By Kathleen Berger, Executive Producer for Science & Technology
You may try to control your weight, control what you eat and build daily routines to maintain a healthy lifestyle and a healthy look, but one thing you can’t control or change is the passing of time and your age.
There are cosmetic procedures people do to help them look younger, but physically feeling younger is another story. Some people may look for help in the form of pills and powders. There are all kinds of anti-aging products and supplements for sale.
One hot trend is NMN (nicotinamide mononucleotide) supplements that are advertised by many companies at a range of affordable prices. After all, it’s a natural chemical compound. Our bodies produce NMN and the molecule is found in produce we eat, such as like broccoli, cabbage, avocado, cucumbers and edamame.
Shin-Ichiro Imai, MD, PhD, professor of developmental biology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, is a leader on NMN research. The focus of his lab is basic mechanisms of aging and longevity. His mouse-based research indicates NMN can possibly slow signs of aging, boost energy and rejuvenate metabolism in humans. But when it comes to supplements on the market, Imai advised caution.
“As far as I can tell, there are only two sources on NMN which have been extensively tested in both rodents and humans,” said Imai. “One is unfortunately not commercially available. This particular company is providing NMN as only a research reagent. The other company is providing a commercially available product, but right now the production of NMN is not cheap.”
Imai explained producing NMN is not easy, contributing to the higher expense. He won’t name the company because he said he won’t endorse a product. The price tag is not considered affordable for everyone, costing an individual many thousands of dollars every year if they were to take them daily.
Imai is an authority on NMN as he is the first researcher to prove that NMN works in mice. He said, “Our lab demonstrated that giving NMN to mice over 12 months shows remarkable anti-aging effects.”
According to Imai, translating the results to humans indicates NMN could provide a person with a metabolism of 10 to 20 years younger.
Imai is continuing his studies with what he calls the true “nutraceutical”, not a supplement. First, Imai conducted a small human clinical trial at Washington University School of Medicine investigating the effects of NMN on older adults. Results of the study are not released, as it’s pending publication. It was a double-blinded, placebo-controlled study involving 30 participants with only 15 of them given 250mg of the NMN nutraceutical per day for eight to ten weeks.
But based on the results, a second and larger NMN clinical trial is underway. Imai explained NMN is expected to be effective because the chemical compound indirectly enhances sirtuin activity, thereby boosting metabolism. Sirtuins are a family of proteins that use nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD) for their enzymatic activities. The NAD molecule is a key element of any cell’s fuel supply chain. Past work has shown NAD levels in tissues throughout the body decrease with age. One way cells manufacture NAD begins with NMN. Imai said NMN can boost NAD production, enhancing sirtuin activity and “slowing down” aging.
The idea is to increase the quality of life of people as they get older, increasing productive aging. As Imai’s second clinical trial is underway, he said people around the world are investing in the same nutraceutical he’s investigating.
“There are already thousands of people who are taking NMN,” said Imai. “So far, what I have heard is interesting, but we’ll see. We need to prove the efficacy scientifically in human clinical trial.”
While his lab is tackling one of the core mechanisms of aging, Imai explained how people could have a lifespan of 120 to 140 years if all mechanisms of aging are slowed down to work together. His research is one piece of the puzzle.