Regular fasting or calorie restricted diets have shown to have numerous health benefits, and in some cases are believed to extend lives. This is due to the changes in the body and slowing of metabolism. Now, scientists have reported that there may be a natural dietary supplement that could mimic these benefits without the need for restricting the number of calories people are consuming.
The substance, known as nicotinamide riboside (NR), has shown in trials to have a similar effect on the human body as fasting. The researchers found that individuals taking regular doses of NR saw the same metabolic processes take place in their bodies as those who were restricting their calories. There were also some improvements seen in arterial health and blood pressure.
Senior author Doug Seals, a professor and researcher in the Department of Integrative Physiology said: “This was the first ever study to give this novel compound to humans over a period of time. We found that it is well tolerated and appears to activate some of the same key biological pathways that calorie restriction does.”
Although scientists are still carrying out further tests to make sure it’s safe, it has performed well in the trials. It was tested on a group of 24 volunteers between the ages of 55 and 79 for a six week period. The results show that those who took the NR twice a day during the study had high levels of nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD+) in their bodies than those taking a placebo drug. NAD+ are known to activate sirtuins in the body, which are also released during fasting.
It was also noted that some of the participants in the study saw a reduction in their blood pressure – which could also bring down their risk of heart attacks or strokes. Lead author Chris Martens said: “The idea is that by supplementing older adults with NR, we are not only restoring something that is lost with aging, NAD+, but we could potentially be ramping up the activity of enzymes responsible for helping protect our bodies from stress.”
Professor Naveed Sattar, professor of metabolic medicine at the University of Glasgow who was not involved in the study added: “This is a very early look into what this new supplement might do. We have had many results from such small studies in the past which have not been replicated – so, it’s interesting, but very early.”