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Natural dietary supplement improves memory and cognitive function, study finds

Researcher is leading a study into whether nicotinamide riboside (NR) improves memory and brain blood flow in older adults with mild cognitive impairment
Researcher is leading a study into whether nicotinamide riboside (NR) improves memory and brain blood flow in older adults with mild cognitive impairment. (CREDIT: University of Delaware)

A groundbreaking study led by researchers from the University of Delaware College of Health Sciences and the National Institute on Aging, a branch of the National Institutes of Health, has demonstrated that nicotinamide riboside (NR), a natural dietary supplement, can penetrate the brain for the first time.


This discovery holds immense significance as it suggests that NR may influence the metabolic pathways implicated in neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s. The research, funded by an NIH grant and the Intramural Research Program of the NIH National Institute on Aging, was recently published in the journal Aging Cell.


 
 

Nicotinamide riboside (NR) is readily converted into nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD+), a crucial molecule for cellular repair and DNA damage restoration. According to Christopher Martens, assistant professor of kinesiology and applied physiology at the University of Delaware, and Dr. Dimitrios Kapogiannis, a senior investigator at the National Institute on Aging, the levels of NAD+ decline with age and in individuals with chronic diseases.


Christopher Martens, assistant professor of kinesiology and applied physiology and director of the Delaware Center for Cognitive Aging Research, works with blood samples as part of his groundbreaking Alzheimer’s research.
Christopher Martens, assistant professor of kinesiology and applied physiology and director of the Delaware Center for Cognitive Aging Research, works with blood samples as part of his groundbreaking Alzheimer’s research. (CREDIT: University of Delaware)

This decline is associated with adverse health effects such as obesity and smoking-related complications.


 
 

Martens, who has been investigating NR since his postdoctoral tenure at the University of Colorado Boulder, initially observed that NR supplementation elevated NAD+ levels in the blood. However, it remained unclear whether NR could reach vital organs like the brain to exert therapeutic effects.


Traditional methods for measuring NAD+ levels in the brain, such as MRI, provide only indirect assessments and are expensive and complex.


 

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In this study, Martens and his team adopted a novel approach by directly measuring NAD+ levels in extracellular vesicles (EVs), tiny particles originating from neurons that circulate in the blood. EVs serve as promising blood-based biomarkers for brain disorders, offering insights into neuronal activity.


Through their initial clinical trial, the researchers observed a significant increase in NAD+ levels within EVs after six weeks of NR supplementation. Martens noted that this increase correlated with changes in biomarkers associated with neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s, such as amyloid beta and tau proteins.


 
 

Furthermore, the study revealed a correlation between the changes in NAD+ levels and alterations in neurodegenerative biomarkers. Martens emphasized that this correlation suggests NR's potential to influence multiple metabolic pathways within the brain.


Christopher Martens, director of the Delaware Center for Cognitive Aging Research
Christopher Martens, director of the Delaware Center for Cognitive Aging Research is leading a study into whether nicotinamide riboside (NR) improves memory and brain blood flow in older adults with mild cognitive impairment. (CREDIT: University of Delaware)

Martens is currently leading a 12-week study investigating NR's effects on older adults with mild cognitive impairment. This study, supported by the Delaware Center for Cognitive Aging Research and the National Institute on Aging, aims to determine whether NR supplementation yields greater benefits in individuals with cognitive deficits.


 
 

Given the limited effectiveness of current Alzheimer’s medications in halting disease progression, Martens hopes that NR supplementation may preserve cognitive function and quality of life in affected individuals. The ongoing trial also seeks to elucidate NR's underlying mechanisms and its potential to slow neurodegenerative disease progression.


NEV biomarkers in response to oral nicotinamide riboside supplementation. (a) Alzheimer's disease biomarkers. (b) Canonical insulin/Akt signaling mediators.
NEV biomarkers in response to oral nicotinamide riboside supplementation. (a) Alzheimer's disease biomarkers. (b) Canonical insulin/Akt signaling mediators. (CREDIT: Aging Cell)

Looking ahead, Martens and Kapogiannis plan to explore NR's effects on cognition and its potential as a therapeutic intervention for neurodegenerative diseases. Martens emphasized the need to investigate NAD+ increases in other tissues, which could provide critical insights into disease resolution.


 
 

As Martens aptly summarizes, this study marks a turning point in understanding the therapeutic potential of NR. With further research, NR supplementation may emerge as a promising strategy for combating neurodegenerative diseases and enhancing brain health.






For more science news stories check out our New Discoveries section at The Brighter Side of News.


 

Note: Materials provided above by University of Delaware. Content may be edited for style and length.


 
 

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