Nicotinamide riboside (NR) is a form of vitamin B3. It helps the body produce sufficient amounts of nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD+).
NAD+ is essential to the body’s metabolism, particularly in repairing DNA and preventing neurodegenerative diseases.
Having high enough levels of NAD+ in your body can become increasingly important as you age. There is interest in using NR supplements to increase NAD+ levels in the body with minimal side effects.
Read on to learn more about NR’s safety and benefits.
Nicotinamide Riboside Supplement Facts
- Active Ingredient(s): Nicotinamide riboside
- Alternate Names(s): NAD (commonly seen, but technically incorrect), Niagen
- Legal Status: Over-the-counter (OTC) dietary supplement (United States)
- Suggested Dose: In a GRAS (generally recognized as safe) notice for Niagen, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) suggested an upper limit (UL, an amount not to be exceeded) of 180 milligrams (mg) per day for a person weighing 60 kilograms (kg), equivalent to 132 pounds. This equals 3 mg per kg of body weight (mg/kg) per day. (Commissions in Europe and the United Kingdom have identified a UL of 900 mg per day and 500 mg per day, respectively.)
- Safety Considerations: Do not consume supplemental NR if allergic to the ingredients listed. Do not consume NR if taking niacin or other NAD+ precursors.
What Is Nicotinamide Riboside?
Nicotinamide riboside is a supplemental form of vitamin B3 that enables the body to produce sufficient amounts of nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD+). As a supplement, it appears to increase the concentration of NAD+ above levels naturally produced when getting vitamin B3 from the diet.
NAD+ plays an essential role in many of the body’s metabolic processes, such as oxidative stress, inflammatory response, and sleep/wake cycles. NAD+ decreases in many tissues throughout the aging process, in times of stress, or during other periods of inflammation.
Decreased NAD+ levels are thought to increase the risk of several diseases, including the following:
- Cardiovascular disease
- Neurodegenerative diseases (such as Alzheimer’s disease)
- Metabolic syndrome (a cluster of conditions that together can lead to heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes)
Conversely, elevated levels of NAD+ lead to increased production of sirtuins. Sirtuins, a family type of enzymes, play an essential regulatory role in many of the body’s processes, including the following:
- Stress reduction
- Cell growth
- Sleep/wake cycles
- Cognitive function
NR has been shown to increase NAD+ levels in the body. There is interest in researching NR supplementation’s effects on aging and diseases that correlate with low levels of NAD+.
Nicotinamide riboside supplementation is in the early stages of study, with limited amounts of data using human subjects.
It is also unclear as to how much of the increased levels of NAD+ that NR produces are actually used by the body vs. simply being excreted in the urine. Therefore, all potential uses of NR supplementation should be considered with these limitations in mind.
A study found that 500 mg of NR twice daily in older adults led to increased NAD+ blood levels and decreased markers of neurodegeneration (breakdown of nerves or brain) cells in the body.
A study of people diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease found that 1,000 mg of NR daily increased NAD+ levels in the brain and reduced cerebral (brain) inflammation. This showed NR’s potential neuroprotective effects (protecting the nerves and brain).
A similar research analysis supported the possible effectiveness of increasing NAD+ (using supplements such as NR) in maintaining overall cognitive health while aging. This review found the most substantial evidence for the potential usefulness of NAD+ in Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
Aging: Muscle Health
A small study of older men, supplemented with 1,000 mg of NR per day, found an increase in markers of skeletal health over three weeks.
A review of several preclinical studies using NR also found potential beneficial effects of supplementation on the aging body, including the following:
- Improved skeletal musculature
- Improved cardiovascular function
- Overall increased physical performance
A study on healthy middle-aged and older adults found that continued use of 1,000 mg NR daily decreased the following:
These are two common risk factors for cardiovascular disease.
Multiple studies have shown NR supplementation decreases levels of cytokines in the blood, which is an important measure of overall inflammation in the body. These results have been shown in the following groups:
- Older males
- People diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease
- Overall trials related to aging and neurodegeneration
Nicotinamide riboside is plentiful in an everyday diet, particularly dairy-containing foods. The highest dietary concentrations of NR are found in cow’s milk, where NR accounts for 40% of all NAD+ precursors analyzed.
The FDA has suggested an upper limit of 180 mg per day for a person weighing 60 kilograms (kg), which is equivalent to 132 pounds, and comes out to 3 mg/kg of body weight per day.
The European Commission identified a UL of 900 mg per day. The Expert Group on Vitamins and Minerals in the United Kingdom (UK) identified a UL of 500 mg per day.
Studies in humans have used daily doses of up to 1,000 mg with no reported adverse effects.
The FDA gave one NR supplement, Niagen, GRAS status.
Dietary supplements are not regulated the same way drugs are in the United States, meaning the FDA does not approve them for safety and effectiveness before products are marketed. When possible, choose a supplement tested by a trusted third party, such as the United States Pharmacopeia (USP), ConsumerLab.com, or NSF.org.
However, even if supplements are third-party tested, they are not necessarily safe for all or effective in general. Therefore, talking to your healthcare provider about any supplements you plan to take and checking in about potential interactions with other supplements or medications is essential.
You might consider taking nicotinamide riboside for various reasons. However, consuming a supplement like NR may have potential side effects. It is also essential to avoid nicotinamide riboside if you’re allergic to it or its components (parts).
Seek medical attention if you have a severe allergic reaction (itching, hives, shortness of breath).
It is essential to carefully read a supplement’s ingredients list and nutrition facts panel to know which ingredients and how much of each ingredient is included. Please review this supplement label with your healthcare provider to discuss potential interactions with foods, other supplements, and medications.
There are no known side effects of supplementation with NR.
No interactions between NR and other drugs, supplements, or foods have been reported. It is wise not to combine NR with other NAD+ precursors, as the potential for NR to increase the known side effects of other NAD+ precursors remains unclear.
The FDA gave one NR supplement, Niagen, GRAS status. However, keep the following precautions in mind when considering nicotinamide riboside:
- Severe allergic reaction: Avoid using nicotinamide riboside if you have a known allergy to it or its ingredients. Ask your pharmacist or healthcare provider for a complete list of the ingredients if you’re unsure. If you’re having a severe allergic reaction or if any of your symptoms feel life-threatening, call 911 and get medical help right away.
- Pregnancy: There is no evidence regarding NR supplementation for pregnant individuals. Speaking with your healthcare provider before starting NR supplementation is still recommended.
- Breastfeeding: There is no evidence regarding NR supplementation for breastfeeding individuals. Speaking with your healthcare provider before starting NR supplementation is still recommended.
- Adults over 65: Multiple studies have found that supplementation with NR for older adults was well tolerated and did not produce unwanted side effects.
- Children: Studies are underway to explore NR’s effects in children. Speaking with your child’s healthcare provider before starting NR supplementation is recommended.
- Other modifications: Do not take NR if you are already taking another NAD+ precursor, such as niacin, NMN, or NADH, as it is unclear whether NR increases the known side effects of other NAD+ precursors.
Supplements similar to NR include the following:
- Niacin: A NAD+ precursor derived from vitamin B3, niacin is known to aid in many risk factors related to cardiovascular health. However, it also produces undesirable side effects, including flushing, increased liver strain, and increased urination.
- NMN: Another NAD+ precursor derived from vitamin B3, there is limited evidence as to whether it is beneficial as a supplement for increasing circulating levels of NAD+. However, the FDA has suggested that NMN can be investigated as a new drug. Its official status as a supplement is in question.
- NADH: NADH is the reduced form of NAD+, with a hydrogen molecule attached, hence the name NADH. A meta-analysis found that NADH was less beneficial for supplementation than NR, NMN, or niacin.
Nicotinamide riboside (NR), also known as Niagen, is a supplemental form of vitamin B3. It helps the body produce sufficient amounts of nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD+).
There is limited evidence that NR supplementation benefits cognition and muscle health in older adults, improves cardiovascular health, and reduces overall inflammation.
To date, there have been no known side effects of supplementation with NR. NR can also be found naturally in dairy, particularly in cow’s milk.
Do not take NR if you are already taking another NAD+ precursor, such as niacin, NMN, or NADH as it is unclear whether NR increases the known side effects of other NAD+ precursors.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are there any dangers in taking nicotinamide riboside supplements?
There are no known side effects of supplementation with NR. The FDA granted GRAS (generally recognized as safe) (GRAS) status for one supplement brand (Niagen).
What’s the best food source of nicotinamide riboside?
NR is found in plentiful levels in an everyday diet, particularly in dairy-containing foods. The highest dietary concentrations of NR are found in cow’s milk, in which NR accounts for 40% of all NAD+ precursors analyzed.
Are vitamin B3 and nicotinamide riboside the same?
Vitamin B3 is not the same as nicotinamide riboside. NR is a form of vitamin B3, but other, similar supplements are derived from vitamin B3 as well, such as niacin and nicotinamide mononucleotide (NMN).