Singapore’s Centre for Health Longevity kicks off series of clinical trials that explore supplements for ageing

By Tingmin Koe

- Last updated on GMT

Ageing could be measure by looking at the chronological age and biological age. © Getty Images
Ageing could be measure by looking at the chronological age and biological age. © Getty Images

Related tags healthy longevity geroprotectors Singapore NMN multivitamins

Singapore’s Centre for Healthy Longevity (CHL) is conducting human clinical trials on the local population on the potential benefits of health supplements, including multivitamins, alpha-ketoglutarate (AKG), and nicotinamide mononucleotide (NMN), for healthy longevity.

The Centre is housed within the National University Health System (NUHS). Helmed by co-directors Professor Brian Kennedy and Professor Andrea Maier, the centre's mission is to add healthy years of life by delaying ageing, prolonging disease-free life, and maintaining high functionality.

It does so by developing biomarkers to measure ageing, testing interventions to slow ageing, and creating implementation strategies to extend healthy life expectancy.

The potential of health supplements in supporting healthy longevity is also studied in the Centre through pre-clinical and clinical trials. 

Speaking to NutraIngredients-Asia, ​Professor Maier, who is also the Oon Chiew Seng Professor in Medicine, Healthy Ageing, and Dementia Research at National University of Singapore (NUS), said that the centre has trialled the geroprotective potential of health supplements, such as multivitamins, AKG, and NMN so far.

A study published on Geroscience​ last February found that NMN supplementation could increase nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD+) concentrations and is safe and well tolerated with dosing up to 900mg daily.

At the 30th​ and 60th​ day of the trial, the increase in walking distance was also significantly higher in the intervention groups taking 300mg, 600mg, and 900mg of NMN as compared to the placebo group.

The Centre’s upcoming study is to assess the need for NMN supplementation among individuals, and if so, what is the optimal dosage and frequency of NMN intake in order for the change in NAD+ levels to be clinically meaningful.

Another trial that is being conducted is the ABLE study, otherwise known as the “Alpha-ketoglutarate supplementation lowers Biological agE in middle-aged adults” study. The study involves middle-aged adults who are healthy but are biologically older as compared to their chronological age.

Dr Maier said that supplements studied in human clinical trials would always need to be proven in animal studies first.

“We are always focusing on supplements which have been proven in animal studies.

“We are doing the ABLE study at the moment is with alpha ketoglutarate. We know that alpha ketoglutarate is modifying various physiological systems in the body, with positive effects on the brain, on the heart, on the muscle – which are effects that are seen at least in animal models, and it's been proven in observational studies that people who are taking AKG might be biologically younger in the end.

“We are now testing it in a randomised control trial to find out if that's actually true, and if people who are getting AKG are also biologically younger,”​ she said.

The Centre is also going to trial the use of multivitamins and minerals in a large-scale study.

“We always start with writing up with what the literature review says, what do we still have to know, what kind of advice do we give to individuals, and based on that review of the literature, we are doing the very specific trials.”

Chronological age, which is the number of years on earth, and biological age, referring to how fast one is ageing as compared to their peers, are two key indicators of ageing.

Biological age could be measured by examining for example, the microbiome, the glycan age, and the epigenetic clocks.

Epigenetic clocks are​ mathematically derived age estimators that are based on combinations of methylation values that change with age at specific CpGs in the genome. They are widely used to measure the age of tissues and cells.

Consumer, self-monitoring device, and research 

Dr Maier believes that the interest in healthy longevity is driven by consumer needs, as well as the boom in self-monitoring devices, and longevity research.

“I think it’s consumer-driven at the moment. People recognise that they are ageing and are realising that their bodily functions are going to decline with the chronological ageing processes.

“There is a drive now to keep healthy and we have all the digital devices which can show us if we move a lot, how our sleep quality is, and what our heart rate is.”

At the same time, there is a large amount of related research published in the last decade, and more so in the last two to three years, spanning from pre-clinical to clinical studies.

Dr Maier also gave the example of XPrize Healthspan, which is a seven-year, US$101 million global competition that seeks to revolutionise the ageing process.

“Existing studies have showed that not only can we increase the lifespan and the health span of model organisms, such as a mouse or C elegans, we can also do the same in humans, which I will say is driving the field and the push in this explosion of companies, the explosion of research, and the explosion of funding etc in the field of healthy longevity.”

Definition of healthy longevity

Dr Maier is currently leading efforts in providing a concise and standardised definition of the term “health span”, which is closely related to the idea of healthy longevity. 

A recent review by Dr Maier and her team found that there are over 100 definitions for “health span”.

“In my definition, healthy longevity is without age related diseases and without functional impairments, and that also then refers to health span, which is a term that is often similarly used as healthy longevity.  

“Health span is the duration of years without physical limitations and without an age-related disease,” ​she said. 

The term “lifespan” is often discussed in relation to “health span” but the two are hugely different, said Dr Maier.

Unlike “health span”, “lifespan” considers only the duration on earth without taking other factors into account, such as health status and the quality of life.

“That’s also the reason why we take for example, supplements, to increase the health span rather than the lifespan. Our focus is on healthy longevity and not too much on life span,” ​she explained.  

Healthy longevity conferences

The Centre will be hosting two conferences on healthy longevity between February 26 (Mon) and March 1 (Fri).

The first, which runs from February 26 to 28, is the “NUS Intensive Course on Healthy Longevity” that will look at the theories and hallmarks of ageing, cellular rejuvenation, and more. The three-day event will take place at NUSS Kent Ridge Guild House, Singapore.

The second, which runs from February 29 to March 1, is known as “NUHS Centre for Healthy Longevity Conference 2024 – Unlock Healthy Longevity: Supplements”. It will explore the potential of gero-protective supplements in transforming the ageing process and will take place at the Shaw Foundation Alumni House, National University of Singapore (NUS). The conference is also available for virtual access via Zoom.

Professor David Sinclair from the Department of Genetics at the Paul F. Glenn Center for Biology of Ageing Research at Harvard Medical School and Guido Kroemer, Professor, Université Paris Cité are expected to speak at the events.

More information could be found here.

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