people? Good question. Let's see what future research shows.
Nicotinamide Riboside And Muscle
As we get older, we tend to lose muscle strength and endurance. As we age, this loss of strength is called sarcopenia (sar-co-pee-knee-a). It turns out NAD levels decrease as we get older too. So, would restoring NAD levels, reverse sarcopenia, and help people get stronger again?
In one study, researchers used mice, and purposely knocked out their ability to make NAD. This caused the mice to get weaker. The researchers noted 1 week of nicotinamide riboside ” was sufficient to dramatically restore exercise capacity.”
How much did they use? For someone weighing 150 pounds (68 kg) it's about 1 gram per day.
While the results are intriguing, the word “significant” is not used anywhere in the study. In other words, were the results clincally significant? In other words, did NR significantly restore exercise capacity in the mice? Since they didn't say this, my hunch is it did not.
But the bigger question is would this same effect occur in people? We don't know. Let's see what future studies say.
Nicotinamide Riboside And Alzheimer's
Can this form of niacin improve memory in people with dementia? In one investigation, NR seemed to slow the progression of Alzheimer's disease after 3 months of use. But this was in mice. Another mouse study has shown NR can reduce brain cell death. Yet another mouse study noted NR reduced DNA damage and brain inflammation.
Currently, there is no human proof nicotinamide riboside helps people with dementia or those who have concussions or traumatic brain injury.
Does It Help Alcoholics?
It's well known that alcohol is a poison. So can NR help people who are alcoholics? A mouse study suggests NR supplements might reduce liver problems from alcohol. Basically, mice were force-fed alcohol for 16 days. Some mice received nicotinamide riboside, which in human amounts was around 5.7 grams for a 180-pound person. The mice getting NR supplements had less liver damage than those not getting NR supplements.
Remember, this was a mouse study. Also, the amount of NR used (5700 mg) was more LOT than in typical supplements. Tru Niagen labels recommend just 250-500 mg per day. Given the price of NR supplements, I'd doubt most people could afford this dosage.
Can Nicotinamide Riboside Lower Blood Sugar & Help Diabetes
Can Niagen supplements help people who have diabetes? A mouse study noted NR reduced blood sugar, weight gain, diabetic neuropathy and liver problems in mice that had type II diabetes. Researchers conducting another mouse study noted NR supplementation improved non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Researchers in Korea have also found NR supplements reduce liver inflammation.
See this review of diabetes for more insights
Can Nicotinamide Riboside Improve Liver Function?
Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is a serious disorder that can lead to sclerosis of the liver can cause liver failure. The liver has more mitochondria than any other tissue in the body. Since NR is trumpeted to help the mitochondria work better, might this supplement help people with NAFLD? Well, a mouse study has suggested it might but human evidence is lacking.
Can Nicotinamide Riboside Support Healthy Weight Loss
In one study -a test tube experiment – researchers treated mouse and human cells with nicotinamide riboside and noticed it increased enzymes (called sirtuin enzymes) involved in burning fat. The researchers also fed male mice a high-fat diet while giving them nicotinamide riboside -or nothing – to see what happened.
While NR did not cause weight loss, it seemed to reduce the mice from gaining weight. In another study, researchers gave obese mice various amounts of NR and saw no weight loss or changes in lean mass (I take this to be muscle) at all after 15 weeks of use.
There was no change in body weight.
Can Nicotinamide Riboside Help Your Eyesight
An interesting mouse study, found vitamin B3 (nicotinamide) helped reduce the odds of older mice getting glaucoma. This study did not use nicotinamide riboside but rather, regular nicotinamide (niacin).
Remember, NR supplements come from niacinamide. In theory NR supplements may have the same benefits but it will take more research to know for certain.
Can Nicotinamide Riboside Help Fibromyalgia
Can NR supplements help people who deal with fibromyalgia pain? Ribose is part of nicotinamide riboside. There has also been some speculation free radical stress in the mitochondria might be related to fibromyalgia symptoms.
While various websites might say NR supplements help fibromyalgia, we need human studies to know for sure.
People with fibromyalgia are often in a lot of pain. One study noted NR reduced “tactile hypersensitivity” (nerve pain associated with touch) in rats after a month of treatment. Fibromyalgia does appear to be connected to hypersensitivity of nerves but whether or not this means it helps people with this condition needs more research.
Nicotinamide Riboside And Multiple Sclerosis
Can Niagen supplements help people with muscular dystrophy or Duchenne muscular dystrophy? What about multiple sclerosis? While preliminary evidence suggests it might, the evidence is limited to mice at this point. More research is needed.
Summary Of NR Research
Here is a quick overview of the Niagen research presented above.
|nicotinamide riboside is uniquely and orally bioavailable in mice and humans.||Human. 1 man||NR ↑ NAD|
|Effective treatment of mitochondrial myopathy by nicotinamide riboside, a vitamin B3||Mouse||NR ↑ mitochondria growth|
|The NAD+ precursor nicotinamide riboside decreases exercise performance in rats||Rats||NR ↓ exercise ability|
|Nicotinamide riboside restores cognition through an upregulation of proliferator-activated receptor-γ coactivator 1α regulated β-secretase 1 degradation and mitochondrial gene expression in Alzheimer’s mouse models||Mouse||NR ↓ Alzheimers progression|
|Nicotinamide Riboside Opposes Type 2 Diabetes and Neuropathy in Mice||mouse||NR ↑ blood sugar|
|Hepatic NAD(+) deficiency as a therapeutic target for non-alcoholic fatty liver disease in ageing||Mouse||NR ↑ NAFLD|
|Nicotinamide Riboside Ameliorates Hepatic Metaflammation by Modulating NLRP3 Inflammasome in a Rodent Model of Type 2 Diabetes||Mouse||NR ↓liver inflammation|
|The NAD(+) precursor nicotinamide riboside enhances oxidative metabolism and protects against high-fat diet-induced obesity||Mouse/test tube||NR ↑ fat burning enzymes|
|Loss of NAD homeostasis leads to progressive and reversible degeneration of skeletal muscle||Mouse||NR ↑ exercise ability|
|Nicotinamide riboside, a form of vitamin B3 and NAD+ precursor, relieves the nociceptive and aversive dimensions of paclitaxel-induced peripheral neuropathy in female rats||Rat||NR ↓ tactile hypersensitivity|
|Effects of a wide range of dietary nicotinamide riboside (NR) concentrations on metabolic flexibility and white adipose tissue (WAT) of mice fed a mildly obesogenic diet.||Mouse||NR ↑ “metabolic flexibility”|
|Chronic nicotinamide riboside supplementation is well-tolerated and elevates NAD+ in healthy middle-aged and older adults||Human||NR ↑ NAD|
In the table above, “NR” = nicotinamide riboside. Remember this is the same thing as TruNiagen.
Can Nicotinamide Riboside Slow The Aging Process
Sirtuins (pronounced “sir-two-ins”) are genes that appear to be involved in the aging process. It turns out that sirtuins need NAD to work. Nicotinamide riboside helps us make NAD.
So, the idea is NR supplements help anti-aging sirtuin genes work better by providing them with NAD. This in turn, might help us stay younger and healthier longer. But, aging is complicated. Currently, no studies prove Tru Niagen supplements can slow aging in humans. There is also no evidence Niagen can lengthen telomeres either.
Nicotinamide Riboside and Cancer
Some have speculated that NR supplements might increase brain cancer. In one test tube study, an enzyme involved in NAD production (called NAMPT) was “highly expressed” in glioblastoma tumors. Higher NAMPT levels generally mean lower patient survival. In another preliminary investigation, NR supplements appeared to cause the spread of triple-negative breast cancer and the spread of that cancer to the brain. Watch this video for more insights
Nicotinamide Riboside vs. Nicotinamide Mononucleotide (NMN)
Nicotinamide mononucleotide (called NMN and B-NMN) is another molecule that can raise NAD levels. Like NR, NMN comes from the vitamin niacin.
So how is NMN different than NR? They both come from niacin so I don't see them as very different from each other. NMN supplements have been tested in humans for various reasons including:
- Helping insominia (watch this video)
- Lowering triglycerides (watch this video)
- Helping diabetes and lowering cholesterol (watch this video)
- Building muscle in older folks (watch this video)
- Boosting exercise performance (watch this video)
Watch this video too to see the results of other human studies conducted on NMN supplements
NMN is also being investigated as a drug whcih has some fearful the supplement may one day be banned.
Nicotinamide Riboside In Foods
Can you get NR naturally? Yes. One of the best sources of this compound is milk from cows. In fact, the study linked to highlights the whey protein portion of milk as containing nicotinamide riboside.
So, if you are using drinking milk or using whey protein supplements, you are getting small amounts of NR too. The study also mentions “yeast containing foods” as well.
What Is Tru Niagen?
There are several different types of NR on the market. One of the most popular is called Tru Niagen. Why? Because it is the Tru Niagen supplement is made by the Chromadex company which invented nicotinamide riboside. Chromadex sells NR to other companies to let them use in their NR supplements. For example, two other popular
Everyone who sells an NR supplement pays Chromadex for the privilege of using it. Although if you read the Elysium Basis review, you'll see the controversy about this. Chromadex, located in Irvine California is a publicly-traded company. The stock symbol is CDXC.
Is NR Better With Pterostilbene?
Some supplements contain only nicotimide riboside while others -like Elysium Basis – combine it with other ingredients (like resveratrol or pterostilbene for example). Whether or not products that combine nicotinamide riboside with other ingredients are better than just taking NR alone is open to speculation until research is done.
How Much Nicotinamide Riboside Works?
Supplements usually contain 150-250 mg per one or two capsules. While human research does show this will raise NAD levels, the larger question is this the optimal dosage to improve health?
Niacin vs. Nicotinamide Riboside
The glaring omission in the research is NOBODY seems to want to compare Niagen to niacin. Do they raise NAD levels equally?
What's the difference between niacin and nicotinamide riboside? The biggest difference is the price. Niacin is inexpensive. Nicotinamide riboside is not. While I'm not aware of anyone looking at this (yet), I wonder if taking regular, old boring, niacinamide might raise nicotinamide riboside levels?
I mention niacinamide (also called nicotinamide and nicotinic acid) because it's the less toxic version of niacin. At least one rat study does show that niacinamide raises NAD levels.
Would the same thing happen in people? Rats and people are different, but since niacinamide is part of nicotinamide riboside, I think it's possible.
Here's Niacinamide on Amazon
Do NR Supplements Cause Flushing?
One of the most common side effects of the vitamin, niacin is flushing of the face. It's often called the “niacin flush” because it's so common of an effect. While some have reported flushing with nicotinamide riboside, my guess is it's probably a rare occurrence. In my 30 day experiment, I did not experience flushing.
Does Tru Niagen Raise NAD Levels?
Yes. The research does indeed show this. As proof, researchers in Colorado gave Niagen or a placebo to 60 healthy older adults (55-79 years) for 6 weeks. The amount used was 500 mg twice a day (1000 mg total). After 6 weeks, NAD levels were 5X higher than those taking a placebo. The supplement used in this was Niagen
Nicotinamide Riboside Side Effects
In August 2016, the FDA deemed Niagen Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS). That FDA ruling was probably based on the results of this small study in humans released which found nicotinamide riboside to be safe.
This study involved 12 healthy men and women who were given doses ranging from 100 mg, 300 mg or 1000 mg of NR per day for a week each. The study showed no side effects and that NR significantly raised NAD levels, with higher dosages leading to higher NAD levels. This study only looked at safety. It was not designed to test if NR improved any health issues.
For those who are not so “healthy”, it's wise to speak to a pharmacist and doctor to get a more personalized recommendation on safety. Here are a few things to consider when taking this supplement. This is list is not complete so follow up with your pharmacist/doctor.
- Start with less than recommended for the first week to see how you respond
- Don't take if you are pregnant/breastfeeding
- If you take medications like blood thinners, etc., speak to your pharmacist /doctor
- Stop taking NR at least 2 weeks before having surgery
- Speak to your doctor if you have a history or family history of cancer
- Until more is known, avoid if you have brain or breast cancer
Exercise vs. Nicotinamide Riboside
Looking at the claims being made for nicotinamide riboside I was struck by how its benefits are very similar to those made for exercise. For example, it's well known regular exercise can:
It doesn't take a lot of exercise either to achieve some of these effects. In the longer life study linked to above, it took just 15 minutes of walking per day to lengthen life by 3 years!
How much would people pay for a supplement that promised to lengthen life by at least 3 extra years? Something to think about…
Does Nicotinamide Riboside Really Work?
There is a lot of talk about the possible benefits of NR and how it might slow aging, improve exercise, help weight loss and many other things. In this review, I've summarized the very complicated nicotinamide riboside research to help you understand the claims made and to better decide if this supplement is right for you. Personally, I believe NR supplements are overhyped and not worth the expense until human research shows it beneifts us.
Here is Nicotinamide Riboside on Amazon