Lightning in a Bottle

Could the fountain of youth be a pill called nicotinamide riboside? Here’s what the science says.


If you’ve ever watched a toddler bounce around a room and thought, If only I could bottle that energy, then you get the idea behind Tru Niagen. It’s a supplement designed to boost your levels of an anti-aging compound called NAD. Young people make plenty of NAD. But levels decline rapidly as we get older.

So what exactly is NAD? Also known as nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide, it’s a substance that the cells in your body use in many ways. NAD helps you make energy from the food you eat, for example, and it also plays a role in repairing damaged DNA. The fact that we make less of it in our later years could explain why we become more susceptible to chronic illnesses.

“As a definitive fact, you’ll have more energy without eating more calories. Your body will perform better.”

You can buy NAD as a supplement, but it’s not well absorbed. The best way to raise your NAD levels is to take a form of vitamin B3 called nicotinamide riboside (NR). Your body easily converts this vitamin into NAD. It’s not an option to get NR from your diet, because it’s only found in trace amounts in foods like milk. And that’s where Tru Niagen—which is NR in pill form—comes in. It starts working four hours after you take it. Within two weeks, according to its makers, it’ll bump up your NAD levels by 40 to 50 percent.

“As a definitive fact, you’ll have more energy without eating more calories,” says Rob Fried, CEO at ChromaDex, the company that makes Tru Niagen. “Your body will perform better.” After a few months of taking it, many people report that they feel energized. They’re more motivated to exercise, and they recover faster from workouts. Their hair and nails grow faster. Their digestion improves. They’re more focused. And they even start noticing their dreams more. “NAD is a neurotransmitter and is related to circadian rhythms, so it makes sense people would sleep deeper,” Fried says.

Fried himself has been taking Tru Niagen every day for five years, and gives it to his two sons, ages 17 and 20, if they are recovering from a sports injury. The suggested dosage is 300mg, but Fried takes twice that, and downs even more if he’s under the weather, traveling, or out in the sun. He credits the supplement with helping him bounce back quickly after he hurt his knee skiing. “And the intensity and frequency of my workouts have increased,” says the 56-year-old. He used to suffer from monthly migraines, but he hasn’t had one in years. In general, he says, he feels “more ambitious and positive.”

A recent human study supports Fried’s high-dose approach: It followed 40 adults over 12 weeks and found that doses as high as 2,000 mg/day are safe. ChromaDex is working on an at-home kit that would let you test your NAD levels, but it’s tricky. Right now, the test is done at a lab, and your blood has to be frozen first. In the meantime, Fried says, the evidence suggests that if you take a lot of NAD, your body naturally eliminates any excess without negative side effects.

“I dropped a few pounds (I was less hungry and had more energy to work out), slimmed down in the face, de-puffed overall, and my clothes felt baggier.”

Speaking of research, Tru Niagen has only been around for a few years, but there’s mounting evidence of its benefits. “There’s a rare disease called Cockayne syndrome where children age so rapidly that they generally die of old age by the time they’re 12,” says Fried. People born with Cockayne syndrome, he explains, have very low NAD levels. “Tru Niagen treated this disease in mice.” And it’s not just animal studies; as of press time, 41 human studies were underway or had recently been completed.

The results so far show that Tru Niagen could help protect the heart and brain and fight obesity, Fried says. But more research is needed. “We don’t yet understand all of the ways in which boosted NAD metabolites build resilience and protect against degenerative conditions. These are active areas of research,” says University of Iowa biochemistry researcher and ChromaDex’s chief scientific advisor Charles Brenner, PhD. (Like Fried, he takes Tru Niagen every day.) Future research could explore how Tru Niagen helps professional athletes perform better and ward off injuries. “And there are suggestions that Tru Niagen could improve egg quality and your chances of being pregnant,” says Fried. “There are people doing studies on in vitro fertilization and NR right now” Tru Niagen’s health-boosting potential was enough to convince Danny to try it. Check out “I Tried It” (page 55) to find out what happened

Why we like Tru Niagen

It’s made here in the United States, in Oregon. Plus, parent company ChromaDex was in the business of testing ingredients for purity before it started selling Tru Niagen.The supplement has all FDA approvals, plus certifications from the European Food Safety Authority, Canada Health, and NSF International.

The Details

Who it’s for: Adults who feel their energy is flagging. In particular, people age 40 or older could benefit because that’s when NAD levels start to plummet. Tru Niagen may also be helpful for athletes who want to recover faster from a workout or bounce back from injury.

Who shouldn’t take it: Kids. And if you’re pregnant or nursing, check with your doctor first.

The Cost: $30-$40/bottle (which lasts a month), available at

Supplement Standoff

If you google nicotinamide riboside, you’ll see that ChromaDex isn’t the only one selling it. There’s also a product called Basis by Elysium Health. These two companies are actually in the middle of a contentious lawsuit, which as of press time was far from being resolved.

I Tried It

How it all started: This ad on Facebook caught my attention: “In 2039, you’ll be glad you started taking this today.” It was an ad for Tru Niagen, and I was intrigued. Now in my 40s, I was starting to feel like, well, I was in my 40s. My knee hurt. My back was in pain. I would be out of breath after running a quarter mile on the treadmill. I had mental clarity and energy issues that I just assumed was just what happens when you get older. So, why not give Tru Niagen a try and see what it does. I literally had nothing to lose.

The first day: I kid you not, I had a burst of energy and full-on mental clarity. It wasn’t that caffeine-jittery type of alertness, but I felt like I was communicating and working like I remember doing in my 20s. I was able to problem-solve at the office, multi-task, and even come up with brilliant new ideas to tack onto the list. Suddenly, my day didn’t feel overwhelming, but fulfilling. And dare I say, even fun. But, was this all placebo effect? To find out, I kept taking Tru Niagen.

I kept taking it: I religiously downed my two pills every morning with a large glass of water along with two MegaFood vitamin supplements (turmeric for whole body and a multi for men 40+). You know how, when gradual changes happen to you physically, you don’t really notice? But when you go away for several week and come home, everyone else does. This is exactly what happened. I dropped a few pounds (I was less hungry and had more energy to workout), slimmed down in the face, de-puffed overall, and my clothes felt baggier. I learned that one person even secretly told someone else, I think he had work done.

Three months in: This little blue bottle has become a mainstay on my supplement tray. I take it everywhere with me. I feel (and people say I look) younger. I haven’t gotten sick once, and a chronic cough that flares up occasionally is long gone. The other day, I had a long drive home and realized I could belt out songs with ease (pitchy, but still). My lung strength had just improved. And, pardon me, but I use the bathroom like clockwork every morning.

In 2039: Will I be thrilled I started taking Tru Niagen today? Heck, yeah.
Danny Seo