What is NAD? NAD, which stands for nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide, powers metabolism by enabling the mitochondria, the powerhouse of the cells, to convert the food we eat into the energy our body needs to function efficiently and repair itself when there is damage or stress. In this article, let’s dig deeper into how NAD works on our body and how NAD supplements can help.
How Does NAD Works?
NAD is a coenzyme found in all living cells. A coenzyme is a small molecule that works together with an enzyme, a protein that increases the speed of a chemical reaction. On its own, a coenzyme cannot catalyze a reaction but it can help an enzyme do so. It binds to the enzyme and assists in its activity.
Coenzymes help enzymes turn starting elements (substrates) into their final version (products). Because of this, a coenzyme can change and shift between different forms, such as NAD turning into NAD+ or NADH. NAD, which is mainly involved in the oxidation-reduction (redox) reactions, usually has two forms: NAD+ and NADH. NAD+, the oxidizing agent, picks up electrons from other molecules. When NAD+ drops the electrons, it turns into NADH, a reducing agent that donates electrons.
Moreover, new discoveries show that NAD+, the naturally occurring form of NAD, is required to silence genes that accelerate the aging process. NAD is also involved in DNA repair.
However, research shows that as we get older, the levels of NAD in our body declines. This impairs the mitochondrial function. As a result, the capacity of our cells to repair itself and be resilient weakens. This would also put us at greater risk for neuro and muscular degeneration, as well as cardiovascular and metabolic health problems.
The interest in NAD has grown in recent years as researches are looking for the potential role of mitochondria decline in a lot of age-related diseases such as Alzheimer’s, diabetes, vision loss, and cancer. Researchers are focusing on enzymes that can only function in the presence of NAD+, particularly sirtuins, also known as the “longevity genes.” Sirtuins are a family of proteins that play a key role in the aging process by controlling cellular health.
Vitamin B3 is vital in the production and management of cellular energy. There are over 400 enzymatic reactions in the body that require vitamin B3. Researchers have discovered a form of vitamin B3 that supports the vitamin’s functions throughout the body by boosting NAD+ levels—nicotinamide riboside. Just like other forms of vitamin B3, it is converted by your body into NAD+. This supplement is believed to be the game-changer on how we fight aging, as well as the diseases associated with it.
Aside from “turning off” the genes of aging and reversing the aging process, boosting NAD+ levels with nicotinamide riboside is believed to extend life span, activate sirtuins, enhance cellular energy, increase endurance, and improve cognitive function.
Health Benefits of NAD Supplements – Nicotinamide Riboside
Animal studies have shown that nicotinamide riboside is able to raise NAD+ levels by up to 2.7 times. Here are some of the health benefits associated with nicotinamide riboside and high levels of NAD+.
May promote healthy aging
NAD+ activates certain enzymes that may promote healthy aging, such as sirtuins. These are proteins that protect the cells from aging, and they need NAD+ in order to function.
Studies have shown that sirtuins may help repair damaged DNA. In addition, sirtuins play a vital role in maintaining the length of telomeres, a region of DNA at the end of a chromosome that acts like caps that keep the chromosomes from unraveling. According to Dr. Elissa Epel, Ph.D., when telomeres are measured in midlife, they can be a reliable predictor of who gets disease early or who dies early. That is why they matter when we are older. Long telomeres are associated with longevity, and we need lots of NAD+ in order for them to work efficiently. Aside from helping to repair DNA damage, sirtuins may also reduce inflammation. It can also boost stress resistance and may produce other health benefits that promote healthy aging.
May protect brain cells
A boost from nicotinamide riboside is great for both NAD+ and sirtuins. When these two work together, they can protect cells from stress. Sirtuins, in particular, protect against oxidative stress. However, it is only through the help of NAD+ that sirtuins are able to work efficiently.
In a study done on rats, researchers deprived the animals with oxygen to stress their brain cells. After that, they added NAD+ in the cell culture. Compared to the cells that did not get a shot of NAD+, cells that were treated with NAD+ were more resistant to stress. Likewise, fewer cells in this group died.
Moreover, inside the brain cells, NAD+ increases the activity of PCG-1-alpha, a protein believed to also help protect cells against oxidative stress and impaired mitochondrial function. PCG-1-alpha stimulates our cells to create more mitochondria within them. This, in turn, creates more energy. Researchers suggest that oxidative stress and impaired mitochondrial function has something to do with age-related brain disorders, such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease. In a study done on mice with Alzheimer’s disease, nicotinamide riboside was able to increase brain NAD+ levels by up to 70%. It was also able to increase the production of PGC-1-alpha by 50%. It was observed that the mice performed better in memory-based tasks by the end of the study. In one test-tube study, stem cells were taken from a Parkinson’s disease patient. It was reported that nicotinamide riboside increased NAD+ levels and notably improved mitochondrial function. These studies have great results. However, they were mostly done with animals. More human studies are needed in order to see how raised NAD+ levels actually work in people.
May Lower Heart Disease Risk
Older people tend to be at a higher risk of heart disease. This is because aging remains a major factor that causes this disease.
As we age, blood vessels may become thicker and stiff. When the blood cannot pass through the vessels easily, this can raise blood pressure levels as your heart works harder.
Studies in animals have shown that a raised NAD+ has helped reverse age-related changes to arteries. In addition, adults at risk of high blood pressure who took nicotinamide riboside were able to raise their NAD+ levels. Stiffness in their aorta was reduced, and they also experienced a lowered systolic blood pressure.