Mon, 14 Jan, 2019
Why we start to lose energy as we age and how it affects our mind and body
It’s a question as old as the search for the mythical fountain of youth. And if you’ve found yourself increasingly nodding off in front of the TV or grumbling about not having quite the spring in your step you used to, no doubt you’ve asked it yourself: Why do we lose energy as we age?
One undeniable factor is cellular ageing: the gradual and inevitable decline in function and efficiency of every cell in the body as we grow older. How gradual that decline turns out to be will vary from person to person and is influenced by two important factors: genetics and lifestyle.
Those fortunate enough to have so-called “good genes” may find they can sail into their advanced years and remain mentally acute and physically active with robust energy levels. While others must rely on healthy choices throughout their lives in order to remain healthy later in life.
But just what is occurring inside our cells as we age? Let’s take a look.
Cellular function and ageing
Cellular ageing – or cellular senescence – is the point at which your body’s cells can no longer divide, replicate and grow. This leads to an inevitable loss of tissue strength and function, as well as a host of other physical and mental changes that we associate with ageing, including slower metabolism, greatly reduced blood flow, poor sleep patterns, loss of bone density and muscle mass, poor digestion and growing mental decline.
All of the body’s energy is produced in our cells’ mitochondria – our body’s power generators – where oxygen and food are processed to form the energy molecule adenosine triphosphate (ATP). The gradual dysfunction of the mitochondria over time – ably assisted by environmental and metabolic stresses such as infections, poor diet, sun damage, nervous stress, smoking, pollution and good old-fashioned living – makes our mitochondria less efficient at producing ATP and hence powering our entire bodies, particularly the brain and the heart, which demand so much of our energy reserves.
Recent research and current scientific thinking now holds that it may be possible to reverse that mitochondrial damage and help us navigate the ageing process with less fatigue, more energy and a host of other benefits besides. And it all appears to revolve around a little molecule called nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD).
Present in every cell of the body, NAD is the critical energising coenzyme that enables our mitochondria to produce the ATP that sustains all of our bodily functions. Without it, our bodies would simply cease to work at all.
In our teens and 20s, our bodies are overripe with NAD, but when those levels begin to drop – which can be by as much as 50 per cent by the time we reach our late 40s – that’s when the evidence of cellular dysfunction starts to appear. By the time we reach our 50s, NAD levels have typically declined to a point where cellular function and energy is markedly deficient and the aforementioned age-related conditions become increasingly prominent. That’s why scientists today now believe that restoring and increasing NAD levels is the key to extending our years of high energy and good health.
Restoring NAD levels
In 2004, Dr Charles Brenner PhD, professor of biochemistry and director of the Obesity Initiative at the University of Iowa, made an important breakthrough in the field of NAD metabolism when he discovered an astonishing new use for a rare form of vitamin B3 known as nicotinomide riboside (NR).
“I was working on an enzyme that makes NAD in yeast,” Professor Brenner tells Over60. “NAD is a coenzyme that is the central regulator of metabolism in all forms of life. Received wisdom said that there would be no way to make NAD if we knocked out this enzyme, but I found that NR could bypass the known pathways to NAD in yeast – and I found the NR kinase genes that perform the first step in converting NR to NAD in yeast, mice and humans. NR was a known compound, but it was not previously known to be a vitamin for humans until I found this pathway in 2004.”
Professor Brenner found that NR raised NAD levels by acting as an NAD precursor, which means that when taken orally, NR converts to NAD and boosts its level within the cells. “NAD is consumed in conditions of metabolic stress,” explains Professor Brenner, “and NR is the most effective NAD precursor to restore healthful NAD levels.”
When Professor Brenner himself became the first person in the world to take NR as a supplement in 2014, it then became commercialised for human consumption and branded ‘Tru Niagen’, opening up a whole new world of possibilities for sustainable health for both body and mind.
The Tru Niagen effect
Tru Niagen – the branded form of NR – is creating a huge buzz in the health sciences community for being the only form of vitamin B3 that can lift NAD levels in all human cells. As an energy supplement, its properties and effects have been likened not to the instant burst you might get from caffeine or sugar, but rather to the steady background energy your smartphone uses to maintain its most crucial functions. With more and more studies being undertaken to ascertain how broad its benefits may become, Dr Brenner is confident of its role not just in healthful ageing, but in many other associated fields too.
“In the last two years we published multiple studies showing that we can protect against heart failure, nerve damage and central brain injury in rodents,” says Dr Brenner. “Human clinical trials are being done for neuroprotection and cardioprotection.
“My research shows that NAD is under attack under multiple conditions of metabolic stress – including alcohol, eating too much, time zone disruption, sun and oxygen damage, noise, infection and multiple disease processes. We need NAD to power our bodies, but we also need NAD to deal with all of these common metabolic stresses. When NAD is committed to these defensive processes, less NAD coenzymes are available to convert our fuel into energy and to catalyse all of our bodily functions.”
But are there genuine hopes that Tru Niagen can be the fountain of youth so many of us long for? Dr Brenner is refreshingly blunt on that score.
“I don’t make those kinds of claims,” he says. “This is a science-based supplement and we only talk about things we can test. We do think that by improving our resistance to so many types of metabolic stress that we can age better with Tru Niagen.”
So, it’s not a case of living longer, but living better. For those of us nodding off in front of the TV, that would count as a tremendous leap forward.
For more information about Tru Niagen, visit www.truniagen.co.nz.
This is sponsored content brought to you in conjunction with Tru Niagen.