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Can NMN Reverse Alzheimer’s and Dementia?

Not many years ago, a diagnosis of dementia left little in the line of treatment options. Most times, people watched the progression of cognitive and functional decline in their loved ones. Then the advent of cholinesterase inhibitors provided some relief, albeit not a cure.

Key takeaways:
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    NMN (Nicotinamide Mononucleotide) is a precursor for NAD (Nicotinamide Adenine Dinucleotide), vital to sustaining cell life.
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    NMN and NAD decline as we age, resulting in increased age-related conditions such as Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia.
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    Supplementation of NMN to increase the production of NAD shows promise to prolong cell life and reverse the causes of Alzheimer’s in mouse models.
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    Further research is imperative to study the possibility of NMN reversing Alzheimer’s in humans.

At least in some people, these drugs could slow the progression of decline. Suppose there is a way to halt the advancement of Alzheimer’s and perhaps even reverse cognitive decline. Imagine the impact this could have on those living with Alzheimer’s and other dementias.

Dementia is an umbrella term describing several neurodegenerative disorders causing impairment of cognition and function. Alzheimer's is the most prevalent type of dementia, affecting 6.5 million Americans. The probable cause of Alzheimer’s results from the abnormal build-up of beta-amyloid and Tau proteins disrupting nerve conduction in the brain. This nerve cell disturbance causes impaired memory, language, and function.

Although the actual cause is uncertain, lifestyle, environmental factors, and genetics all play a part in the development of the disease. More recently, scientists have made some advancements in dementia research associated with Nicotinamide Mononucleotide (NMN). Could this be a new direction in not only prevention but possibly reversing the disease process of Alzheimer’s disease?

What are NMN and NAD+?

Nicotinamide Mononucleotide (NMN) is a molecule called a nucleotide that occurs naturally in the body and is an immediate precursor or building block for Nicotinamide Adenine Dinucleotide (NAD). NMN converts to NAD, a vital co-enzyme found in every cell in the body; without it, cells would die. NAD works with specific proteins called sirtuins to help repair DNA and support energy metabolism. Having enough NAD to sustain cell life means having an abundance of NMN.

While we are young, our system has more than enough NMN. However, as we age, the levels of NMN significantly decline, decreasing the production of NAD. The reduction in NAD leads to an increase in cellular damage causing age-related conditions such as reduced energy, cognition decline, and the potential development of chronic illnesses such as diabetes, liver and kidney disease, and cardiovascular illness.

NMN added to your diet in whole foods may increase NMN levels. However, we require more research to validate if eating NMN-rich foods is adequate to increase cellular NAD levels.

NMN is readily available in whole foods such as:

Food productNMN amount per 100 g
Edamame0.47–1.88 mg
Broccoli0.25–1.12 mg
Avocado0.36–1.60 mg
Cabbage0.0–0.90 mg
Cucumber peel0.65 mg
Cucumber seed0.56 mg
Raw beef0.06–0.42 mg
Shrimp0.22 mg

NMN has been receiving more attention lately as an anti-aging supplement. As we grow older, DNA damage increases due to environmental influences such as radiation and pollution. Therefore, increasing the level of NMN has the potential to repair DNA and slow the aging process. However, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recently declared the prohibition of marketing and selling NMN as a dietary supplement. This ban is due to NMN being investigated as a possible new drug treatment.

Role of NMN in dementia and Alzheimer’s

Studies have emerged researching the potential of NMN in age-related cognitive diseases such as Alzheimer’s (AD) and other types of dementia. For example, in 2017, one research study out of Tongji University in Shanghai showed that mice with Alzheimer’s disease boosted the production of NAD when given NMN supplementation. In addition, the animal models revealed improvement in several age-related conditions.

The results indicated that mice with Alzheimer's treated with NMN had reduced beta-amyloid protein production associated with AD, improved cognitive function, and reduction of overall inflammation. Scientists also found that the mice treated with NMN displayed improved spatial learning compared to the untreated mice.

Another study focused on supplementing NAD precursors also exhibited reduced inflammation in neurons, improved cognitive function, and decreased damaged DNA in mouse models. In addition, other critical elements found in Alzheimer’s disease were also affected, including reduced Tau protein and decreased neuron degeneration.

More recently, research published in March 2022 out of the Shanghai Institute for Chinese Medicine studied the impact on Alzheimer’s disease by boosting levels of NAD+. This study confirmed that by increasing NAD precursors in AD mice, there is a reduction in amyloid plaque and the reduced inflammatory response associated with AD.

While research shows promise regarding the possible benefits of boosting NAD with supplementation of its precursors, such as NMN, it has mainly focused on animal models to study its effectiveness. Much more research on humans is needed to progress to the stage of actual treatment for diseases related to aging, such as Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia. The FDA’s move to remove NMN from the classification of a dietary supplement may indicate a step toward pharmaceutical development in the future. The potential to reverse the critical element of Alzheimer’s disease could undoubtedly be a pivotal event in dementia research.

Please be aware that from the fall of 2022 NMN is under an investigation as a potential new drug by the FDA. That puts the legality of the product as a dietary supplement in question. It’s a complicated situation that’s not yet solved. However, it is important to note that since we are not a manufacturer or retailer, we do not take any responsibility for the availability of the product as a dietary supplement after having lost its dietary ingredient status.

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Jeff Gilligan
prefix 8 months ago
There are no NMN-rich foods. Foods that lead to NMN production are those that are unprocessed and less-processed foods that have NAD. NAD is broken in the detective system down to the B-3 vitamin variant nicotinamide riboside (niagen, or just called NR). NR is the largest of these related molecules that can enter a cell. NMN is basically NR with a large phosphate molecule attached. After entering a cell as NR, the molecule picks up a phosphate molecule and becomes NMN. The NMN then converts to NAD in the cell. Taking NMN or NAD orally is not nearly as efficient as taking NR orally, because part of their volume has to be discarded in the digestive process. Taking NMN orally will work, but there is an easier way to do it with NR to get to the ultimate goal of increasing NAD. The myth of NMN being the best precursor has been promoted by the very media savvy Dr. David Sinclair, whose company has recently petitioned the FDA to ban NMN over-the-counter as it goes through the FDA drug approval process. Fortunately, NR is readily available on-line, and probably will continue to be so indefinitely.