Common dietary supplement could help prevent Alzheimer’s

A popular dietary supplement could lower the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, a new study has shown. A scientist at the University of Delaware College of Health Sciences working with a team at the National Institute on Aging has found that nicotinamide riboside (NR) can enter the brain.

What’s more, once it’s there, NR can alter the metabolism of certain biological pathways associated with neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s. Christopher Martens and Dr Dimitrios Kapogiannis, representing the two institutions, made the significant discovery about NR, which is a form of vitamin B3.

After taking the supplement, it’s rapidly converted into nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD+), which is vital to repairing cells and damaged DNA. As people get older, they lose NAD+ and this issue can be exacerbated further by negative lifestyle habits like smoking.

Professor Martens has been studying the compound for many years and established that levels of NAD+ in the blood could be boosted by taking NR. What he didn’t know until now was whether it could reach other tissues of the body.

He said: “We had some preliminary signs of efficacy, including lower blood pressure in people who had high blood pressure to begin with. But until now, it was unknown whether NR reached targeted organs like the brain to have a real therapeutic effect.”

It’s not easy to measure the levels of NAD+ in the brain, with techniques such as MRI scans only offering an indirect method. Instead, the scientists analysed the amount of NAD+ in extracellular vesicles. These tiny particles originate in neurons but are transferred to the blood and act as biomarkers for brain disorders.

Now, Professor Martens is to begin a 12-week study into NR and its impact on older adults with cognitive impairment. He’s actively seeking participants for the research, which will explore the hypothesis that increased consumption of NR lowers the level of biomarkers.

This is one approach to Alzheimer’s research with scientists all over the world working to find out more about the condition. It’s the most common form of dementia and more than 55 million people are living with it across the planet.

Despite its ubiquitous nature, there are still lots of unknowns about Alzheimer’s and currently no cure. The available treatments can only slow the disease’s progression and in order to do that it requires as early a diagnosis as possible.


Photo credit: Unsplash/Alexander Grey

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