Twin study finds form of vitamin B3 may increase mitochondria in muscle cells

A recent study involving adult twins suggests that nicotinamide riboside (NR), a form of vitamin B3, may help increase the number and density of energy-producing power plants known as mitochondria.1 NR is a precursor of NAD+, a coenzyme found in every cell, that supports cellular energy production. Unfortunately, NAD+ levels decline over time—and, so, too, do our energy levels.

More potential good news: the study also found that NR increased the abundance of a beneficial bacterial species in the gut.

The trial is the first to demonstrate an increase in new mitochondria formation in humans who increased their intake of NR. The researchers found similar effects following NR intake regardless of the participants’ body mass index (BMI).

“NR…is a potential treatment option to be tested in individuals with decreased muscle mitochondrial biogenesis and dysbiosis,” authors Helena A. K. Lapatto and colleagues wrote.

The study included 16 sets of twins who received NR. Twins within each set differed in body mass (BMI). Four additional sets of twins, among whom both members of each set had similar BMIs, received NR or a placebo. This design allowed the researchers to investigate the potential effects of body mass index on NR response among people with the same genetic background. The participants received a daily dose of 250 mg of NR starting at the beginning of the study, gradually increasing to 1,000 mg per day after one month. That dosage was continued for four more months.

The researchers obtained blood, muscle tissue and other samples from all participants at the beginning and end of the trial. The findings were reported on January 13, 2023, in Science Advances.

“Our findings are a great advance in the field of muscle mitochondrial research, and they encourage us and others to continue to test the impact NR may have on muscle mitochondrial dysfunction,” concluded Elja Pirinen of the University of Helsinki, lead investigator in this trial.


Apply What You’ve Learned: NAD+

  • NAD+ is a coenzyme that’s necessary for the production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), a molecule that cells use for energy. Intake of precursors of NAD+ such as vitamin B3 (as Nicotinamide Riboside) can help maintain healthy NAD+ levels.
  • Research shows cellular NAD+ levels decline in the brains of animals that exhibit neurodegeneration and neurodegenerative diseases. These and other findings support a brain-protective role for NAD+.2,3
  • The role of NAD+ in cellular energy production suggests that taking compounds that increase NAD+ levels (like NR) may help improve chronic fatigue.4
  • NAD+ production declines during aging. Research in roundworms revealed that increasing NAD+ extended lifespan.5


  1. Lapatto HAK et al. Sci Adv. 2023 Jan 13;9(2):eadd5163.
  2. Covarrubias AJ et al. Nat Rev Mol Cell Biol. 2021 Feb;22(2):119-141.
  3. Braidy N et al. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2020 Nov;23(6):413-420.
  4. Dehhaghi M et al. Aging Dis. 2022 Jun 1;13(3):698-711.
  5. Hashimoto T et al. Biogerontology. 2010 Feb;11(1):31-43.

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