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What Is an NR Supplement? Benefits, Dosage, and Risks

Nicotinamide riboside (NR) is a supplement that is becoming more popular among health enthusiasts. This compound is reported to boost the levels of nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD+), a coenzyme vital for cell energy, mitochondrial function, and overall metabolic health.

This article summarizes the potential benefits of NR, unravels potential sources, and compares this compound to other NAD+ precursors.

What is nicotinamide riboside (NR)?

Nicotinamide riboside (NR) is a ‘more advanced’ form of vitamin B3 that is used to produce the coenzyme NAD+ (nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide). This molecule has gained popularity among celebrities and individuals due to its potential to enhance longevity and energy levels. Currently, one proposed mechanism of NR action is that, in the body, NR is converted to nicotinamide mononucleotide (NMN), which is further converted into NAD+. Studies suggest that NR can raise the levels of NAD+ more effectively than regular vitamin B3.

NAD+ molecules are present in every cell in our body and are crucial for producing energy, which is then used by the brain, muscles, and other tissues for all activities. Additionally, NAD+ is linked to cell strength, and its proposed antioxidant capabilities may help protect cells from oxidative stress and enhance cellular metabolism. Therefore, NR supplements are gaining popularity due to their ability to boost NAD+ levels.

Benefits of nicotinamide riboside supplements

NR and other NAD+ precursors have been subjected to multiple clinical trials and studies investigating their potential benefits, spanning from supporting metabolic health to lowering the risk of cardiovascular and inflammatory diseases. Below, we have collected the most investigated potential benefits of NR:

1. Increased NAD+ production

NR is emerging as a leading candidate for raising NAD+ levels compared to other precursors as it is proposed to have a better bioactive and pharmacological profile. Current research indicates that NR is well-absorbed and metabolized, but further investigation is required to fully understand its pharmacokinetic properties as well as its efficacy and pharmacological profile compared to other NAD+ precursors.

For example, one study has shown that a single dose of NR can increase almost three times the levels of NAD+ in the blood. Another study involving 30 healthy middle-aged and older participants has shown that daily supplementation of 1,000 mg of NR is well-tolerated with few side effects. The supplementation also resulted in 60% higher levels of NAD+ in blood cells compared to the placebo group. Increasing the NAD+ levels might be particularly important as it is proposed that levels of this co-enzyme decline with age, suggesting it may be related to aging-related diseases and reduced health span and lifespan.

2. Support for metabolic health

Supplementation with NR might ameliorate metabolic health by helping regulate the body’s ability to process fats and sugars. One of the potential roles of NR is that it influences the signaling of sirtuins, proteins present within our body, which are believed to be involved in promoting longevity. NR is also proposed to influence the function of mitochondria — a component of cells called ‘a powerhouse’ of our body. A study using human and animal cells has shown that supplementing NR can regulate sirtuin levels and reduce adverse effects on mitochondria, helping to protect against metabolic abnormalities.

Adding NR to the diet might help with the metabolic health of bones and muscles. For instance, a randomized clinical study involving 13 participants with overweight or obesity has shown that six weeks of supplementation with 1,000 mg of NR increased body fat-free mass as well as concentrations of acetylcarnitine, a molecule that may protect the body against oxidative damage. It also increases the sleeping metabolic rate (SMR), which is the speed with which the body burns calories during sleep.

The study performed on mice also showed the effect of supplementation with NR on metabolic flexibility, which is an indicator of how fast the body can adapt metabolism to different energy sources (different food) and different physical activities. The researchers found that supplementing with 30 mg/kg of NR increases the expression of genes involved in glucose and lipid metabolism.

3. Neuroprotective effects

NR is proposed to support cognitive functions and provide neuroprotective effects. As a NAD+ precursor, it might contribute to DNA repair, help with the production of antioxidative enzymes, such as sirtuin, suppress inflammatory pathways, or aid with mitochondrial function. While NR's influence on neurological response is still under investigation, and its effects are usually associated with regulating multiple pathways, several studies mentioned below have pointed potential benefits of NR on neuroprotection.

For instance, NR may help with learning, memory, and motor function in Alzheimer’s disease (AD) models. Two studies that used animal models have shown that supplementation with NR might reduce the presence of certain hallmarks of AD, reduce neuroinflammation, and improve mitochondrial function, which together help to protect brain cells from degeneration.

A clinical trial with 30 patients diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease (PD) has shown that administration of 1,000 mg NR for 30 days reduced the presence of inflammatory molecules and, in some cases, led to mild clinical improvement. Most of the studies require clinical trials with more patients to conclude the neuroprotective benefits of NR.

4. Cardiovascular benefits

Incorporating NR into the diet might also improve cardiac function by enhancing the function of endothelial cells, reducing inflammation, or improving cholesterol profiles. One potential benefit of NR is that it might help protect against cardiac hypertrophy and related heart dysfunctions, as suggested in rodent studies.

An animal study using mice has shown that supplementing with NR reduced the signs of cardiac hypertrophy, such as the heart-to-body mass ratio, and decreased the presence of molecules associated with oxidative stress or inflammation. The potential cardiovascular benefits of NR in humans are under investigation through a clinical trial involving 94 participants undertaking three months of oral supplementation with nicotinamide riboside.

Are there any side effects of nicotinamide riboside (NR) supplements?

NR supplements are generally considered safe, and supplementation in clinical studies thus far has not been associated with severe side effects. However, it is important to note that this applies if NR is taken within the recommended dose. Exceeding the daily recommendations might cause certain digestive discomforts, such as nausea or bloating, as with other supplements.

Nicotinamide riboside dosage

The optimal dosage of nicotinamide riboside is still unknown and might depend on different factors, including the individual’s weight, health condition, and targeted disease. The dosages above 2,000 mg of NR daily have not been tested in human clinical trials — the well-tolerated doses that show nicotinamide riboside efficacy range from 500 mg to 2,000 mg per day. However, it is best to consult your healthcare provider, who can help you find a dose and supplementation regimen that is appropriate for your personal wellness goals.

Sources of nicotinamide riboside (NR)

There is still limited data that would determine the best food sources of NR or NAD+ and the specific amount. The known natural sources of NR compound are milk-derived products and yeast-containing food. The quantities of nicotinamide riboside are relatively low or have yet to be identified. Also, current scientific data cannot confirm that food sources can provide a sufficient amount of NR to enhance NAD+ levels. Individuals who are looking to enhance their NR intake might consider implementing supplementation after consulting with a healthcare professional.

NAD+ vs. NR — are they the same?

NAD+ and NR are not the same. NAD+ is a coenzyme in the body that is involved in various cellular processes, such as boosting mitochondrial function, helping DNA repair, or enhancing cellular metabolism. NR is a form of vitamin B3 that does not occur naturally in the body. After digestion, it is believed to convert to nicotinamide mononucleotide (NMN) and then to NAD+. Supplementation with NR might be used to increase NAD+ levels.

Should you use NR?

Introducing nicotinamide riboside into your diet may bring potential benefits such as boosting NAD+ levels and supporting metabolic, cardiovascular, and nervous system health. It is good to discuss with your healthcare provider before starting a new supplementation to ensure that it is right for you and aligns with your diet goals and any health conditions.

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