Our understanding of genetics and cell metabolism has moved forward in leaps and bounds in recent decades, ever since scientists mapped the human genome nearly two decades ago. Elysium is a company with an impressive array of scientific advisors, a commitment to ongoing research and two products (a supplement called Basis and an at-home test called Index) that aim to help you improve and understand your health as you age. They want to make some of the recent scientific discoveries directly improve your everyday lives.
Do they succeed? Is the science fully baked? Our testers thoroughly reviewed Elysium’s products and here we’ll give you the pros, cons and all details surrounding Elysium and this somewhat controversial industry, so you can decide if their products are right for you.
- Clinical trial shows that Basis works to increase NAD+ by 40% in people.
- Basis contains not just NAD-stimulating NR, but also a powerful antioxidant.
- Basis is transparently and rigorously tested for quality and potency.
- Scientific Advisory Board includes 8 Nobel Prize winners in relevant scientific fields.
- Basis is vegan and gluten-free and contains no artificial colors/flavors.
- Subscribing to Basis gets you a discount on Index.
- Full benefits and concerns of boosting NAD+ are not fully established (research continues).
- Marketing of these products is controversial in the scientific community.
- Index has a big price tag.
Most of our testers experienced a feeling of greater wellness and vitality after a couple months of taking Basis, with no other changes in routine.
Nobody disputes that the scientific research behind Elysium is thrilling, but the research hasn’t ended; it continues because the subjects of NAD+ and cellular aging are so worthy of ongoing research, and because we don’t know the whole story. Studies thus far indicate that Basis is safe, though long-term effects are unknown and there have been insufficient studies on humans so far to draw conclusions about whether the supplement can deliver on its promise or whether the at-home test is a good value. What we know so far is promising, but incomplete. (Note: this could be said for many health supplements.)
If you choose to try Basis, you must be comfortable with those facts and you should definitely consult your healthcare provider before adding it (or any new supplement) to your daily regimen. And if you choose to purchase Index, keep in mind that the technology is new and our understanding still in developmental stage; it’s a first step more than a final destination.
At Innerbody Research, we prefer and recommend Tru Niagen for NR supplementation at this time. To understand why we prefer it, please visit our full Tru Niagen review.
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Elysium was founded in 2014 by MIT researcher Leonard Guarente and investors Eric Marcotulli and Dan Alminana to market a nicotinamide riboside (NR) supplement. The company’s overarching goal remains the same – to spearhead research efforts and offer products that improve human health as we age.
Right now, Elysium offers two products toward that end:
- Basis – their supplement aimed at improving how we age.
- Index – an at-home test kit that delivers information about your biological age and rate of biological aging.
Is Elysium trustworthy?
Elysium, like its competitor Tru Niagen, boasts quite an impressive Scientific Advisory Board. It includes eight Nobel Prize winners (in neuroscience, biochemistry, cancer biology and other related fields) – experts who are affiliated with top universities like Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Stanford and Columbia University. In total, its Advisory Board includes over 25 scientists who are recognized as experts in their fields of research and medicine.
Certainly that engenders some trust. Though there has been skepticism about how prominent a role these advisers play – and accusations that the Board is as much about marketing and window-dressing as it is about imparting serious advice – we personally feel that the involvement of so many authoritative scientists in Elysium’s endeavors is a strong signal of the potential that these experienced professionals see for Elysium’s research and scientific approaches to improve our lives in exciting ways.
Elysium’s Basis supplement contains two ingredients:
- Nicotinamide riboside (NR) – a form of vitamin B3.
- Pterostilbene – a potently bioavailable antioxidant.
Elysium suggests there is a dual purpose for taking Basis:
- To improve cell metabolism
- Toi improve our cells’ capacity to repair themselves.
Our cells’ capacity to do both of these things naturally declines as we age, which is why people often regard this as an anti-aging supplement.
Each Basis pill delivers 250mg of NR and 50mg of pterostilbene. Elysium’s recommended dosage is two pills daily, for a total of 500mg of NR and 100mg of pterostilbene.
Elysium’s NR is not “Niagen” (see our Tru Niagen review for more info), but instead a different proprietary form of crystalline NR. They control their own supply chain. The FDA has judged the “Niagen” form of crystalline NR to be safe, and has not assessed other forms of crystalline NR at this time.
What is NR and why would we want it?
Basis contains NR, which in the body has been clinically proven to increase NAD+ (nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide). The clinical trial that was conducted in partnership with Elysium showed sustained 40% increases in NAD+ levels from taking Basis. But what is NR, you wonder? What is NAD+?
NR is a different form of vitamin B3 than niacin, which you’ve seen on nutrition labels at the store. And NR exists in substances like beer and milk, but in very small amounts.
In our bodies, NR triggers the production of nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD+). NAD+ has been on the radar of the scientific community for over a hundred years, but only recently was it discovered that NR stimulates NAD+ increases in the body.
What we do know is that NAD+ plays an important role in cell metabolism and a cell’s ability to repair itself. We also know that NAD+ levels naturally decrease with age and also decrease in response to stressors in our lives.
Basis contains not only NR, but also a substance called pterostilbene. This also makes it different from competitors like Tru Niagen, for instance. So what is Pterostilbene? It’s an antioxidant found naturally in healthy foods like blueberries, and it sports very high bioavailability. (This means it can make more of a positive impact in your body than other antioxidants that are less bioavailable.) Elysium includes this in their supplement to promote cellular health.
Like others, Elysium offers discounts for what is essentially a subscription.
If you buy a single, one-time supply of Basis (a month’s worth of Basis), you pay $60. But if you subscribe, your options are as follows:
- Month-to-month subscription: $50/jar.
- 6-month prepaid subscription: $45/jar ($270 total).
- 1-year prepaid subscription: $40/jar ($480 total).
Subscriptions will auto-renew if you do not cancel them before they renew at the end of your current paid time period. But you can cancel any time prior to renewal in order to keep your subscription from auto-renewing and getting billed anymore.
Studies on yeast, worms and mice have demonstrated the potential value of NR supplementation, very much exciting the scientific community and prompting calls for further study, which is ongoing.
Meanwhile, human studies – of Basis as well as other NR supplements like Tru Niagen – have been conducted in partnership with the companies who manufacture the supplements, which many in the scientific community consider inappropriate due to potential and obvious conflict of interest, while others simply see it as a way to explore new frontiers.
Those human studies suggest that dosages of NR recommended by Elysium and other competitors are safe. In fact, double or more than double the dosage showed no immediate, serious side effects. Only mild side effects were seen (rarely) when the dosage was double or more than double what these companies recommend. These mild side effects included:
But it’s important to acknowledge another fact: there’s no data about long-term effects. There haven’t been long-term studies of the use of Basis or any other NR supplement by humans, because the supplements themselves have not existed for very long.
Another important fact, something we’ve seen with other promising drugs and supplements: what works in mice doesn’t always work the same way in humans.
And while NR has been shown to increase NAD+, scientists’ understanding of NAD+ continues to develop with ongoing research. Scientific research of NAD+ is multifaceted in fascinating ways. While researchers continue to learn about the aforementioned roles NAD+ plays in cellular health and aging, for instance, cancer researchers are separately studying the potential cancer-fighting strategy of starving cancer cells of NAD+ supply. So our full understanding of NAD+, in different contexts, will grow increasingly complex.
NR supplementation is relatively new, like the scientific understanding and research underpinning them. Subsequently it would be prudent for everyone to consider these products to be “Version 1.0” of what could ultimately be numerous iterations, each one some sort of improvement on the former. It’s very possible that some people could benefit from NR supplementation while others wouldn’t.
If you decide to try Basis in order to see whether you experience an improvement in energy and vitality, we would suggest the month-to-month subscription or, at most, the 6-month. We don’t recommend the single-time purchase or the yearlong subscription.
A year is too big a commitment, while one month’s supply might not be enough for you to draw conclusions about greater vitality and energy or a sense of general improvement in wellness. From our testing, you will probably need a couple months of taking this supplement before you notice improved wellness. Some of our testers were confident that, after about a couple months, they had more energy and vitality, which they attributed to Basis. Your experience may be different, but based on our testing, that’s what we would recommend.
Index may seem like a pretty crazy thing to buy, at first. $499 for an at-home test? Wait six weeks for results? What??
Yes, that sounds outlandish, until you consider Elysium’s lofty goals with their Index test:
- Revealing your biological age – i.e., how old you really are… a number that would mean much more for your health and longevity than your calendar age does.
- An understanding of your rate of biological aging.
- Concrete details about what you can do to add years to your life.
Can you put a price or a deadline on those things? Elysium tried, and $499 / 6 weeks is what they came up with. It’s worth noting that they aren’t the only people offering an at-home test that purports to tell you something very meaningful about your biological age (see our guide to DNA testing to learn more).
For people who subscribe to receive Elysium’s Basis supplement, the price of Index is reduced to $299. But probably the better question is not whether the price is too high – people would pay an even higher price – but rather: is it legit?
With Elysium’s Index, you submit a saliva sample. Index takes that specimen and, using their proprietary Elysium Chip (technology developed with help from DNA giant Illumina), studies your epigenetics. Then they will tell you your biological age, along with suggestions for how it can be improved.
Wait – epigenetics? Yes… we aren’t talking so much about your genetic code, but instead the chemicals that mark them. The Elysium scientists, including pioneering scientist Dr. Levine of Yale, have a new method of analyzing your epigenetic markers in order to assess your biological age – or what they refer to as phenotypic age.
Elysium invites us all to think of our genome as the ingredients in a fully stocked kitchen, while the epigenome is a cookbook that our bodies use for making things from its ingredients. Over time, our bodies may modify the recipes in the cookbook slightly… And these changes leave telltale marks on the ingredients (genome) in a process called DNA methylation. Studying these epigenetic markers very carefully, Elysium assigns you a biological age.
Elysium itself acknowledges that my body, for instance, doesn’t have one single biological age, but instead each type of tissue in my body has its own distinct biological age. The science has advanced far enough for Elysium to offer its biological age number as one “overall” age, which we might think of as an average of sorts. This may be useful for understanding our overall wellbeing, but in the future, increased sophistication will allow for even more useful values specific to separate tissues, organs and systems in the body.
Why this would be valuable information
Your biological age, when you’re young, is quite likely to be a lot closer to your calendar age than it is when you’re middle-aged. Why? It’s because various stressors and life choices play a significant part in our epigenome and how “well” we age from the standpoint of health. Sleep patterns, drinking, smoking, diet and exercise can all contribute to depletion of NAD+.
There is nothing we can do about our calendar age, but biological age is actionable information. When we pay attention to the right age number – the one that truly means something for our underlying health – we may be more motivated to make positive changes that improve our rate of biological aging, perhaps even adding years to our lives. That is what makes products like Index so appealing to many people.
Index doesn’t have a stamp of approval from the FDA; it doesn’t require one. So should you trust it?
The short answer is: it’s complicated. There’s no risk to your health, of course. The price tag – $499, or $299 if you also commit to buying Basis – is big. And the dream of one of Elysium’s co-founders (one with a business school background) is that people will want to make this investment again and again each year in order to study how well they are aging in real time. Hopefully by that time, the price is lower!
The potential behind Index is intoxicating, but it’s impossible to ignore that the science is still in its relative infancy. We mapped the human genome less than two decades ago. Does that mean Index is not a legitimately valuable product? No, but like other cutting-edge health tests related to genetic science, you might want to take the results with a grain of salt and an awareness that this is version 1.0. It’s very exciting to be able to participate in what will undoubtedly lead to more sophisticated and groundbreaking types of testing, but even Elysium admits that the notion of having one overarching biological age for our entire organism is overly simplistic, an incomplete picture. But that’s as far as we’ve reached at this point.
What you will receive with Index is valuable so long as you do not consider it as the final word on your biological health. The biological age value is a simplified number, a starting point. In years to come, we may look back on this moment as a primitive but crucial starting point on a path to much better, healthier aging. But what you are buying right now, while valuable, is valuable in a limited sense.
At Innerbody Research, we customize our evaluation criteria depending on the type and nature of the health service or product. For products and services like Elysium’s, we have five areas that we use for our evaluations, including:
Quality: How well does the company deliver its core service(s) to the customer? Is the quality of the product or service high enough that we would recommend it to loved ones without hesitation? Does the company have a high quality medical review board with oversight? Are their treatment options or products FDA-approved?
Value: Are you getting your money’s worth? Are there any hidden costs or charges? Does the provider offer discounts or free services to our readers?
Customer Support: How well does the company provide information about its product or service? How clearly are options presented?
Privacy: Are all products sent in discreet packaging? Will your data be stored securely? Could your data ever be shared without your permission?
Speed: How fast will you receive your product from the moment you click “buy?” Are the waiting times stated by the company accurate and consistent?