Broccoli lovers rejoice — new research shows the cruciferous cool-weather crop is packed with a natural compound that plays a key role in energy metabolism, and actually reduced some of the negative effects of aging in mice.
Researchers found that metabolism was boosted, age-associated weight gain was lowered, and eyesight and blood sugar levels improved as well in their test mice, which could translate into positives for humans. In short, the key component — nicotinamide mononucleotide or NMN — might extend longevity, according to a team of researchers from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. Their findings were published in the journal Cell Metabolism.
Though the reasons to eat broccoli are already well-established — broccoli is rich in vitamin C, vitamin K, antioxidants, and fiber — the newly tested NMN component will cause even diehard haters to take notice. NMN is found naturally in many foods, including broccoli, cabbage, cucumber, edamame, and avocado.
The NMN was dissolved in water and given to the mice. It showed up in their bloodstream in less than three minutes, and was quickly converted to nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide, or NAD, in tissues. With age, the body loses its capacity to make NAD — key for energy production — so researchers were elated with the results of the NMN.
“We have shown a way to slow the physiologic decline that we see in aging mice,” said Shin-ichiro Imai, M.D., Ph.D., a professor of developmental biology and of medicine. “This means older mice have metabolism and energy levels resembling that of younger mice.” Imai was enthusiastic about the potential effects for humans as well: “Since human cells rely on this same energy production process, we are hopeful this will translate into a method to help people remain healthier as they age.”
Imai and other researchers are focusing on a clinical trial to test the safety of NMN in healthy people. The Phase 1 trial began earlier this year at Keio University School of Medicine in Tokyo.