The potential benefits of NAD (nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide) are being widely discussed across the world. It is a naturally-occurring molecule in the body, and its levels decrease as we age. In this article we overlook what is NAD, potential benefits that it might have and ways to improve its levels.
NAD is a naturally-occurring molecule in the body that appears to assist in vital cell functions necessary for good health.
As we age, our bodies stop producing adequate amounts of NAD, leading to physical and cognitive declines.
NAD+ supplements and NAD precursors (such as NMN and niacin) have shown promise in prolonging life in mice studies.
NAD+ supplements are available in many forms, have few side effects, and may help prevent cancer, cognitive degeneration, and issues like high cholesterol.
However, more research is needed before we can be sure NAD+ supplements and NAD+ IV therapy work well in humans and lack long-term side effects.
Diminished levels of NAD also appear to be linked to physical and cognitive decline. In this article, we will discuss whether NAD+ supplements may be able to curb the diseases and conditions associated with old age and possibly extend the human lifespan.
What is NAD?
NAD is a molecule, specifically a coenzyme, that occurs naturally in the human body. The abbreviation stands for nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide, also commonly known as NAD+. (The “+” refers to the oxidized form of NAD. Coenzymes like NAD bind to our enzymes to help initiate and accelerate actions that are essential to our body's healthy function.
NAD is a key component of bodily processes, such as:
- Redox reactions. The oxidation-reduction (or redox) reaction assists in our energy metabolism.
- Enzyme activities. The actions of enzymes regulate metabolism and circadian rhythm (The body’s natural sleep-wake cycle).
- Cellular functions. That includes DNA repair, cellular senescence (which prevents cells from multiplying at an out-of-control rate), and immune cell function.
Researchers have found that we produce less NAD as we age. The depletion of NAD appears to be connected to age-related conditions, like cognitive decline, cancer, and sarcopenia which is the loss of skeletal mass and strength.
As a result, researchers have been looking for proof that taking nicotinamide supplements could prevent or reverse age-related conditions and prolong healthy lifespans. At the moment, it's unclear whether NAD or a precursor, called NMN, is the best way to address the symptoms of aging.
Does NAD differ from NMN?
NMN is a precursor to NAD+, which means NMN is eventually transformed into NAD once it enters the bloodstream. The abbreviation, NMN, stands for nicotinamide mononucleotide.
Instead of boosting NAD directly, increasing the body's levels of NMN may be an even better way to get NAD to the right places to slow age-related disease and degeneration.
While the benefits of NMN and NAD are thought to be the same, NMN benefits include boosting the body's glucose tolerance and insulin production, which may help prevent diabetes. However, the FDA is now investigating beta-nicotinamide mononucleotide (β-NMN) as a potential medication, which prevents manufacturers from selling it as a supplement.
5 key benefits of NAD
NAD has been in the news for decades because of its potential to boost human longevity. Here are the five main benefits of NAD that scientists have found some evidence of thus far.
1. Slows down aging
There is no "miracle drug" that can stop the aging process. But NAD supplements may alter the cellular processes that lead to physical and cognitive decline. Scientists have observed that a reduction in NAD+ levels in the body is linked to age-related disorders.
However, NAD+ supplements have only shown success in slowing down the aging process in mice—not in humans. The best way to boost NAD levels in humans is still unclear.
2. Increases energy
NAD appears to help deliver energy to the cells to improve their function. This, in turn, may help the body improve and sustain athletic performance by boosting energy levels, metabolism, and circulation. NAD is also believed to help protect muscles from degradation over time and allow the cellular processes that assist in muscle recovery after workouts.
3. Improves cognitive function
Reduced levels of NAD appear to be linked to neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. This could be partly due to its role in protecting neurons (nerve cells). While most of this research has occurred in mice and rats thus far, researchers believe that NAD+ supplementation may play a similar role in decreasing the nerve-related inflammation associated with cognitive impairment in humans as well.
4. Reduces cholesterol
Both NAD+ and the NAD precursor, niacin, have been shown to have a beneficial effect on cholesterol. Specifically, niacin has been shown to lower triglycerides and raise HDL cholesterol (aka "good cholesterol"). Maintaining healthy cholesterol levels is crucial for lowering your risk of heart disease, which is the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States.
5. Reduces cancer risk
NAD plays a critical role in cellular health and the benefits of NAD+ may include the prevention, treatment, and arrest of certain types of cancer.
But researchers have recently shown that NAD's role in cancer may be more complicated, and the energy boost it gives to cells could even enhance the uncontrolled cell growth that characterizes cancer.
More research is required to determine how NAD can target and destroy cancer cells and how it might encourage their growth under certain circumstances.
How you can take NAD
Oral pills and NAD+ IV therapy are the two most popular forms of administration.
NAD is also available in the following forms:
- Oral pills;
- Sublingual solutions;
- Liposomal liquids;
- IV therapy;
- Intramuscular injections;
- Topical solutions;
- Nasal sprays.
One of the most popular forms, oral NAD+ supplements, is generally well-tolerated and the most convenient form of NAD therapy.
For example, liposomal NAD+ is an oral solution made with liposomes or tiny spheres, containing NAD+. Liposomal NAD+ benefits include better absorption as it may deliver NAD+ into the bloodstream more effectively than capsules. It’s also a better option for people who have difficulty swallowing pills or undergoing injections.
NAD IV therapy
NAD intravenous or IV therapy, also called NAD drips, delivers the active ingredient to your bloodstream. NAD precursors can also be delivered via an IV drip. Because intravenous therapy helps active ingredients bypass the digestive system, they avoid possible degradation by stomach acid.
While there are many potential NAD+ IV benefits, these treatments also have their drawbacks:
- Require appointment scheduling;
- Unsuitable for people who are fearful of needles;
- Takes up to 60 minutes;
- More expensive than oral forms of NAD+ therapy;
- Injection site reactions and infection risk is also present.
NAD side effects
While NAD+ therapy is generally considered safe, it's important to remember that the FDA does not regulate supplements, and there can be little oversight over the quantity and quality of active ingredients in NAD+ treatments.
Potential benefits and side effects of NAD+ and NMN supplements are still under investigation by researchers. NAD+ therapies haven't been around long enough for us to know the long-term safety.
According to reports, people taking NAD+ supplements or NAD+ IV therapy have experienced the following side effects:
- Temporary brain fog;
- Cramping during the IV therapy;
However, NAD+ side effects seem to be short-lived. If you’re not feeling well after taking NAD oral supplements or IV therapy, seek medical help immediately.
How to increase NAD naturally
Apart from taking supplements, there are other ways to increase NAD levels in your body naturally:
Exercise. Physical activity, especially aerobic exercises, naturally increase the amount of NAD in the body without using supplements. Additionally, the health benefits of NAD+ include the ability to exercise longer.
Use UV protection. Preventing the premature depletion of NAD in the body is also crucial to healthy aging. Limiting unprotected sun exposure may help the body maintain NAD levels longer.
Eat foods containing NMN. NAD's precursor, NMN, can be found in foods like cabbage, broccoli, edamame, cucumber, and avocados.
While we can't slow down the human body's inability to produce NAD as we age, the ability to take NAD+ supplements can help replenish this vital molecule.
Research still needs to be done on the specific benefits of NAD therapy in humans and its long-term side effects. We may also find out that precursors of NAD (such as NMN and niacin) could play a role in getting the body to produce NAD in old age.
While it may not be the "fountain of youth," many signs point to NAD+ being a helpful supplement for those who want to ward off the effects of aging.
- American Journal of Cell Physiology. Circadian cardiac NAD+ metabolism, from transcriptional regulation to healthy aging.
- Cells. Maintenance of NAD+ Homeostasis in Skeletal Muscle During Aging and Exercise.
- Cells. Nicotinamide Adenine Dinucleotide (NAD) Metabolism as a Relevant Target in Cancer.
- FDA. B-Nicotinamide Mononucleotide (NMN) from Inner Mongolia Kingdomway Pharmaceutical Limited.
- Frontiers in Cell and Developmental Biology. Nicotinamide Mononucleotide: A Promising Molecule for Therapy of Diverse Diseases by Targeting NAD+ Metabolism.
Show all references
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- Journal of Neuroinflammation. NAD+ Improves Cognitive Function and Reduces Neuroinflammation by Ameliorating Mitochondrial Damage and Decreasing ROS Production in Chronic Cerebral Hypoperfusion Models Through Sirt1/PGC-1α Pathway.
- Nature Cell Biology. NAD+ Metabolism Governs the Proinflammatory Senescence-Associated Secretome.
- Nature Reviews: Molecular Cell Biology. NAD+ Metabolism and its Roles in Cellular Processes During Ageing.
- Nutrients. Age-Dependent Decline of NAD+—Universal Truth or Confounded Consensus?
- Nutrients. Supplementation with NAD+ and Its Precursors to Prevent Cognitive Decline across Disease Contexts.
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- Signal Transduction and Targeted Therapy. NAD+ Metabolism: Pathophysiologic Mechanisms and therapeutic Potential.
- Trends in Cell Biology. NAD+ and Sirtuins in Aging and Disease.
- Washington University School of Medicine. Scientists Identify New Fuel-Delivery Route for Cells.
- CDC. Heart Disease Facts.