Humanitarian grant awarded for study on the impact of NAD booster supplements on lactation, brain development in rodents

By Danielle Masterson

- Last updated on GMT

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Related tags Nad Niagen Metabolism Brain health

NAD has become highly regarded in scientific research in recent years because of its role in biological functions. Now, Dr. Charles Brenner, the Roy J. Carver Chair and Head of Biochemistry at the University of Iowa, will receive a humanitarian grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to further study the molecule and its physiological benefits to mothers and their offspring.

Brenner caught the foundation’s attention when they came across his work published in the journal Cell Reports​. Brenner studied postpartum as a metabolic stress and found that supplementation with nicotinamide riboside (NR) in animal models confers significant and enduring physiological benefits to mothers and their offspring. NR is a naturally-occurring version of vitamin B3 that works to support healthy aging, cellular energy, brain function, liver health, and metabolism. 

Postpartum as a metabolic stress

Brenner’s previous research indicated a new mother’s body does so much that she experiences postpartum as a metabolic stress. He found that the new mother’s body does everything in its power to provide for the needs of her offspring: mobilizing her own protein, fat and carbohydrate to make milk, producing bioactive factors important for the brain and physical development of her offspring, as well as mobilizing her own NAD precursors for the offspring. Brenner describes nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD) as a “critical metabolic hub.”

“We addressed postpartum metabolic stress with nicotinamide riboside (NR) – an important NAD precursor [or booster] - and discovered that these supplemented mothers are more capable of caring for their offspring, produce more nutritious milk, and spend more time in nursing behavior, thereby giving their offspring lasting neurodevelopmental advantages,”​ said Brenner. 

NAD for a better brain 

Now Brenner is to study the effects of supplements that boost NAD on the production of bioactive factors in milk and the effect of the supplements on brain development in animals.

“With this new project, we are keen to identify the degree to which NR is uniquely capable of increasing expression of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a naturally occurring compound critical for brain development.”

Brenner’s work on postpartum as a metabolic stress could help better understand and potentially improve the well-being of mothers and their children who live in vulnerable conditions. We suspect that in resource poor and otherwise stressful environments, what mom’s biology programs her to do for kids will be even more taxing,”​ Brenner told NutraIngredients. 

Surprise Findings

“The huge surprise was that not only do moms supplemented with NR lose more weight and have offspring with advanced neurodevelopment with respect to non-supplemented moms, the offspring of supplemented mothers experience behavioral benefits in learning, memory, strength and resistance to depression that last into adulthood. Evidence indicates that the supplemented mom produces milk with higher levels of factors that promote brain development.”

NR, also known as Niagen, is a form of vitamin B3 exclusively licensed by ChromaDex.  In 2004, Brenner discovered the vitamin activity of NR through a gene pathway that is activated when cells are under metabolic stress. ChromaDex scientists partner with leading universities and research institutions worldwide to study NAD and identify and develop novel, science-based ingredients. Brenner is the chief scientific advisor for ChromaDex.

More research to come 

Looking ahead, Brenner told NutaIngredients he plans to turn his focus on human mothers: “We are doing a small number of additional mouse and rat experiments and then we definitely want to test NR in new mothers who are looking for help with lactation.”

ChromaDex CEO Rob Fried said “This is an exciting opportunity to support the humanitarian and scientific efforts of the foundation.”



Cell Reports

Vol. 26, Issue 4 doi:

Maternal Nicotinamide Riboside Enhances Postpartum Weight Loss, Juvenile Offspring Development, and Neurogenesis of Adult Offspring 

Authors: Brenner, C. et al. 

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