Common supplement can reduce leg pain in peripheral artery disease

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Researchers have found a potential new treatment for peripheral artery disease (PAD), a condition that causes chronic leg pain and affects millions.

In a study involving patients with PAD, a supplement called nicotinamide riboside, a type of vitamin B3, was found to improve walking endurance.

Scientists from Northwestern University and the University of Florida led this preliminary study. They conducted a double-blind clinical trial, which is a method where neither the researchers nor the participants know who receives the actual treatment versus a placebo.

The trial involved 90 participants with an average age of 71, all diagnosed with PAD. Over six months, those who took nicotinamide riboside daily increased their walking distance by over 57 feet more than those who took a placebo.

PAD is known for progressively worsening the ability to walk, often making it painful and difficult. The disease, affecting over 8.5 million Americans aged 40 and above, is caused by the buildup of fatty deposits in the arteries, which restricts blood flow, especially to the legs.

Common treatments include supervised walking exercises, but many do not have access to such facilities.

Christiaan Leeuwenburgh, Ph.D., a professor of physiology and aging at the University of Florida and senior author of the study, expressed optimism about the supplement’s benefits.

“This is a signal that nicotinamide riboside could help these patients,” Leeuwenburgh said, hoping for a larger trial to confirm these findings.

Nicotinamide riboside has gained attention as an anti-aging supplement, with sales topping $60 million in 2022 in the U.S. alone. It acts as a precursor to NAD, a compound essential for energy generation, improved blood flow, and DNA repair in the body.

Given that PAD is associated with impaired energy production within muscle cells, enhancing NAD levels through this supplement could logically benefit those with the condition.

During the trial, the researchers noted that participants taking the supplement walked an average of 23 feet more in a six-minute walking test after six months, whereas those on the placebo saw a decrease of 34 feet.

The benefit was even more pronounced in participants who took at least 75% of their prescribed dosage, who added more than 100 feet to their walking distance.

The study also explored whether combining nicotinamide riboside with resveratrol, a compound found in red wine, could enhance the benefits. However, this combination did not yield additional improvements.

Looking ahead, Leeuwenburgh and his team, including Mary M. McDermott, M.D., a physician and professor at Northwestern University specializing in PAD, plan to extend their research.

They aim to conduct a larger trial with PAD patients and also test the effects on healthy older adults to ensure the supplement’s safety and effectiveness before recommending it more broadly.

This research not only offers hope to those suffering from PAD but also underscores the potential broader applications of nicotinamide riboside in enhancing physical performance and quality of life for older adults.

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The research findings can be found in Nature Communications.

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