IS NIAGEN NECESSARY? Other possible ways to raise your NAD levels

by Nils Osmar. This article should not be construed as offering either formal or informal medical advice. The content is intended solely for informational purposes. Any changes in your lifestyle or diet should be done in consultation with your doctor or health care professional. Last updated: 7/31/2018

I started taking a supplement called NIAGEN a few weeks ago. 

NIAGEN, also known as NR, or nicotinamide ribosome, is marketed as an anti-aging supplement. As we age, the NAD levels in our bodies decline. Both laboratory studies and studies with human subjects have suggested that NR brings the levels closer to what they were when we were younger. The video at the bottom of the page goes into more detail about it. It’s been touted as “the first real anti-aging drug.”

(As a side note, NR isn’t the only supplement that increases NAD. There are several that appear to have this effect, at least in lab animals. NR is just one of the few that’s been tested on humans. Another supplement that increased NAD levels, and may be even more beneficial, is NMN (Nicotinamide Mononucleotide).

The first time I took NR, I felt a little sick, woozy and lightheaded. The next time, I even worse: sick, woody, dizzy and lightheaded. Not a very auspicious beginning. I assumed this was because Niagen (reportedly) decreases blood pressure, and mine is already a little low. 

One drawback (for me) is that Niagen is expensive. Taking the recommended dose would cost in the range of $1.25 per day. Some people take even higher doses, and spend several dollars a day. So I started checking into whether it might be possible to experience some or all of the benefits by taking some other, more affordable products instead.

One choice would be to take an NAD+ supplement instead. There are lots of them out there. (Niagen doesn’t actually supplement NAD+, it’s a precursor which triggers more production of NAD in the body, which goes directly into the bloodstream and, in theory, should find its way into our cells.) Taking supplemental NAD+ apparently has some effect, but you’d have to take a lot to experience any benefit, because much of it is simply broken down by the digestive system when taken as a pill or capsule.

Another choice would be to take the amino acid trypotophan as a supplement (there’s not enough in food to have much of an effect on your NAD). Dietary tryptophan increases NAD levels somewhat, but not as much as Niagen increases them. 

The third choice would be to take a different kind of vitamin B3 supplement, because, again, Niagen is one of several types of B3. Two other types that I’ve tried in the past are niacin and niacinamide. Niacinamide makes you sleepy, so some folks take it at night. Niacin itself is a powerful vitamin with numerous effects and benefits, but causes a full body “flush” that some people don’t like. (The body gets prickly and turns bright red because niacin dilates your blood vessels, if you take a half gram or more.) (This effect is responsible for some of its benefits, actually.) I don’t mind the flush occasionally, but would care to experience it every day. And I don’t like the fact that niacin increases insulin resistance.

So I checked into taking niacinamide instead. (It’s a supplement I take anyway, as a sleep aid at night.) It turns out that niacin, niacinamide and Niagen ALL trigger an increase in NAD+ in the body. But the first two do have one drawback, i.e., they increase insulin resistance, whereas Niagen actually has been shown in some studies to help increase insulin sensitivity (a good thing).

This made me wonder if adding chromium to niacin, or niacinamide, might help prevent this problem (or might enhance the benefits of niagen). I did a little research, and found that some scientists have actually, very recently, combined niacin and chromium in the same supplement, called niacin-bound chromium (available very inexpensively from Swanson). They bound it to niacin to make it more bioavailable. Niacin-bound chromium (NBC) is a great supplement in itself which helps with weight loss and controlling blood sugar, and increases insulin sensitivity. As an experiment, I tried taking NBC along with niacinamide at night. I was taking Niagen in the morning, and the niacinamide/NBC combo before I go to bed. I started feeling a little woozy again, probably from getting too much B3 in its various forms in my system. 

If you can’t afford niagen, it’s possible you could get similar benefits from taking niacin with NBC, as I did for a while. I should say though that I have not seen any studies yet testing the effects of this combination. Like NR, NBC is pretty new under the sun. It is clear though that the chromium in the product does “override” the tendency of the niacin in the product to induce insulin resistance. But I don’t expect anyone’s studied to what extent it could compensate for more B3 in the body.  You might have to take two or three NBC capsules along with the niacinamide. So it would be experimental, but would be a way for people to see if they can experience some benefits of NR much more affordably.

As I mentioned above, I’ve taken niacinamide for years at night because it promotes sleep. (The body uses it to make melatonin). I didn’t notice anything negative from taking it, but taking it with NBC seems like a reasonable thing to try. B3 and chromium occur together in foods like Brewer’s Yeast, which promote insulin sensitivity, not resistance, so the body likely knows how to make use of them symbiotically when taken together.

In summary:

  • Niagen increases NAD+, but costs a fortune.
  • Niacin increases NAD+, and is cheap, but causes insulin resistance (bad).
  • Niacinamide (also known as nicotinamide) increases NAD+, and is cheap, but causes insulin resistance (bad).
  • Taking NBC (niacin-bound chromium along with either niacin or niacinamide, seems like a reasonable approach (to me) to getting the benefits of more NAD+ for a few cents a day, assuming that the added NBC results in more insulin sensitivity. (Personally I’m taking 600 mg of NBC with 250 mg of niacinamide at the moment).

For those wanting to experiment like I’m doing, it’s easy to do so. A company called Swanson sells a niacin-bound chromium formula very inexpensively….. it’s five bucks for a bottle of 200 capsules, so is a very affordable thing to try. You can check it out here. Or, if you have the cash, just buy some Niagen and see if it works for you.

I should clarify that this is all pretty speculative. I don’t know of anyone else who’s doing this, and don’t really know if it’ll work. I’m sure the niacin and niacinamide will raise my NAD+, because that’s what B3 in all of its forms does, but how much chromium would be needed to compensate for insulin resistance problem is really just a guess. But so are many of the other things people are doing and trying these days, hoping to reverse or slow down the aging process. You’ll have to decide for yourself if the logic of doing this makes sense.

Oh, and, please read the little disclaimer below, if you didn’t read it above. Take care, all.

This article should not be construed as offering either formal or informal medical advice. The content is intended solely for informational purposes. Any changes in your lifestyle or diet should be done in consultation with your doctor or health care professional

Here’s the video about NAD: