A miracle molecule hiding in milk (w/ Video)

Jun 06, 2012 By Emmanuel Barraud

(Phys.org) -- A Lausanne-based research team has identified a molecule naturally present in milk and other foods, nicotinamide riboside, that has extraordinary health benefits. Their findings indicate it could play an important role in preventing weight gain and diabetes and improving muscular performance.

Many natural foods, including milk and perhaps even beer, contain a molecule whose effects on metabolism are nothing short of astonishing. In an article making the cover story of today's Cell Metabolism journal, Johan Auwerx, head of EPFL’s Laboratory of Integrative Systems Physiology (LISP) and holder of EPFL’s Nestlé Chair in Energy Metabolism, describes a series of experiments done using nicotinamide riboside (NR), a molecule that, although known to indirectly influence the activity of mitochondria, the “powerhouses” of the cell, has been little studied up to this point.

This video is not supported by your browser at this time.

Auwerx’s team worked with the laboratory of Anthony Sauve at Cornell University’s Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City to study the role of NR in closer detail. The first challenge was to obtain the molecule, which is complicated and expensive to synthesize. The researchers then measured its effects in vivo using mice. The results were impressive. NR appears to play a role in:

Preventing obesity. Mice on a high-fat diet fed NR gained significantly less weight (60%) than mice eating the same diet, but without NR supplementation. In addition, none of the NR-treated mice had indications that they were developing , unlike the untreated mice. “Even with a normal diet, NR improves insulin sensitivity,” explains Carles Cantó, first author on the article.

Increasing muscular performance. Mice who were fed supplements containing NR over a ten week period had better endurance performance than those who didn’t receive the supplements. They were in better shape – and this was confirmed by observations of their muscle fibers under the microscope.

Improving energy expenditure. After eight weeks of a normal diet supplemented with NR, the mice demonstrated better thermal resistance in an air-conditioned environment.

The scientists hypothesize that these effects are the result of an improvement in mitochondrial function. Upon further investigation, they were able to show that supplementing with NR indirectly stimulated the activity of sirtuin enzymes. These enzymes improve metabolic functions associated with mitochondria, such as lipid combustion and cellular oxidative capacities. “Our previous research involved genetically altering the “brake” on sirtuin activity. This research does the opposite; here we can put the pedal to the floor!” says Auwerx.

Some of the effects of aging are also thwarted by an improvement in mitochondrial function. Many of an organism’s functions slow down as mitochondrial activity wanes; by stimulating mitochondria with NR, the researchers think they may be able to improve health and perhaps even increase longevity. Trials underway on nematodes seem to bear this out. “This substance acts upon a wide spectrum of living things, from yeasts and worms all the way up to mammals,” adds Cantó.

No side effects

These beneficial effects aren’t the only advantages of this “hidden vitamin.” The fact that it is naturally present in many foods will make it significantly easier for the public to accept its use in a nutritional or therapeutic context. In addition, “despite all our efforts, we were not able to detect side effects,” says Cantó. Even in quantities ten times over the “effective” dose, no adverse reactions were observed. “It really appears that cells use what they need when they need it, and the rest is set aside without being transformed into any kind of deleterious form,” explains the scientist. On that count, if used to improve cholesterol profiles, NR would have a decisive advantage over its “cousin” NA (nicotinic acid, or niacin), which is as effective, but has various side effects such as flushing.

This research will certainly have widespread implications in nutrition, health care and the development of “alicaments.” “Other laboratories, as well as companies that can synthesize or extract this molecule, first need to show an interest in it,” says Auwerx. He was able to detect NR in milk, and suspects that it is also present in other common foods. “But at the moment, we can’t even measure its concentration in milk,” he cautions. “So it’s impossible to know how much you would have to drink to be able to observe its effects.”

A new field of research is opening with this “hidden vitamin in milk,” which will be of interest to doctors, nutritionists and athletes as well as synthetic vitamin manufacturers. The work is just beginning, but “now we know why mothers are right when they tell their kids to drink their milk!” quips Auwerx.

Explore further: Research reveals evolution of cells' signaling networks in diverse organisms

Related Stories

Milk ingredient does a waistline good

Jun 05, 2012

A natural ingredient found in milk can protect against obesity even as mice continue to enjoy diets that are high in fat. The researchers who report their findings in the June Cell Metabolism liken this milk ingredient to a n ...

Vitamin B reduces work stress

Nov 09, 2011

(Medical Xpress) -- Increasing your Vitamin B intake could significantly reduce work-related stress, a clinical trial conducted at Swinburne University of Technology has shown.

Not all children's multivitamins are created equal

Apr 14, 2011

Many parents give their children some form of multivitamin to ensure they are receiving necessary amounts of vitamins and minerals. They may not be enough, however, if a child’s diet is lacking iron or calcium, according ...

Bones restored with dried plum in aging mice

Oct 06, 2010

A diet supplemented with powdered dried plum restored bone lost by mice during the course of normal aging, in a study led by a researcher at the San Francisco VA Medical Center.

Recommended for you

Researchers develop new model of cellular movement

1 hour ago

(Phys.org) —Cell movement plays an important role in a host of biological functions from embryonic development to repairing wounded tissue. It also enables cancer cells to break free from their sites of ...

For resetting circadian rhythms, neural cooperation is key

20 hours ago

Fruit flies are pretty predictable when it comes to scheduling their days, with peaks of activity at dawn and dusk and rest times in between. Now, researchers reporting in the Cell Press journal Cell Reports on April 17th h ...

Rapid and accurate mRNA detection in plant tissues

22 hours ago

Gene expression is the process whereby the genetic information of DNA is used to manufacture functional products, such as proteins, which have numerous different functions in living organisms. Messenger RNA (mRNA) serves ...

User comments : 6

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Telekinetic
1.7 / 5 (6) Jun 06, 2012
The discovery of nicotinamide riboside and its benefits happened years ago. These researchers are either out of the loop or credit thieves. I was looking for a supplier at least 2 years ago.
Mike_Massen
1 / 5 (2) Jun 06, 2012
Has there been any success or prospects (even tangentially) in that direction Telekinetic ?
kaasinees
2.3 / 5 (3) Jun 06, 2012
I also heard there is another proteine in milk that causes bone loss.

@Telekinetic

Did you investigate if whey powder harbors this substance?
Telekinetic
1 / 5 (3) Jun 06, 2012
Here's the original paper in "CELL", from May 4, 2007!:

http://www.scienc...0700390X

I tried to interest a couple of nutritional companies in it, but I lost interest in it. If you want to take whey powder, it's best as concentrate rather than isolate. I'll just wait for the NR to be sold in capsules. Ergothioneine is another interesting compound that's getting a lot of attention, but if there's one supplement above all others that's readily available, that would be astaxanthin, a completely naturally derived antioxidant that blows everything else out of the water.(pun intended)

Burnerjack
not rated yet Jun 06, 2012
"... perhaps even beer." So is it in beer or not? 'Perhaps'? What kind of reporting is this? I could write "it's perhaps even in "pickled Dodo eggs" too. Didn't state that it was or it wasn't.
A classic "nonstatement". I expect THAT crap from the MSM but YOU?
Skepticus
1 / 5 (2) Jun 07, 2012
A virgin in a whorehouse does not really change things at all.

More news stories

Researchers develop new model of cellular movement

(Phys.org) —Cell movement plays an important role in a host of biological functions from embryonic development to repairing wounded tissue. It also enables cancer cells to break free from their sites of ...

Scientists tether lionfish to Cayman reefs

Research done by U.S. scientists in the Cayman Islands suggests that native predators can be trained to gobble up invasive lionfish that colonize regional reefs and voraciously prey on juvenile marine creatures.