NAD+ The Anti-Aging Boosting Coenzyme
Scientists have identified a coenzyme that may be the key—or at least part of it—to prolonging both life and health span, keeping your mind and body aging in a healthy way. It’s called nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD+), and emerging research indicates it’s elevation may slow or even reverse aspects of aging and delay the progression of age-related diseases.
What is nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD+)?
NAD+ is a critical coenzyme, found in all living cells, that is involved in fundamental biological processes, namely metabolism, cell signaling, gene expression, DNA Repair, among others. It is essential to the creation of energy in the body, as well as the regulation of pivotal cellular processes. It is particularly crucial for the functioning of the mitochondria, the power plants in our cells that convert our food and oxygen into energy.
NAD+ has two general sets of reactions in the human body: helping turn nutrients into energy as a key player in metabolism and working as a helper molecule for proteins that regulate other cellular functions. These processes are incredibly important.
The problem is NAD+ levels decline significantly as we age leading to mitochondrial deterioration and impaired functioning. Underperforming or damaged mitochondria contribute to a number of age-related health conditions and thus it is these declining levels of NAD+ that drive the aging process.
One way NAD+ seems to exert its health-promoting properties is by helping sirtuins do their job. Sirtuins are a class of proteins that regulate cellular biological pathways, turn certain genes on and off, and help protect cells from age-related decline. For example, NAD+ increases the activity of one type of sirtuins, SIRT1, which has been found to induce the formation of new mitochondria and extend life span, as well as SIRT6, which helps maintain the length of telomeres (the end caps on DNA)—longer telomeres are associated with longevity. Sirtuins can only function in the presence of NAD+
Potential benefits of maintaining healthy NAD+ levels.
Appropriate levels of NAD+ are critical to support the body’s response to stress, as NAD+ is used by the body to modulate cellular activity in response to endogenous and exogenous assaults, including those triggered by environmental toxins, pro-inflammatory foods, physical and emotional trauma, and even chronic use of medication.
Alterations in NAD+ homeostasis is associated with the hallmarks of aging and can be found in virtually all age-related diseases, including neurodegeneration, diabetes and cancer and it is essential for continued health, wellness and strength.
Animal studies have shown that supporting healthy levels of NAD+ can reinvigorate existing mitochondria while inducing mitochondrial biogenesis, that is the formation of new mitochondria. This in turn can lead to improved memory, resistance to weight gain, a longer life span, and a host of other benefits. As mentioned above, NAD+ is able to do this by activating proteins called sirtuins and optimizing cell metabolism in other ways.
Here are some of the most promising ways that maintaining or increasing healthy NAD+ levels can improve health:
1. Combat age-related memory loss.
NAD+ is vital to DNA repair and resistance to neuronal stress. As a result, it helps enhance memory and slows down age-related memory loss. According to a recent animal study, researchers developed a strain of mice with features mimicking human age-related memory decline, then added an NR supplement to their drinking water for three months to increase NAD+ levels. Over this period, researchers found that the NR-treated mice had less DNA damage, higher neuroplasticity, increased production of new neurons, and lower levels of neuronal damage. In the hippocampus area of the brain (where damage and loss of volume is found in people with memory issues), NR seemed to clear existing DNA damage or prevent it from spreading farther. The NR-treated mice also performed better on memory tests.
2. Promote longevity.
In 2000, MIT biologist Lenny Guarente’s lab reported that NAD fuels the activity of sirtuins, including SIRT1—the more NAD there is in cells, the more SIRT1 does beneficial things. One of those things is to induce the formation of new mitochondria. NAD can also activate another sirtuin, SIRT3, which is thought to keep mitochondria running smoothly.
Several studies have demonstrated that replenishing NAD+ levels through supplementation with NR lengthened the life span of mice by increasing activation of SIRT1 (a specific sirtuin protein) which has been shown to induce the formation of new mitochondria. This is the same mechanism by which calorie restriction seems to confer its health benefits and lengthen life span. (Additional compounds that may mimic the life-extending effects of calorie restriction include pterostilbene and resveratrol.) A slew of other health benefits have been attributed to SIRT1 activation in hundreds of studies, including several small human trials.
Researchers have also discovered that cells’ nuclei send signals to mitochondria that are needed to maintain their normal operation. SIRT1 helps insure the signals get through. When NAD+ levels drop, SIRT1 activity falls off, which in turn makes the crucial signals fade, leading to mitochondrial dysfunction and all the ill effects that go with it.
NAD+ can also activate others sirtuins, including SIRT3, which is thought to keep mitochondria running smoothly, as well as SIRT6, which helps maintain the length of telomeres—the end caps on DNA that are associated with longevity.*
3. Enhance strength and endurance.*
As we age, we experience sarcopenia a condition characterized by progressive and generalized decline of muscle function and strength. But according to animal studies, increasing NAD+ levels by supplementing with NR seems to help. In one study, researchers used mice whose genes were altered so their muscle tissue contained just 15 percent of the normal amount of NAD+. They then measured muscle strength and endurance, which was quite low. But after giving the mice NR-enriched water to replenish NAD+ levels, their exercise capacity was restored to that of a normal, healthy mouse in just one week. In another study, supplementation with NAD+ precursors led to DNA repair and an improvement in the health of muscle tissue within the first week—to the extent that researchers couldn’t tell the difference between the tissue of a mouse that was two years old and a mouse that was four months old.
4. Counter high-fat diets and help manage weight gain.*
Animal research suggests that increasing your NAD+ levels may help support metabolism and weight maintenance, even in the case of a high fat diet.* One study found that mice on high-fat diets that received an NR supplement gained 60 percent less weight than they did on the same diets without NR. They also had more energy. Researchers suggested these positive results were due to the increased activation of the sirtuins SIRT1 and SIRT3, which led to improved oxidative metabolism.
How to maintain healthy NAD+ levels in the body.
With all of this in mind, we want to try to maintain healthy NAD+ levels, to counteract the natural declines we experience as we age. But here’s the catch, taking a NAD+ supplement might not be the best way increase NAD+ levels in the body. NAD+ is a large molecule, and in order for it to enter your cells, your body has to take it apart, transport it piece-by-piece into the cell, and then put it back together again. But if NAD+ is not a nutrient present in food or practical to take by supplement, then why are we even talking about it? Turns out, there are a couple of ways to increase your NAD+ levels which may have positive results for your health:
1. Calorie Restriction
Restricting calories (20 to 30 percent less than what you normally consume) and fasting have been shown to increase NAD+ levels and increase activation of SIRT1. Scientists say this SIRT1 activation is why calorie restriction has been associated with increased life span in animal studies. However, drastically cutting your calories or fasting for prolonged periods of time isn’t realistic or advisable for most people. There is some speculation that intermittent fasting diets and low-carb ketogenic diets might have a similar impact on NAD+ levels—while being much more sustainable—but more research needs to be done to confirm this.
2. Supplements containing nicotinamide riboside (NR)
Nicotinamide riboside (NR) is a newly discovered form of vitamin B3, which is found in trace amounts in milk. No one really thought much about NR until scientists discovered that our bodies convert NR into NAD+. Two recent human trials on NR-containing supplements found that they both effectively increased levels of NAD+ in the body, While more studies are needed, it looks like NR could be the future of healthy aging research.
3. IV Therapy to increase NAD+ levels
IV therapy can refer to a variety of options during which your body receives intravenous infusions of different vitamins, nutrients and cofactors. These infusions are typically targeted to address known deficiencies, and/or to promote certain aspects of your health and wellness.
NAD+ IV therapy works by delivering nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide directly into the bloodstream. This is an excellent option for anyone looking to quickly restore their levels. NAD+ is infused via an IV drip directly into the blood stream enhancing bioavailability, meaning your body will absorb the highest possible supplemental coenzymes and convert them into molecular energy.
Anyone suffering from reduced energy levels (feelings of sluggish and fatigue) or feels like their mind is continuously foggy can be a great candidate for this type of IV treatment. Individuals who are struggling with the side effects of aging or who suffer from certain age-related illnesses or chronic conditions are also excellent candidates.
These infusions can also be beneficial for healthy individuals, for example, it’s often recommended for athletes who want to enhance their performance and endurance and speed up their recovery times.
Finally, there is some evidence to show that NAD+ may be beneficial for individuals battling substance addictions. For example, it can help repair brain cells that have been damaged by substance abuse and regenerate opiate receptors to reduce cravings and the side effects of withdrawals. More on that in the next section.
4. Measures to maintain healthy NAD+ levels
Additionally, there are things you can do to help maintain NAD+ levels. For example, UV rays damage skin cells and your body uses NAD+ to repair that damage. Therefore, wearing sunscreen or protective clothing can help minimize that damage and preserve NAD+. A healthy, whole-food-based diet and a regular exercise routine (especially High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) workouts) can help—as they both boost the health of your mitochondria and help your body use NAD+ more efficiently or sparingly.
The bottom line on NAD+ and your health.
NAD+ is clearly an important molecule for optimizing a variety of cellular functions that promote overall health and longevity. While restricting calories is a natural way to increase NAD+ levels, it’s likely not ideal, or even realistic for most people. Supplementing with an NAD+ precursor supplement such as NR, on the other hand, may be easier, and seem to be the next promising thing in healthy aging supplementation.
If you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or taking medications, consult with your doctor before starting a supplement routine. It is always optimal to consult with a health care provider when considering what supplements are right for you.
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