Stay young: Eat your broccoli, cabbage, cucumbers and avocados

October 31, 2016 Providence Health Team

It’s great news for older mice, at least: A chemical compound found in a variety of common vegetables seems to stave off some elements of the aging process.

Researchers hope the findings translate to humans. In the meantime, mature people may well increase their consumption of broccoli, cabbage, cucumber, avocado and edamame. These are the vegetables rich in nicotinamide mononucleotide, or NMN, the compound that was under the microscope in the Japanese trial with mice.

Positive effects in older mice

What the researchers found gratified them.

  • NMN can be dissolved in water and safely given to mice. The NMN is absorbed into the bloodstream within minutes, then converted into a related compound and absorbed into tissues.
  • After dividing the mice into three groups, one receiving a high dose of NMN, another receiving a low dose, and a third control group, researchers found the NMN seemed to provide beneficial effects in eye function, skeletal muscle, immune function, liver function, bone density, body weight, insulin sensitivity and levels of physical activity in older mice.
  • Mice receiving NMN supplements showed no higher incidence of cancers.

“We have shown a way to slow the physiologic decline that we see in aging mice,” said Shin-ichiro Imai, M.D., a professor at Washington University in St. Louis and an author of the study. “This means older mice have metabolism and energy levels resembling that of younger mice. 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.”

Researchers noted that the positive effects were seen only in older mice: Young mice did not become healthier when given NMN.

Applying the findings

Researchers acknowledge that high-grade NMN for human consumption is not yet commercially available, but, they add, “there’s always broccoli.”

Talk to your health care provider or nutritionist about ensuring you have a healthy diet. You can find a Providence provider here.

On a related note, you can read the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidelines for Healthy Eating for a Healthy Weight. It emphasizes vegetables as well as fresh fruit, whole grains, lean meats and other things.

Another good source of nutritional information is the World Health Organization’s Nutrition page. It includes a PDF on food fortification with micronutrients, including NMN.

The study, “Long-Term Administration of Nicotinamide Mononucleotide Mitigates Age-Associated Physiological Decline in Mice,” was published in the journal Cell Metabolism. A reader-friendly press release about the findings is available from the Washington University School of Medicine.

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