Elysium Basis or ChromaDex Niagen -- Which Is Best?
Updated: Feb 23, 2020
Many who have heard about Nicotinamide Riboside wonder which of the two available types they should take — Elysium's Basis or Tru Niagen from ChromaDex?
Here is a simple chart that describes some of the key differences between the two products and reasons why you might care:
TL;DR: You'll pay less and have less risk if you buy Niagen on Amazon, or purchase Tru Niagen directly from ChromaDex, which is the only licensed manufacturer of NR. It used to be more cost effective to buy a single bottle from amazon, but starting February 2019, TruNiagen.com is comparable for a single bottle, and less expensive for larger or ongoing purchases.
If you choose to add pterostilbene, as Elysium does, that's available cheaper on amazon, also, so you can make your own Basis for less. Although it's worth noting that ChromaDex has stopped selling pterostilbene as a result of new evidence that suggests it may raise LDLs.
Although Basis and Niagen both contain the same primary active ingredient — Nicotinamide Riboside (NR) — there are significant differences in the companies' product, pricing, and service. Also, Tru Niagen now contains 300mg of NR, whereas Basis contains 250mg.
Below, I will explain what I mean by each of the nine factors in the chart.
But first, some quick background: the two companies are at war:
1. ChromaDex holds the patent for NR formulated for oral administration (8,197,807), as well as patents for pterostilbene, which is the other ingredient in Basis
2. Elysium originally got both NR and pterostilbene from ChromaDex, but they had a falling out and the contract ended
3. Elysium attempted to have the above patent invalidated and failed.
4. In mid-2017 Elysium started getting its NR and pterostilbene from an unknown, unlicensed source
5. Elysium and ChromaDex have sued each other
So the questions you would want to ask in deciding which NR to take are:
Are there any important differences between Elysium’s and ChromaDex’s NR, or are they both safe and chemically identical?
1. Is the product guarantied safe?
2. Is the manufacturing process disclosed and safe?
3. Is pterostilbene optional or required?
Are there differences in pricing or other terms of business that make Elysium or ChromaDex a better supplier right now?
4. Which costs more?
5. Are discounts available without a subscription?
6. Is Amazon Prime available?
Can I cancel any time, and will they be able to complete their end of the bargain?
7. Can my subscription be cancelled online?
8. Is long-term availability assured?
9. Will the formulation change?
Product Questions (1-3)
1. Is It FDA Certified (NDIN and GRAS)?
ChromaDex's New Dietary Ingredient Notification was successfully filed with the FDA in 2015. ChromaDex filed its GRAS (Generally Recognized As Safe) certification, which the FDA accepted in 2016.
Elysium claims that the NR in Basis is GRAS, but I do not believe that it has filed a GRAS notification with the FDA for NR, pterostilbene, or for Basis.
Elysium filed a statement with the FDA in January in which it stated, "Elysium is in the process of conducting further testing in support of an NDIN" that it had not yet submitted, and as far as we know still has not submitted, let alone gotten approved. So I do not believe that Elysium has successfully filed an NDIN yet, either.
2. Are Trace Toluene Contaminants Present?
ChromaDex has filed a petition with the FDA including lab test results showing that the NR in Elysium's Basis contains trace residue of toluene, a toxic solvent. Elysium has responded that the toluene residue is safe, that it has since been removed, and that it was never there in the first place. The contradictory nature of Elysium’s assertions give pause, and I have not seen any lab results disclosed by Elysium.
Reasonable minds can disagree about whether the possible presence of toluene in Basis matters. ChromaDex appears to be correct that the FDA has set no safe limits for toluene in food supplements. Elysium appears to be correct that the measured quantities would be considered safe in pharmaceuticals.
I do not agree with Elysium that the safety limits for pharmaceuticals and food supplements should be the same, because food supplements tend to be consumed in much greater quantities (e.g., every day, forever, with occasional hobbyist mega-dosing) than routinely occurs with pharmaceuticals (typically limited duration often with medical supervision).
My view is that the toluene residue, if present, is not dangerous, and it does not worry me that Elysium has not disclosed to the FDA their manufacturing process, even if they are legally required to have done so. However, I know people who prefer zero toluene rather than trace toluene, and so until we see actual lab results from Elysium instead of mere assertions in legal filings, this factor will favor Niagen for those who are cautious.
3. Is There a Pterostilbene-Free Option?
Reasonable minds can also disagree about whether the presence of pterostilbene in Basis is a good thing or a bad thing. The purpose of pterostilbene is to provide an alternative method of mimicking calorie-restriction, which would make it complementary to NR. I originally took Pterostilbene for this reason -- first in Basis, and then as a stand-alone.
Elysium was sufficiently excited about pterostilbene that they at one point sought to be the only supplier who could combine NR and pterostilbene together in a single product.
[UPDATE October 2018:] It did not bother me that a study showed pterostilbene increasing cholesteral. But now ChromaDex has stopped selling pterostilbene based on an additional research that also shows the increased LDLs, so I no longer recommend pterostilbene, and I would not consider Basis for that reason alone.
Pricing Questions (4-6)
4. Single-Bottle and One-Year Subscription Prices?
Basis costs more than Niagen, but a single bottle of Tru Niagen costs about the same directly from ChromaDex or from amazon.com.
However, for multi-bottle purchases and subscriptions, you save a lot by purchasing directly from ChromaDex at TruNiagen.com. The pricing below is for six bottles:
Because Elysium's Basis costs significantly more, one could reasonably ask what you are getting for the additional money? One obvious possibility is that you get pterostilbene mixed in. Whether you want pterostilbene mixed in is not as clear, though.
Another thing you might be paying for is Elysium's pricey board of Nobel-Prize-Winning advisors who did not invent the components of Basis (both of which came from ChromaDex), and have yet to birth any other products, so it is not clear what they do.
One Nobel-Prize-Winning advisor said that Elysium's Advisory Board “...does NOT endorse the products of Elysium. Its sole role is to advise Elysium on the development and testing of its compounds.” But Elysium recently added a new scientific advisor whose Nobel Prize was in Behavioral Economics. I don't see any way that a psychologist who explains why humans behave in irrational ways can helpfully advise "on the development and testing of compounds." So the value of these advisors has been questioned and is not clear.
5. Is A Discount Available Without Subscription?
Elysium requires a subscription if you want a discount, and there is no discount for multi-bottle subscriptions. Five bottles of Basis per month costs 5x what one bottle per month costs.
Tru Niagen offers a multi-bottle discount AND a subscription discount, so you can choose either or both and get 20%-25% off the single-bottle price with a multi-bottle discount, and up to 40% off with a subscription.
If you purchase Tru Niagen on Amazon, you can up to 10% discount with a multi-bottle purchase, and a 5% subscription discount, so both the multi-bottle and the subscription savings are much higher at Tru Niagen.
6. Available with Amazon Prime?
Tru Niagen is available with Amazon Prime free 2-day shipping on any size order; Elysium Basis is not.
Trust Questions (7-9)
Update, September 2018: Elysium Health currently has an "F" rating from the Better Business Bureau, (Update 11/18: Now C+) and has been sued for patent infringement. ChromaDex has an A+ from the Better Business Bureau.
7. Subscription can be canceled online?
If you subscribe to Tru Niagen, you can cancel or pause the subscription online any time.
For me, this is a huge deal. I do not do business with any company that takes my credit card and then makes me call them on the phone to cancel. I do not trust why they make it difficult to cancel.
[PICTURED: TruNiagen.com lets you cancel or pause your subscription any time]
When I was an Elysium Basis customer, I did cancel one subscription by phone and one subscription by email. But I did not receive any response to my request to cancel by email, so then I telephoned to follow up and was assured that my subscription had in fact been canceled. However, I prefer to be able to cancel online. For that reason alone, I would never go back to Elysium Basis.
[PICTURED: Elysium Basis requires that you call or email to cancel.]
8. Long Term Availability Assured?
It doesn't make sense to buy single-bottles of Basis for $60 each, so I am sure most Elysium customers subscribe. That means it's REALLY important, if you pay up front for an entire year, that the company and their product are still there in month-twelve when they are supposed to ship the final bottle.
ChromaDex is a publicly traded company (NASDAQ:CDXC), so anybody can see their financials. They were founded in 1999, and have had the same Founder/CEO the entire time. ChromaDex has a strong balance sheet, with over $40M cash on hand. ChromaDex has a big patent portfolio. In addition to their US sales, ChromaDex is rolling out Tru Niagen internationally -- so far in Hong Kong, Macau, Singapore, and New Zealand, and is planning to expand both in Asia and beyond with additional "blue chip" distributors.
Elysium is a newer company, founded in 2014. Elysium is privately held, so financial information is not publicly available. Basis is Elysium's only product. ChromaDex has patents on both the ingredients in Basis. Elysium's challenge to one of the NR patents has been completely rejected, and Elysium's challenge to the other NR patent was partially rejected.
Both companies are incurring significant litigation expenses in their three-front legal battle -- likely in excess of $1M/quarter. ChromaDex obviously has the cash to the defend its intellectual property. We don't know whether Elysium has big financial reserves or not, or what they will do if they lose their fight.
So although Elysium promises that it will be able to continue to supply Basis to its customers indefinitely, I would bet on the company that HAS the patents instead of the company that was hoping to, but failed to, invalidate someone else's patents.
9. Will the Supplier Be Forced to Change Its Formulation?
No one knows what will be the outcome of the litigation between the parties. If Elysium manages to get ChromaDex's patents invalidated, then anyone will be allowed to produce NR, and Elysium will have many competitors, including presumably low-price competitors.
However, if ChromaDex successfully defends any of its patents, then Elysium might have to pay licensing fees, and could be liable for significant patent infringement damages.
A big legal judgment against Elysium could harm the company, and/or force Elysium to reformulate Basis in way that does not infringe on ChromaDex's intellectual property.
One potential reformulation would be to weaken the strength of the NR in Basis so that it is diluted to less than 25% (the USPTO's Patent and Trademark Appeals Board has interpreted ChromaDex's Niagen patents to only cover products that contain 25% or more NR). So it would appear possible for Elysium to reformulate Basis so that if you took eight pills instead of two pills, that might solve the legal problem -- although it would make the product tedious.
Another possibility is that Elysium could reformulate Basis to rely on a different NAD precursor -- Nicotinamide Mononucleotide (NMN) -- instead of Nicotinamide Riboside (NR). It is possible that NMN could have many or most of the same positive benefits of NR, even though NMN cannot be absorbed directly by cells. However, the science behind NMN is not as advanced -- there are fewer studies, mostly on rodents, largely involving injections rather than oral ingestion, and none that measure safety, efficacy, and bioavailability from oral administration in humans.
ChromaDex will probably update Niagen as technology improves -- perhaps stronger or more effective versions will appear. But ChromaDex won't likely be forced to change to a version that is less efficacious.
Whether Elysium is able to continue using NR and pterostilbene in Basis depends on the outcomes of lawsuits that are extremely unpredictable -- indeed, ChromaDex has not actually filed a patent infringement action against Elysium, although it would appear that ChromaDex could do so in the future.
In sum, Elysium may be able to sustain its current formulation of Basis indefinitely, or even offer an improved formulation, but there are some possible scenarios in which it could not, and the future is exceedingly difficult to predict, [UPDATE 9/2018:] especially since Elysium has now been sued for patent infringement.
Tru Niagen is higher-quality, and less-expensive -- with better ways to buy it, receive it, and stop receiving it -- and is also a safer bet for the long-term.
2. Why I Tell All My Friends to Take NR
4. One Simple Reason to Avoid Basis
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