NMN belongs to the family of nucleotides, organic molecules found in most of the foods we eat.
As with all nucleotides, NMN is composed of 3 parts: a nitrogenous base, a sugar, and a phosphate group.
While most nucleotides are used to build DNA, NMN is used to make nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD) and fine-tune energy balance.
The body creates NMN as an intermediate step or “precursor” to NAD. Put simply: higher NMN levels mean higher NAD levels.
NAD increases the body’s main energy currency (ATP), balances the circadian rhythm, and enables hundreds of enzymatic reactions – many of which delay aging. Levels of NAD, especially its NAD+ form, naturally decrease with age in many tissues.
Think of aging as "that which happens to our bodies over time." This definition encompasses all of the aging the human body goes through, as opposed to the signs of aging that occur later in life, like gray hair and wrinkles.
Some aging is caused by the body. Think kids growing and teenagers going through puberty. Other aging accumulates over time, like skin damage caused by sun exposure. As a result, aging is a combination of bodily changes and the impact of how we take care of ourselves.
In other words, aging is the impact of time on the human body, and it occurs on multiple levels:
Cells age based on the number of times they have replicated. A cell can replicate about 50 times before the genetic material is no longer able to be copied accurately, which is due to shortened telomeres. The more damage done to cells by free radicals and other factors, the more cells need to replicate.
Hormones play a huge factor in aging, especially during childhood growth and adolescent maturity. Hormone levels fluctuate through life. Puberty brings acne and larger pores. As we get older, hormonal changes lead to dry skin and menopause.
Accumulated damage is all external. Exposure to toxins, the sun, harmful foods, pollution, and smoke take a toll on the body. Over time, these external factors can lead to tissue damage and the body falls behind in its ability to maintain and repair cells, tissues, and organs.
As you go about your day, your cells are constantly turning food into energy, which produces byproducts that can be harmful. The process of metabolizing and creating energy results in damage to the body over time. Some believe that slowing down the metabolic process through practices such as calorie restriction may slow aging in humans.
Thanks to modern medicine and advances in public health, the world’s population is living longer. The number of people aged over 80 will triple in the next 30 years, according to the projections of World Population Prospects 2019 from the United Nations’ Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA).
However, a long life doesn’t guarantee a healthy life. Our body gets weak and frail as we age, making us more susceptible to diseases. Now scientists are investigating molecules that have anti-aging potentials to help us live not only longer, but healthier.
Inside all of our cells, we make an important molecule called nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide, better known as NAD+. Our cells use NAD+ for a variety of purposes, some of the most important of which are to produce the energy that our cells need to function and to activate proteins that repair damaged DNA. As we age, the amount of this molecule declines.
Scientists believe that the decline of NAD+ underpins many of the health-related problems that we face as we age. If we could stem this loss, the thinking goes, we might both live longer while remaining healthier.
One way that we might sustain healthy levels of NAD+ is by supplementing our bodies with its precursor, nicotinamide mononucleotide (NMN). All cellular compounds are made in a way analogous to a factory assembly line, where each component is the precursor for the next one. To produce more NAD+, then, one needs more precursors like NMN.
Harvard geneticist David Sinclair proposed that increasing NAD will slow down aging and delay age-related disease in humans. Sinclair’s group leads NMN research under the assumption that it can boost NAD levels.
Sinclair even patented an NAD booster, which is currently marketed by Elysium Health. The company was founded in 2014 by Sinclair’s former mentor, MIT biologist Leonard Guarente. They sell products claimed to boost NAD levels.
Telomeres are long “tails” of repeating DNA code at the ends of chromosomes. Every time a chromosome duplicates itself, it loses some of its telomere; thus, as an organism ages, telomeres shorten, eventually leading to cell death.
NMN increased telomere length in mouse liver cells.
In mice, NMN increases the activity of a family of molecules called the sirtuins, which are involved in a complex anti-aging mechanism that scientists are only beginning to understand. NMN specifically increases SIRT1 (sirtuin 1) gene activity.
Sirtuins combat oxidative stress, DNA damage, and cellular aging. Low sirtuins levels have been linked to aging and aging-related diseases, while high sirtuins enhance fertility in women.
NMN might, in theory, slow the aging process by extending telomeres and activating sirtuins. However, to date, this has only been demonstrated in mouse and cellular studies.
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