Boost your walk: Vitamin B3 supplement shows promise for leg disease

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An exciting new study reveals that an over-the-counter supplement called nicotinamide riboside, a form of vitamin B3, can significantly improve walking endurance for people with peripheral artery disease (PAD).

PAD is a chronic condition affecting the legs, and currently, there are very few effective treatments available.

Researchers from Northwestern University and the University of Florida conducted a preliminary, randomized, double-blind clinical trial to test the effects of this supplement.

Over six months, patients who took nicotinamide riboside daily increased their walking distance by more than 57 feet compared to those who took a placebo.

In contrast, those on the placebo experienced a decline in walking speed, a common progression in PAD.

“This is a signal that nicotinamide riboside could help these patients,” said Christiaan Leeuwenburgh, Ph.D., a UF professor of physiology and aging and the senior author of the study. “We are hoping to conduct a larger follow-up trial to verify our findings.”

Leeuwenburgh, who focuses on anti-aging research, collaborated with Dr. Mary M. McDermott, a physician and professor of medicine at Northwestern University, who is an expert in PAD. Together, they led a team that published their findings on June 13 in the journal Nature Communications.

The study involved 90 participants with an average age of 71, all diagnosed with PAD. Nicotinamide riboside, popular as an anti-aging supplement, is believed to aid energy generation, blood flow, and DNA repair because it is a precursor to NAD, an essential compound in the body.

Since PAD is linked to difficulties in energy production within muscle cells, McDermott and Leeuwenburgh hypothesized that improving energy generation could enhance walking abilities in patients.

Their hypothesis proved correct. Participants taking nicotinamide riboside walked an average of 23 feet more in a six-minute walking test after six months, while those on the placebo walked 34 feet less. Remarkably, participants who took at least 75% of their supplements added over 100 feet to their walking distance compared to the placebo group.

The researchers also tested whether resveratrol, a compound found in red wine, could enhance the effects of nicotinamide riboside, but found no additional benefits.

PAD affects more than 8.5 million Americans over the age of 40. It is caused by the buildup of fatty deposits in arteries and is often associated with diabetes and smoking. This disease reduces blood flow to the limbs, especially the legs, making walking painful and progressively more difficult. While supervised walking exercises are recommended as the first line of therapy, most patients do not have access to such programs.

In addition to a larger trial focused on PAD patients, Leeuwenburgh hopes to test nicotinamide riboside on healthy older adults to determine its broader benefits. “We need to test it on a healthy older population before we recommend healthy people take it,” he said.

This discovery brings hope to PAD patients and opens new avenues for improving walking performance in older adults.

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