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Exploring the science behind NAD
Charles Brenner: Biochemist and scientific adviser, Chromadex
There has been a lot of buzz recently surrounding a new supplement that could boost our energy levels as we grow old. It is a recently discovered form of vitamin B3 and has been widely touted as a possible tool to enhance the aging process. We are going to take a deep dive into what it is and how it works. Nicotinamide riboside (NR) is converted by the body into nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD) which is an essential molecule found in every living cell and plays a significant role in energy production, regulation of the circadian rhythm and cognitive function. Dr. Charles Brenner is one of the world’s leading authorities on the biochemistry behind NR and its potential to extend life in some organisms. Dr. Brenner is the Roy J. Carver Chair and Head of Biochemistry at the University of Iowa and founding co-director of the University of Iowa Obesity Initiative. He is also chief scientific adviser to Chromadex, a California-based company behind the NR supplement, Tru Niagen. In this in-depth interview, Dr Brenner explains the significance of NAD and why he believes supplementation with NR could help us “age better.” He also elaborates on why he refuses to describe NR as “miraculous or magic” and explains why he is uncomfortable with the often-heard expression, ‘anti-aging,’ in the marketing of human longevity.
Notes and quotes
Dr. Charles Brenner is the Roy J. Carver Chair and Head of Biochemistry at the University of Iowa and founding co-director of the University of Iowa Obesity Initiative. Read Dr. Brenner’s curriculum vitae.
Chromadex is a nutraceutical company based in Irvine, California. Dr. Brenner is a scientific adviser to the company. Read about Chromadex and Dr. Brenner’s bio. Tru Niagen is a “science-based” NR supplement.
02:24 Dr. Brenner did his Ph.D. at Stanford and postdoc at Brandeis University. He started his independent faculty career at Thomas Jefferson University in 1996. In 2003 he moved to Dartmouth Medical School.
04:01 What is NAD?
“NAD is a component of every cell. Metabolism declines in aging and metabolism is also dysregulated by a number of stress conditions and both aging and stress conditions depress metabolism. That’s where we think the value of boosting and restoring NAD is.”
04:31 Why is it sometimes referred to as NAD(+)?
12:12 At Dartmouth College (2004) Dr. Brenner discovered nicotinamide riboside (NR) to be a vital precursor of nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD+).
See: Discoveries of Nicotinamide Riboside as a Nutrient and Conserved NRKGenes Establish a Preiss-Handler Independent Route to NAD+ in Fungi and Humans
See also: Novel Vitamin Discovered Offers Clues for Cancer Chemotherapy
NR is also found in milk.
See: Nicotinamide Riboside Is a Major NAD+ Precursor Vitamin in Cow Milk
16:34 In 2007 Dr. Brenner’s lab discovered a second pathway by which NR is converted to NAD+ and showed that NR can extend the lifespan of yeast cells.
“We never claimed that we could extend human lifespan with NR because i think that human lifespan is much more complicated than yeast lifespan.”
16:48 Extending lifespan is not the same as extending health-span.
“Extending age-related misery would be a bad thing. But I’m actually kind of an impatient person so I don’t usually do that many ageing experiments. What I like to do are experiments that focus on metabolic stress.”
23:28 Not intended to treat disease. But has power for animals under metabolic stress.
24:49 What is anti-aging? Dr. Brenner says he is not entirely comfortable with the term and does not use it.
‘There’s nothing wrong with aging. The problem is that over time and with the stresses that we encounter in life we do lose resiliency and we can lose our faculties and we can become a burden to our families rather than providing for our families. So I think that nicotinamide riboside has got a strong role in promoting healthy aging.”
26:16 Dr. Brenner says he prefers to stick with scientific health markers that he can quantify.
“If you ask me, does nicotinamide riboside reduce oxidative stress? I can measure that. I can also demonstrate to you that excessive oxidative stress is something that will accelerate aging and damage.”
30.58 How are people affected by daily does of NR?
“I report that my digestion is better than it than it used to be. There are plenty of people there report improved energy and cognitive function. I don’t weigh myself every day and I don’t watch what I eat, but I did notice over time that I had lost a couple of inches in the waistline which was great.”
42:24 Does Dr. Brenner have a life plan for his own longevity?
“My plan is to always keep on jumping into the deep end of life. So in my science I always like new things I always like new challenges. I think that learning new things is a real key to healthy aging.”