How Vitamin B Supports the Aging Process
By Jen Morganti, ND
They say you can't stop time, but you can slow the aging process to help you look and feel your best! Part of the secret is to protect mitochondria, those pintsize powerhouses that make energy (ATP) for our cells, tissues, and organs. Mitochondria slow down with age and cause some of the physical manifestations of aging, such as fatigue, weaker muscles, declining brain cell communication, and slower organ regeneration.
Scientists have recently discovered another role that mitochondria play beyond ATP production—they contribute to the activity of stem cells. You probably have heard about stem cells in the context of stem cell treatments, which uses stem cells from other sources to treat various conditions, such as heart disease, joint disease, and neurodegenerative conditions. But in this case, we are talking about the stem cells that naturally exist in our body. They are essential for restoration of organs and muscles; however, as we age they tend to slow down and become less effective with their regenerative powers.
One way to restore the capacity of mitochondria and consequentially stem cells may be through nutrients. A new study found that a type of B vitamin, called nicotinamide riboside, may provide rejuvenation to stem cells and help with muscle regeneration in older people, based on test results in mice. If the effect is similar in humans, it means there is potential for improving muscle and cell regeneration as we age, which equates to improved energy for more activities and potentially less muscle stiffness and pain.
Nicotinamide riboside is a nutrient that boosts NAD production, a vitamin B-like compound found in all living cells, which is used in the mitochondrial production of energy (ATP). It's through this NAD/ATP production pathway that nicotinamide riboside boosts mitochondria and therefore boosts stem cell function. This study on mice has shown how nicotinamide riboside can help activate muscle stem cells, but it also theorizes that this benefit may extend to nerve and skin cells—meaning better cognitive function, less wrinkles, and slower aging.
Nicotinamide riboside isn't a magic bullet for anti-aging because there are many other facets to the aging process, such as hormone decline, including thyroid, progesterone, or testosterone, as well as free radical damage that must be addressed. But, this form of B vitamin is a good addition to any comprehensive plan for healthy aging and could help combat some of the visible signs of aging.
Hongbo Zhang, et. al. "NAD Repletion Improves Mitochondrial and Stem Cell Function and Enhances Lifespan in Mice." Science, 2016 DOI: 10.1126/science.aaf2693>