Pill promises the benefits of fasting without any diet
A pill that could bring all the benefits of calorie restriction without skipping meals or cutting down on food is on the horizon.
Scientists in the US discovered a natural dietary supplement called nicotinomide riboside (NR) which kickstarts the same chemical pathways as cutting down food by one-third.
Calorie restriction and fasting are known to trigger fundamental changes in the body which boost the immune system, lower blood pressure, slows down ageing and protect against disease.
But researchers discovered that when 24 people consumed 1,000mg daily of NR each day it mimicked calorie restriction, lowering blood pressure and slowing down metabolism.
"This was the first study to give this novel compound to humans over a period of time," said senior author Doug Seals, a professor and researcher in the department of integrative physiology at the University of Colorado, Boulder.
"We found it is well tolerated and appears to activate some of the same key biological pathways that calorie restriction does.
"We could potentially be ramping up the activity of enzymes responsible for helping protect our bodies from stress."
The new study also found that in 13 participants with elevated blood pressure, it dropped by 10 points. A fall of that magnitude could translate to a 25pc reduction in heart attack risk.
"Such an effect could have broad biomedical implications," the authors concluded.
The team has now applied for a grant to conduct a larger clinical trial looking specifically at the impact of NR supplements on blood pressure and arterial health as well as a separate trial looking at the impact it has on older adults with mild cognitive impairment, a precursor to Alzheimer's disease.
Lead author Dr Chris Martens, an assistant professor at the University of Delaware, said: "We are not able to make any definitive claims that this compound is safe or going to be effective for specific segments of the population.
"What this paper provides us with is a really good stepping stone for future work."
Naveed Sattar, professor of metabolic medicine at the University of Glasgow, said: "This is a very early look into what this new supplement might do.
"I would be keen to see bigger and better-designed trials to really test whether this improves blood pressure and other markers in patients who are overweight or have hypertension.
"We have had many results from such small studies in the past which have not been replicated - so, it's interesting, but very early." (© Daily Telegraph, London)