NAD Supplements: Do They Help to Fight Aging?

Many people have turned to NAD supplements since as you age, your NAD+ levels go down. But NAD is essential for proper cell function, helping organs repair themselves, and even increasing your lifespan. It protects against age-related disease and supports immune and cognitive function. But do NAD supplements help to fight the effects of aging?

Key takeaways:
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    NAD is a coenzyme that is essential to health and declines with age.
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    NAD+ and NADH are two forms of NAD.
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    NAD+ supplements are actually precursors to NAD, commonly vitamin B3 and NMN.
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    NAD supplements may reduce aging and cholesterol, improve immune function and cognitive function, and relieve the symptoms of anxiety and depression.

This guide is designed to tell you what we know so far about NAD’s role in aging and what are the benefits of NAD supplements.

What is NAD?

NAD, nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide, is an important coenzyme found in every cell of your body. NAD is responsible for converting food to energy. But it also protects the function of your brain and body, your nervous system, your immune system, and your mental health. Your natural NAD levels decrease as you age and can become depleted by vitamin deficiency, disease, inflammation, and addiction.

Is NAD the same as vitamin B3?

No, NAD is not the same as vitamin B3, but it does play a role in our understanding of NAD. Also known as niacin, vitamin B3 is a precursor to NAD. This means that once it’s absorbed in the body, it can be converted to NAD+.

There are three forms of vitamin B3:

  • Niacin.
  • Niacinamide.
  • Nicotinamide Riboside.

Some studies have found that nicotinamide riboside (NR) is the most effective of the three in increasing NAD+ levels and is the safer choice for higher dosages.

NAD, NAD+, and NADH: What’s the difference?

  • NAD is the umbrella term for NAD, NAD+, and NADH.
  • NADH is the reduced form of the molecule. Once the molecule is in the bloodstream, it enters the cell and receives an electron — hydrogen. This is when it becomes NADH in a process known as reduction.
  • NAD+ is the oxidized version of the molecule delivered to your bloodstream. When NADH gives away the hydrogen electron, it in turn becomes NAD+.

NAD goes back and forth between the two forms to deliver electrons to the mitochondria where cells can make use of the energy. This is the foundation of what NAD does to regenerate the body on a cellular level.

NAD benefits

NAD levels are a foundational part of living a healthy life, especially as you age. There are several benefits to increasing NAD+ levels, and many studies are underway that have the potential to improve how we understand many health topics ranging from Parkinson’s disease to addiction to fertility rates. Below are the main benefits of raising your NAD+ levels.

May reduce aging

As you age, your NAD+ levels diminish. By the middle of your life, NAD+ levels are half of what they were in your youth. Some studies suggest that replenishing your body with NAD+ not only increases your lifespan, but protects against age-related diseases, like diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson's.

May reduce cholesterol

High cholesterol is a common issue that causes 4.4 million deaths annually. Research is underway to study the effects of NAD+ in reducing cholesterol in the body. Some findings suggest that sirtuins, a protein whose activity is impacted by NAD+ levels, influence how your body metabolizes lipids. This could mean that taking NAD supplements helps to lower cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart disease, heart attack, and stroke.

Improves cognitive function

The brain changes as we age, and this is linked to NAD+ and NADH levels as well. Lower NAD+ levels have been linked to brain fog, fatigue, and mood disorders like anxiety and depression. Both forms of NAD affect mental clarity, memory, and cognitive function.

Brain fog is characterized by an inability to focus or think clearly and difficulty concentrating. It’s often associated with depression, gut issues, and stress. But cognitive decline is also a symptom of aging. Research shows that supplementing the body with NAD+ improves mental performance and helps to clear brain fog.

Improves the immune system

Inflammation is the immune system's response to stress, and can often deplete NAD+ levels. Much research is underway to study the relationship between disrupted NAD+ levels and immune function. One study suggests that COVID-19 depletes NAD levels and that restoring those levels can assist in recovering from the virus.

May help with anxiety and depression

Anxiety and depression are two leading mood disorders. Anxiety and depression can arise from many factors: genetics, traumatic life events, or brain chemistry. The effect of NAD+ on cognitive function might extend to mood disorders, such as anxiety and depression.

Research links severely low levels of NAD+ to a higher risk of anxiety, and this suggests that replenishing these levels could alleviate symptoms. While there is no evidence to support that NAD supplements treat anxiety and depression, many people report that they help manage the symptoms.

Can NAD supplements help fight cancer?

Emerging research seeks to understand the role that NAD plays in cancer cell growth. A promising 2021 study at the ShanghaiTech University of China found that increasing NAD+ levels boosted T-cell activity and strengthened the effect of anti-cancer immunotherapies.

However, some studies show that NAD supplements could promote cancer cell growth. More research is needed.

NAD supplements could indirectly reduce the risk of cancer by boosting the metabolism and assisting in weight loss. Obesity is the single biggest risk factor for cancer, and this risk can potentially be reduced by using NAD supplements to support weight loss.

Can NAD supplements improve fertility?

As you age, fertility becomes more challenging. The number and quality of eggs in people with uteruses decline greatly beginning in their 30s and into their 40s. So far, we don’t know of any way to reverse this decline.

NAD+ levels also drop as you age, and experts are studying the effect of NAD supplements on fertility. Some evidence indicates that increasing NAD levels improves the quality of eggs, leading to a greater chance of becoming pregnant.

NAD supplements' side effects

Most people don’t experience side effects. Those that do often find they are mild to moderate and resolve with time. Side effects might include:

  • Nausea;
  • Fatigue;
  • Headaches;
  • Diarrhea;
  • Cramping or pain in the abdominal area;
  • Indigestion.

To avoid experiencing any side effects, speak with your doctor about taking NAD supplements and ask them to discuss the right dosage with you.

Choosing a NAD supplement: what are the options?

NAD supplements are not NAD themselves; they’re precursors to NAD. What does this mean? Precursors are absorbed into the body, where they’re converted into NAD+. Vitamin B3 is a precursor that is often taken in supplement form, but not all forms are alike. Here’s a breakdown of the top precursors to NAD.

  • Niacin is a term used interchangeably with vitamin B3, but it’s a form of vitamin B3. Niacin isn’t a preferred supplement because it can cause skin flushing.
  • Nicotinamide is another form of vitamin B3, is also a precursor to NAD. It doesn’t cause skin flushing, making it a better choice than Niacin. However, nicotinamide inhibits Sirtuin (SIRT), a protein that plays an important role in the health benefits of NAD.
  • Nicotinamide mononucleotide (NMN) is a precursor to NAD derived from riboside and nicotinamide. This precursor is controversial as a NAD supplement. The supplements were recently banned by the FDA, citing an investigation of NMN as a new drug, rather than a dietary supplement.

The NAD supplement, NMN, was popularized when Harvard University geneticists. David Sinclair shared his research and daily regimen of ingesting the molecule daily as a way to preserve his youth. Still, some studies suggest that NMN is absorbed in the body and converted into NAD+.

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