Living a longer and healthier life is a quest that keeps many “biohackers” up at night (ironically, to the detriment of their health).
If one anti-aging supplement consistently comes up in the research – it is Nicotinamide mononucleotide or NMN.
Push into the mainstream popularity by Harvard longevity researcher Dr. David Sinclair (since he discussed it in his book, Lifespan), NMN is a nutraceutical with enormous potential in the fight against age-related metabolic disorders.
We’ve been fans of NMN for a while. We previously reviewed The Best NMN Supplements. However, with more studies coming out, we wanted to dedicate a separate article to explore NMN benefits and why this emerging superstar deserves your attention.
NMN is an essential precursor to the coenzyme nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD+) found in all living cells.
We’ve written about NAD+ in detail – it fuels energy metabolism, metabolic function, DNA repair, and gene expression.
By mediating NAD+ biosynthesis, NMN is the raw material your cells rely on to survive (and thrive).
NMN rapidly converts into NAD+ in your cells for use in over 500 enzymatic processes. The most important of these is making cellular energy in your mitochondria.
If you need a high school biology refresher, mitochondria are microscopic organelles in all living cells – known as the energy powerhouses of the cell. They use nutrients from your food and oxygen to make energy molecules (called ATP) in a chain of reactions called The Krebs Cycle.
ATP keeps your cells running like well-oiled machines. If mitochondria don’t have enough NAD+, they can’t make ATP efficiently. Without ATP, your cells die in seconds.
The bad news is NMN availability declines with age. Plus, the conversion of NMN to NAD+ becomes compromised as you get older. When this happens, senescent cells develop to save energy, disrupting the health of tissues and organs. It’s a recipe for inflammation, poor metabolic health, DNA damage, cognitive decline, and low quality of life.
Essentially, aging is the fallout that occurs when your cells no longer produce enough NAD+.
This is where NMN supplements may come in handy (and explains why it’s a multi-million-dollar industry). After all, more NMN means more NAD+.
The man who made NMN a household name, Dr. David Sinclair, is working to prove that tweaking NMN levels slows down the aging process by restoring NAD+ production.
He swears NMN is the reason his lipid profile, blood pressure, and lung capacity are that of a healthy man in his 30s (he’s in his 50s). The man looks incredible for his age (seriously, whatever he’s doing is working).
Listen to him chat with one of our other favorite scientists, Andrew Huberman, here.
So far, research on mice suggests NMN fuels the activity of anti-aging sirtuin enzymes (1). Sirtuins are an area of longevity research (2). They’re a family of seven proteins that control gene expression, prevent DNA damage, and encourage cellular repair.
That said, NAD+ is essential for sirtuins to function optimally. Poor sirtuin activity increases the risk of age-related illnesses, chronic inflammation, and metabolic damage.
We also have groundbreaking research that NMN may increase the length of human telomeres by almost double (3).
Telomeres are protective protein “caps” on the end of chromosomes that shorten with age, losing the ability to protect your DNA. Stabilizing telomere length could be a game changer for lifespan and healthspan.
You’re a human, so animal and cell studies are not enough to seal the deal. It will likely be decades before we have a long-term human clinical trial to confirm (or disprove) whether NMN promotes healthy aging. Despite this, NMN’s popularity continues to rise.
In other news, NMN shows promise for improving heart health, brain function, fertility, weight loss, and blood sugar regulation.
Let’s explore some of these NMN benefits.
Insulin resistance is an age-related metabolic condition whereby cells struggle to recognize the hormone insulin and take up glucose from the bloodstream. It’s a precursor to type-2 diabetes.
Plus, a clinical study of overweight postmenopausal women with prediabetes found 250 mg of NMN per day for 10 weeks increased insulin sensitivity (6).
The more sensitive your cells are to insulin, the more efficiently they can burn glucose for energy. However, we need more clinical trials to confirm whether NMN improves long-term blood sugar levels.
The brain is an organ with an enormous energy demand. So, cognitive impairment is a common side-effect of old age. Scientists are looking at NMN and NAD+ to support brain function and prevent neurodegenerative conditions like Alzheimer’s disease.
Research shows NMN improves blood flow to the brain in aging mice (7). The more oxygen and nutrients your brain has access to, the better your cognitive function.
Mouse models have also found oral NMN may reduce the buildup of β-amyloid plaque in the brain – a neurotoxic protein associated with Alzheimer’s disease (8). Scientists are confident NMN will play a key role in preventing Alzheimer’s disease in the future.
A 6-week placebo-controlled study on middle-aged recreational runners divided the subjects into four groups: those taking 300 mg/day NMN, 600 mg/day NMN, 1200 mg/day NMN, or a placebo. Participants also trained for 40–60 minutes 5–6 times a week (9).
Interestingly, those taking NMN performed better during aerobic exercise. It helped the skeletal muscle cells use oxygen and glucose more efficiently to produce energy. Plus, the higher the dose of NMN, the better the results.
We need more research in this arena, but NMN has the potential as a natural performance enhancer and recovery supplement. It may also slow the loss of muscle mass and physical ability in old age.
Did you know heart disease is the leading cause of death in developed countries? Or that increasing age is the primary risk factor for heart disease?
Declining NMN levels play a role in poor heart health. The heart muscle requires tons of energy to pump oxygen-rich blood throughout your body.
Several mouse models have found NMN may protect the heart from the effects of aging (10).
Animal studies also show NMN may improve vascular function by restoring blood vessel elasticity (11). Elastic blood vessels are crucial for regulating blood pressure and preventing the hardening of the arteries with age.
Our metabolic rate slows down with age, making us more susceptible to weight gain and obesity. Plus, lower energy levels and hormonal changes stop us from exercising with the same vigor.
Replenishing your NMN levels may help you burn more energy and support a healthy body composition.
So, does NMN work for weight loss?
NMN is a strong contender for making the dreaded middle-aged “spread” a thing of the past.
A study on mice found NMN reduced age-associated weight gain by increasing metabolic rate and improving insulin sensitivity (12). It remains to be seen whether this translates to humans.
Sleep is the foundation of mental and physical health – but it seems to become more elusive with age.
Your body’s master clock is heavily dependent on your levels of NAD+. NAD+ activates a sirtuin protein called SIRT1, which regulates the circadian rhythm of your cells (13). This may explain why insomnia and lagging energy levels are hallmarks of aging.
Luckily, a 2020 study showed NMN improved sleep quality in older people (14).
Fertility rates in the US have dropped dramatically in recent decades. Women are (understandably) delaying having children to focus on their careers. However, poor egg quality is a real thing. It makes conceiving over the age of 35 harder.
Restoring NAD+ levels may offer a solution to this modern dilemma.
If we see the same results in studies on women, NMN could be a non-invasive way for women to have healthy pregnancies later in life.
Now that we’ve discussed possible NMN health benefits, you probably have some questions! Here are the most asked NMN questions.
If you’re a relatively young person in good health who exercises regularly, your body likely makes enough NMN.
While there is no specific age recommendation for NMN supplements, it may be worth starting before your levels drop off to optimize your overall wellness as you age.
We know NAD+ levels plummet by half when you reach middle age. So, between the ages of 40-50 is a safe bet.
Yes, NMN is available in food, albeit in low amounts. Sources include avocado, broccoli, cabbage, tomato, mushrooms, cucumber, edamame beans, milk, and beef.
While a nutrient-dense whole-food diet should always come first, you’d have to eat a ton of these foods to get close to the levels of NMN used in clinical studies. To be blunt, it’s not possible.
Supplements are a convenient way to get a reliable dose and boost your blood levels of NMN.
Nicotinamide riboside (NR) and NMN are NAD precursors with similar molecular structures. NMN has an extra phosphate group. They both boost NAD+ levels.
Researchers are still debating which NAD precursor is more effective. Proponents of NMN believe it is more bioavailable and faster acting in the body.
We investigate this more in this article on NMN vs NR.
NMN works well with other longevity supplements. In fact, taking it with resveratrol, an antioxidant found in red wine, may boost the beneficial effects of NMN (17).
Rodent studies show NMN is absorbed via the small intestine and enters the blood within 3 minutes. From there, it’s taken up by tissues and cells in 10-30 minutes and converted into NAD+ within 60 minutes (18).
That said, you’ll need to take it for several weeks to notice physical benefits.
NMN is not FDA-regulated, and limited clinical research makes it tricky to figure out an official recommended dose.
Studies suggest doses between 125 – 1200 mg of NMN are safe and therapeutic. David Sinclair adds 1 gram of NMN (with resveratrol and a few others) to his daily anti-aging regime.
That said, always read the supplement facts on your product, and contact your healthcare provider if you’re unsure about the dosage for your health goal.
NMN supports energy production. So, it makes sense that taking it in the morning may help you get the most out of your day.
This isn’t an official recommendation; do what works best for you. The most important thing is consistency.
While NMN is not FDA-approved, there is no evidence that it causes side effects. The few clinical trials suggest it is safe at doses up to 1200 mg per day. In addition, long-term animal studies using high doses of NMN (much higher than those used on humans) have shown no signs of toxicity.
However, a supplement regime won’t make a dent without a whole-food diet, regular physical activity, and good sleep. Read more about nutrition for longevity here.
In addition, a healthy form of biological stress, called hormesis, promotes cell repair and survival. It’s the reason fasting and cold water exposure are popular among biohackers.
If you’d like to dive deeper into longevity, we recommend reading David Sinclair’s book, Lifespan.
Research on the benefits of NMN is limited to animal studies and a handful of small human studies. That said, NMN is a promising longevity nutrient with exciting prospects for the future of preventative healthcare.
Over the coming years, research will continue to shed light on the best NMN doses for various conditions.
Check out our article on the Best NMN Supplements – we’ve reviewed and compared the top products on the market to help you choose the best NMN supplement for your needs.