Have you never dreamt about living a long and healthy life? The vitamin niacin has a life-prolonging effect – at least in roundworms. Moreover, reactive oxygen species are healthy. These findings not only disagree with the general consensus, but also with many of his peers.
Who would not want to live a long and healthy life? Vitamin B3 – also known as niacin – is a freely available food supplement that could help in this respect say scientists from ETH Zurich. Indeed, in their laboratories, roundworms fed with a diet based on niacin and its metabolite nicotinamide live for about one tenth longer than usual.
Niacin and nicotinamide take effect by promoting formation of so-called free radicals. And in roundworms, these reactive oxygen species prolong life! This might seem surprising as reactive oxygen species are generally considered to be unhealthy.
Also relevant for humans
The results of the study may also be of relevance for humans. After all, the metabolic pathway initiated by niacin is very similar in roundworms and higher organisms. Whether niacin has similar effects on the life expectancy of mice is being currently investigated. Previous studies also suggest a health-enhancing effect of niacin in humans with elevated blood cholesterol levels.
Niacin and nicotinamide have been approved as dietary supplements for decades. Ristow could easily envisage the substances being used broadly for therapeutic purposes in the future. A whole series of foods naturally contain niacin, including meat, liver, fish, peanuts, mushrooms, rice and wheat bran. Whether nutritional uptake is sufficient for a health-enhancing or lifespan-extending effect, however, remains to be demonstrated.
Schmeisser K et al.: Role of Sirtuins in Lifespan Regulation is Linked to Methylation of Nicotinamide. Nature Chemical Biology, 2013.