Features Program

Nicotinamide Riboside: Supplementation in New Mothers Has Potential to Alleviate Postpartum Stress and Improve Lactation

June 1, 2020

Written by Hannah Bodin

As many new mothers are already aware, the postpartum period can be very stressful on the body. During the postpartum period, metabolic stress disrupts the nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD) system which is central for regulating energy metabolism. Dr. Brenner and his colleagues at the University of Iowa had discovered a novel molecule called nicotinamide riboside (NR), which when supplemented to new rodent mothers was shown to restore NAD+ throughout the body’s tissues and ultimately alleviate maternal metabolic stress.

Given the self-sacrificing nature of maternal tissues, it is important to reduce metabolic stress because it can contribute to obesity in new mothers. Obesity detrimentally impacts milk production— both in quantity and quality. Brenner’s team initially hypothesized that NR supplementation could restore systematic NAD+ and would promote weight loss in new mothers, but the effects of NR-supplementation had a dramatic impact on other tissues and organ systems in both the mother and her offspring. The team found that NR-supplementation also improved lactation in mothers and had lasting physical, neurobehavioral, and neurodevelopmental advantages in offspring into adulthood.1

NR-supplemented mothers were compared to a control group that was fed normal chow (NC). The rat and mouse pups were supplemented from parturition until weaning at 21 days, after which they were followed 90 days into adulthood. Metabolomics, gene expression, milk analysis and physiological and neurological analyses were used to analyze the changes in the rats and mice. The liver of lactating mothers works hard to mobilize NAD+ to other tissues, including the mammary glands for lactation. Brenner’s team discovered that NR supplementation increased NAD+ and NADP+ more than 20-fold in the lactating mammary, which supports the hypothesis that NR supplementation can mobilize NAD+ from the liver to other tissues.1 The team observed greater prolactin synthesis and consequently, about a 2-fold increase in milk volume as a result of NR-supplementation. Additionally, compared with the NC group, milk from NR-supplemented mothers contained approximately 2-fold higher levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a growth factor that enhances juvenile brain development. BDNF was not only increased in milk but the level of BDNF was about 2-fold higher in the hindbrains of pups born to NR-supplemented compared with the NC group. With respect to maternal metabolism, the team found despite eating more food, NR- supplemented mothers lost more weight compared to non-supplemented mothers, attributable to losses in fat and retention of lean mass.1

In addition to impressive improvements on milk quantity and quality and maternal metabolism, there were profound neurological effects in the offspring of NR-supplemented mothers. A battery of adult behavioral assays that measure anxiety, depressive states, strength, and balance found that the adult offspring of NR-supplemented mothers spent significantly more time in light in a light/dark box, demonstrating less anxiety. Additionally, adult offspring of NR-supplemented mothers outperformed the offspring of NC-fed mothers on the cross-beam with significantly faster crossing times, fewer foot slips, and fewer tail grips. After the end of the NR-supplementation period, offspring from NR-supplemented mothers were switched to normal chow without NR-supplementation. When the rodents were re-tested, the performance gap remained despite standardizing their food and other conditions. Ninety-day-old rats whose mothers were NR-supplemented showed greater hippocampal neurogenesis compared with the NC-group, potentially as a result of the increased BDNF transmission in milk.1

Figure 1. Summary of the advantages of NR-supplementation in juveniles, and in adults. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.celrep.2019.01.007

In conclusion, NR supplementation has great potential for improving lactation and metabolism in postpartum mothers, as well as for providing lasting neurodevelopmental advantages in offspring. Brenner and his team hope to further investigate these effects in human clinical trials, as well as gain a deeper understanding of how NR works to modulate the NAD metabolites.1 These findings have the potential to illuminate more on the benefits of breastfeeding, as well as the extent to which NR supplementation may mitigate postpartum stress and support health in offspring.

Click here for a link to the publication.


1. Ear, P. H.; Chadda, A.; Gumusoglu, S. B.; Schmidt, M. S.; Vogeler, S.; Malicoat, J.; Kadel, J.; Moore, M. M.; Migaud, M. E.; Stevens, H. E.; Brenner, C., Maternal Nicotinamide Riboside Enhances Postpartum Weight Loss, Juvenile Offspring Development, and Neurogenesis of Adult Offspring. Cell Reports 2019, 26 (4), 969-983.e4.

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