Popular 'anti-aging' supplement may lead to brain cancer, study says


TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — A study by the University of Missouri found that taking a popular vitamin supplement may contribute to risks of brain cancer.

The vitamin, called nicotinamide riboside, is a variant of B3. Taking the nutritional pill may lead to increased chances of brain cancer, according to the study‘s results.

Known for its benefits to metabolism, brain health, and cardiovascular systems, nicotinamide riboside is sometimes referred to as an “anti-aging” vitamin. The National Institute of Health reports NR can be used to “modulate the aging process and thereby exhibit life-prolonging effects,” according to previous study, though the full effects and process of doing so are not yet clear.

However, new research from an international group of scientists and chemists found that high levels of NR could also lead to an increased risk of developing cancer.

According to the University of Missouri’s announcement on the study’s results, “NR could not only increase someone’s risk of developing triple-negative breast cancer, but also could cause the cancer to metastasize or spread to the brain.”

Metastasis is when cancer cells spread through the body, causing multiple tumorous growths beyond an initial location.

Elena Goun, an associate professor of chemistry at MU and one of the study authors, said when cancer reaches the brain, the results are deadly because there aren’t any viable treatments available.

“Some people take them [vitamins and supplements] because they automatically assume that vitamins and supplements only have positive health benefits, but very little is known about how they actually work,” Goun said. “Because of this lack of knowledge, we were inspired to study the basic questions surrounding how vitamins and supplements work in the body.”

The higher risk of metastatic brain cancer was revealed by Goun’s work investigating NR’s impact on cancer’s spread, due to an increased metabolism. Using bioluminescent-based probes, Goun and her study author colleagues were able to see how NR affected cancer growth.

Using the bioluminescent technology, the researchers were able to examine the presence of NR with light, noting that “the brighter the light is, the more NR is present.”

While NR is already being widely used in people and is being investigated in so many ongoing clinical trials for additional applications, much of how NR works is a black box — it’s not understood,” Goun said. “So that inspired us to come up with this novel imaging technique based on ultrasensitive bioluminescent imaging that allows quantification of NR levels in real time in a non-invasive manner.”

According to Goun, the study findings show the “importance of having careful investigations” of side effects from supplements in people with different health conditions.

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