Scientists have long known that restricting calories can fend off physiological signs of aging, with studies in fruit flies, roundworms, rodents and even people showing that chronically slashing intake by about a third can reap myriad health benefits and, in some cases, extend lifespan.

From a public health perspective, that advice would be impractical for many and dangerous for some.

But a new CU Boulder study published today indicates that when people consume a natural dietary supplement called nicotinomide riboside (NR) daily, it mimics caloric restriction, aka “CR,” kick-starting the same key chemical pathways responsible for its health benefits.

Supplementation also tends to improve blood pressure and arterial health, particularly in those with mild hypertension, the study found.

“This was the first ever study to give this novel compound to humans over a period of time,” said senior author Doug Seals, a professor and researcher in the Department of Integrative Physiology. “We found that it is well tolerated and appears to activate some of the same key biological pathways that calorie restriction does.”

For the study, published in the journal Nature Communications, Seals and lead author Chris Martens, then a postdoctoral fellow at CU Boulder, included 24 lean and healthy men and women ages 55 to 79 from the Boulder area.

Half were given a placebo for six weeks, then took a 500 mg twice-daily dose of nicotinamide riboside (NR) chloride (NIAGEN). The other half took NR for the first six weeks, followed by placebo.

The researchers took blood samples and other physiological measurements at the end of each treatment period.

Participants reported no serious adverse effects.

The researchers found that 1,000 mg daily of NR boosted levels of another compound called nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD+) by 60 percent. NAD+ is required for activation of enzymes called sirtuins, which are largely credited with the beneficial effects of calorie restriction. It’s involved in a host of metabolic actions throughout the body, but it tends to decline with age.

Read more at University of Colorado at Boulder