A Look at NMN: The Basics, Benefits, and Recent Research

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NMN is important for overall health and promoting longevity.

Nicotinamide mononucleotide, or NMN, is a promising compound that is rising in popularity for promoting longevity and overall health with age. One of the most well-known functions of NMN is its ability to be rapidly converted into NAD+ (nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide) — a vital coenzyme needed by every cell in the body. 

Despite its essentiality, NAD+ levels are known to decline with age, which increases the risk of accelerated aging and chronic disease development or progression. Keeping NAD+ levels elevated, especially in later life, is thought to slow down the aging process and keep cells and organs healthy with each passing year.

The Leading Benefits of NMN

Other than directly boosting levels of NAD+, NMN has also been studied for its effects on reducing various diseases and improving health markers. Although most of the studies on NMN have been done with animals or cell-based cultures, some recent trials have tested the compound’s effects in humans — and with beneficial results. 

1. Promoting Longevity 

As we age, the function of our mitochondria — our cells’ energy hubs — decreases, which is in large part due to the parallel decline in NAD+ levels. Aging cells are eventually forced into cellular senescence, which means the cells stop dividing and lose function. As senescent cells create a damaging cascade of inflammatory compounds, this process plays a major role in the aging and disease process. 

As NMN is a primary precursor to NAD+, supplementing with it could be a beneficial way to reduce the cellular and mitochondrial decline and dysfunction that occurs with age. While human longevity studies take decades — and millions — to complete, we do have some research with animals to back up these claims. 

Studies have demonstrated that boosting NAD+ synthesis in the body extends lifespan in yeast, worms, and flies. In rodents, some research has found that supplemental NMN can mitigate both the age-related drop in NAD+ levels and the concurrent physiological decline of these organs that leads to disease. However, we will need clinical trials before we can state definitively if NMN can extend lifespan in humans.

NMN can increase longevity and reduce the risk of disease

2. Supports Cognitive Function

A reduction in brain NAD+ levels can lead to impaired mitochondrial function, which is thought to be a cause of declining cognitive function with age. Replenishing NAD+ stores through NMN may be able to prevent this dysfunction.

NMN has been found to inhibit the buildup of beta-amyloid plaques that are indicative of neurological diseases, a study published in Brain Research shows. A study published in June 2019 in Redox Biology finds that older mice who received supplemental NMN had improvements in spatial working memory, gait coordination, and neurovascular health — another important component of brain function. 

The brain constantly receives nutrients and oxygen through its network of blood vessels called the neurovascular system — and the function of this system markedly declines with age and leads to cognitive decline. In an April 2020 study, researchers found that NMN improves the health and integrity of both the cerebral blood flow system and the brain as a whole, leading to neurovascular rejuvenation in a group of aged mice. Therefore, improving neurovascular health through NMN may have both preventive and therapeutic potential for neurological conditions. 

3. Healthy Weight Management

Although excessive body weight can develop at any age, older adults are particularly susceptible to age-related weight gain as metabolism slows down, and body composition is altered to favor fat over lean muscle. As obese individuals have reductions in both NAD+ levels and ATP (energy) production, replenishing NAD+ through NMN can help to reverse this while improving metabolic pathways to maintain a healthy weight. 

In a study published in Cell Metabolism, mice who received either 100 or 300 mg/kg dose of NMN for 12 months had reductions in body weight by 4% and 9%, respectively. NMN did not reduce weight by causing an appetite decrease — rather, it worked by increasing energy expenditure and oxygen consumption.  

As excess body weight is a major risk factor for several other chronic diseases, NMN may be a helpful way to support weight management and health overall.

NMN is linked to healthier aging; older adults rollerblading

4. Improved Metabolic Markers 

Metabolic markers that tend to be altered with age include glucose and insulin control and lipid profiles, which are prominent risk factors for disrupted metabolic health.

Notably, the first human trial of its kind — published in April 2021 in the journal Science — demonstrates that supplemental NMN improves several markers of skeletal muscle glucose metabolism that are commonly dysregulated in people with metabolic disorders. While there are a couple of limitations to this study, including the small sample size and specific subset of postmenopausal, prediabetic, and overweight or obese women, this trial is groundbreaking in that it’s the first one of its kind to study the metabolic effects of NMN in humans. 

Animal studies have also proved NMN’s benefits to metabolic health. In the previously mentioned 2016 study in Cell Metabolism, mice who were NMN-supplemented for 12 months had significantly improved insulin sensitivity compared to controls that matched their body weight. A similar study found that supplementing diabetic mice with NMN led to significantly improved glucose tolerance, enhanced NAD+ concentrations, and better insulin sensitivity. 

5. Support Reproductive Health 

A recent study, published in Cell Reports in February 2020, found that reproductively aged female mice who received a low dose of NMN had increased birth rates and a reduction in time to get pregnant, as well as improvements in IVF outcomes. As excess body weight is a risk factor for infertility, some of the benefits of NMN supplementation on reproductive health could be tied to its weight-managing properties. 

A similar study finds that supplementing aged female mice with a lower dose of 200 mg/kg NMN, as opposed to 1000 mg/kg, restored NAD+ levels in their oocytes (immature egg cells). This lower dose of NMN improved oocyte quality and maturation, increased birth rates, recovered mitochondrial function, and reduced the accumulation of damaging free radical compounds — all of which support fertilization and healthy pregnancy.

If these results were to translate to humans, it would suggest that supplemental NMN could help women well into their 50s to maintain viable pregnancies. In the future, we may see that low-dose NMN supplementation could be a non-invasive and low-risk way to increase fertility and support pregnancies with increasing age. While promising, we’ll have to wait for the human clinical trials to see if NMN does indeed benefit fertility in the middle-aged and beyond. 

The Different Supplemental Forms of NMN

There are four main methods in which NMN can be taken:

1. Powder

You can take NMN powder by mixing it into water or another liquid. This method allows you to self-administer whichever dose of NMN you prefer. A recommended direction is to allow the powder to dissolve directly under the tongue for optimal absorption. 

2. Sustained-Release Tablets

The acid-resistant tablets allow for a slower release of NMN, which could lead to NAD+ levels being elevated for a longer period of time. The slower release would also allow for NMN to be in the small intestine for longer; the NMN transporter Slc12a8 is mainly found in this area. 

3. Capsules

Capsules are your typical supplement form; this method also allows for a slower release of NMN into the bloodstream.

4. Lozenges

Lozenges avoid the gastrointestinal tract, being fully dissolved under the tongue. This leads to NMN being quickly absorbed into the blood vessels in the mouth.

Safety and Side Effects of NMN

Although most of the research with NMN has been done with animals or cells, a study published in Endocrine Journal in February 2020 concluded that NMN is also safe for human consumption. Single doses of 100, 250, and 500 mg of NMN were all found to be effectively metabolized and safe in a clinical trial with healthy adult males.

Although adverse effects have not been found, more clinical trials with humans are needed to fully understand the benefits of NMN on health and disease outcomes.

Key Takeaways:

  • NMN is a precursor to NAD+, which is a necessary coenzyme in all cells of the body that decreases with age and is responsible for many age-related diseases. 
  • The main benefits of supplemental NMN include supporting longevity, healthy body weight, metabolic markers, cognitive function, and reproductive health. 
  • NMN can be taken in several ways, including powder, lozenges, and capsules, and has been shown to be safe for humans to take.

Show references

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Fang EF, Kassahun H, Croteau DL, et al. NAD+ Replenishment Improves Lifespan and Healthspan in Ataxia Telangiectasia Models via Mitophagy and DNA Repair. Cell Metab. 2016;24(4):566-581. doi:10.1016/j.cmet.2016.09.004

Irie J, Inagaki E, Fujita M, et al. Effect of oral administration of nicotinamide mononucleotide on clinical parameters and nicotinamide metabolite levels in healthy Japanese men. Endocr J. 2020;67(2):153–160. doi:10.1507/endocrj.EJ19-0313

Miao Y, Cui Z, Gao Q, Rui R, Xiong B. Nicotinamide Mononucleotide Supplementation Reverses the Declining Quality of Maternally Aged Oocytes. Cell Rep. 2020;32(5):107987. doi:10.1016/j.celrep.2020.107987

Mills KF, Yoshida S, Stein LR, et al. Long-Term Administration of Nicotinamide Mononucleotide Mitigates Age-Associated Physiological Decline in Mice. Cell Metab. 2016;24(6):795–806. doi:10.1016/j.cmet.2016.09.013

Poddar SK, Sifat AE, Haque S, Nahid NA, Chowdhury S, Mehedi I. Nicotinamide Mononucleotide: Exploration of Diverse Therapeutic Applications of a Potential Molecule. Biomolecules. 2019;9(1):34. doi:10.3390/biom9010034

Tarantini S, Valcarcel-Ares MN, Toth P, et al. Nicotinamide mononucleotide (NMN) supplementation rescues cerebromicrovascular endothelial function and neurovascular coupling responses and improves cognitive function in aged mice. Redox Biol. 2019;24:101192. doi:10.1016/j.redox.2019.101192

Wang X, Hu X, Yang Y, Takata T, Sakurai T. Nicotinamide mononucleotide protects against β-amyloid oligomer-induced cognitive impairment and neuronal death. Brain Res. 2016;1643:1–9. doi:10.1016/j.brainres.2016.04.060

Yoshino J, Baur JA, Imai SI. NAD+ Intermediates: The Biology and Therapeutic Potential of NMN and NR. Cell Metab. 2018;27(3):513–528. doi:10.1016/j.cmet.2017.11.002

Yoshino J, Mills KF, Yoon MJ, Imai S. Nicotinamide mononucleotide, a key NAD(+) intermediate, treats the pathophysiology of diet- and age-induced diabetes in mice. Cell Metab. 2011;14(4):528–536. doi:10.1016/j.cmet.2011.08.014

Yoshino M, Yoshino J, Kayser BD, et al. Nicotinamide mononucleotide increases muscle insulin sensitivity in prediabetic women [published online ahead of print, 2021 Apr 22] . Science. 2021;eabe9985. doi:10.1126/science.abe9985

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