NMN vs. NAD: How Are They Different?

Nicotinamide mononucleotide (NMN) and nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD) are closely related molecules involved in DNA repair, cellular metabolism, energy production, and many other molecular events. Specifically, NMN is a precursor to NAD+, which then drives these molecular processes. NMN is proposed to have anti-aging properties as it increases NAD+ levels in the body. As we age, our NAD+ levels continuously decline, and NAD+ depletion is correlated with the onset of aging-related dysfunctions and disorders. Therefore, many people are exploring how to improve their own NMN or NAD+ levels.

Here, we explain the difference between NAD vs. NMN and which may provide better health benefits.

Diving deeper into NMN and NAD

With NMN and NAD gaining consistently significant attention in the fields of longevity and aging, it is imperative to understand how they work and what their purported beneficial effects are.

Defining NMN and its working mechanism

NMN acts as a precursor to NAD, meaning it is a substance which NAD can be synthesized from. NMN is naturally found in small amounts in fruits and vegetables, but in mammals, it is mostly derived from niacin (vitamin B3). Whether directly ingested or derived from niacin, NMN is proposed to undergo enzymatic conversion into NAD+, which can then be used in various essential cellular processes.

Defining NMN

Limited studies suggest that NMN intake may help:

  • Raise NAD+ levels
  • Activate sirtuins
  • Improve energy metabolism
  • Enhance physical activity
  • Increase muscle insulin sensitivity
  • Help attenuate age-associated weight gain
  • Help inhibit age-associated changes in gene expression

NAD explained

NAD is a coenzyme found in all living cells and is pivotal in numerous biological processes, including energy production, gene expression, and many cell signaling pathways. NAD is a key player in various enzymatic reactions as an electron carrier and participates in redox reactions, wherein it can exist in two forms: NAD+ (oxidized) and NADH (reduced). For example, during energy production, NAD+ functions as an electron acceptor/carrier in redox reactions, which then transforms it into NADH after accepting an electron. NADH, characterized as a high-energy molecule, serves vital roles in the cellular energy generation cascade.

NAD explained

Some of the proposed health benefits associated with taking NAD+ supplements include the following:

  • May enhance energy production
  • May help maintain mitochondrial health
  • May activate sirtuins
  • May help support brain function
  • May help ameliorate skin damage due to UV light
  • May help decrease inflammation
  • May help fight dyslipidemia
  • May support liver function/regeneration
  • May help improve pancreatic β-cell function and insulin secretion

As NMN and NAD+ are closely related, the intake of both compounds has garnered attention for their potential roles in promoting health and longevity. However, it is important to note that the bulk of the available research and data on NMN and NAD+ intake are based on cell and animal studies. Further research and clinical trials are needed to fully understand their detailed mechanisms and therapeutic potential.

Comparing NMN and NAD

NAD+ is reported to decline with age and is associated with the development of various health disorders. Distinctly, NMN acts as a precursor to NAD+, contributing indirectly to cellular energy metabolism processes, while NAD+ acts as a molecular fuel, directly participating in various enzymatic reactions critical for cellular functions.

Here’s a comparison of the commonalities and differences between NMN and NAD:

Chemical composition NMN is a nucleotide derived from niacin (vitamin B3). NAD+ is a dinucleotide composed of adenine, ribose, and nicotinamide (vitamin B3), making it bigger than NMN.
How it worksActs as a precursor to NAD+ biosynthesis. NAD+ then participates in numerous cellular processes.Acts directly as a coenzyme involved in cellular energy production, DNA repair, and various signaling pathways.
Role in energy productionNMN indirectly contributes to energy metabolism by being converted to NAD+, which participates in oxidative phosphorylation to generate ATP molecules.NAD+ directly participates in energy metabolism as a cofactor in various enzymatic reactions, facilitating ATP production through oxidative phosphorylation.
Aging and longevityResearch suggests NMN supplementation may confer potential anti-aging effects by boosting NAD+ levels to promote cellular health and longevity pathways.Increasing NAD+ levels has been associated with potential anti-aging effects due to its direct involvement in DNA repair, cellular metabolism, and sirtuin activation.
Route of administrationOral, sublingual, and transdermal.Intravenous injection and sublingual.
BioavailabilityNMN is proposed to have limited oral bioavailability. Liposome-formulated oral dosage forms may help increase NMN absorption and offer improved bioavailability. NAD+ supplementation is not commonly used due to its instability and challenges with delivery; precursors like NMN or NR are often used instead. However, the NAD+ sublingual administration form is currently suggested to offer the best bioavailability.
CostsTypically cheaper.Typically more expensive.

Another difference between NMN and NAD is that NMN requires one enzymatic step to become NAD+, while NAD can be synthesized through multiple pathways in the body using precursor molecules.

Overall, comparing the properties and aspects of taking NMN vs. NAD+, it is more practical to use NMN than to take NAD+ directly. However, whether you should take NMN or NAD, remember to consult your doctor for personalized recommendations.

Can I take NMN and NAD together?

Focused on boosting their NAD+ levels, many people ask, "Can you take NMN and NAD together?"

Indeed, taking NMN and NAD+ together may potentially enhance NAD+ levels synergistically, as NMN can serve as a direct precursor to NAD+ synthesis, while NAD+ itself directly increases the available amounts in the body. However, currently, there are no studies evaluating the safety and effectiveness of co-administration of these two compounds together.

In addition, as with any supplementation regimen, it is essential to consider individual health factors and consult with a healthcare provider before starting NMN or NAD+ supplementation. A special consideration to take note of is the dosage since there is currently no established maximum level of NAD+ that is known to be safe in the body.

Your healthcare provider can offer personalized guidance based on your health status, medical history, and specific nutritional needs. Additionally, it is important to ensure that you are using high-quality supplements from reputable brands and follow recommended dosages and usage guidelines provided by healthcare professionals or supplement manufacturers.

Which supplement should I take?

Depending on your individual needs and other factors, a supplement may or may not be suitable for you.

Consider these factors when choosing the right supplement for you:

  • Health goals. Different supplements target different health aspects. Identify your specific needs, such as improving energy levels, supporting immune function, enhancing cognitive performance, or addressing nutritional deficiencies.
  • Medical conditions. Consider any existing medical conditions or health concerns. Some supplements may interact with medications or exacerbate certain conditions, so consult with a healthcare provider before supplementation.
  • Quality and safety. Choose supplements from reputable brands with third-party certifications (e.g., USP, NSF, ConsumerLab) to ensure quality, purity, and safety from contaminants. Look for products that comply with Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP).
  • Evidence-based research. Prioritize supplements with formulations supported by scientific evidence demonstrating efficacy and safety. Look for well-conducted clinical trials, systematic reviews, or meta-analyses confirming the benefits of specific ingredients for your health goals.
  • Bioavailability. Some compounds may have poor absorption rates or are extensively metabolized before being distributed in the body. Supplements with advanced delivery systems or synergistic ingredient combinations are recommended.

Consult with a qualified healthcare provider before starting any new supplement regimen. They can provide personalized recommendations based on your health status, medical history, and specific nutritional needs.

Are there any risks of taking NMN?

In 2022, a clinical trial indicated that 300 mg, 600 mg, or 900 mg daily NMN intake for 60 days was safe and well tolerated and found a significant increase in blood NAD concentrations. Additionally, even at 600–1,200 mg NMN per day, no adverse health reactions were observed among 48 middle-aged runners in a 6-week clinical trial.

While NMN is generally considered safe for most people when taken at appropriate doses, there are potential but rare side effects and considerations to be aware of:

  • Gastrointestinal discomfort
  • Allergic reactions
  • Blood sugar fluctuation
  • Interaction with medications

More research is needed to fully understand the totality of how NMN supplementation works in humans. There are few published findings on the long-term safety and therapeutic effectiveness of NMN’s slow aging benefits in people. If you experience any symptoms or discomfort discontinue use, and seek medical attention immediately.

How to boost NAD+ levels

The full spectrum of the health benefits of NAD+ is still being explored, but evidence about its positive health effects is mounting; hence, boosting your NAD+ levels via diet and supplementation is recommended by longevity enthusiasts and biohackers.

Some of the natural dietary foods that may contribute to enhancing NAD+ levels are niacin-rich foods like meat, fish, and legumes; fruits and green leafy veggies, including avocado, spinach, kale, and broccoli; and also mushrooms like shiitake, maitake, and portobello.

While NAD+ precursors are present naturally in foods, they are often only in small amounts. Therefore, products marketed to boost NAD+ levels are manufactured, including NAD+ precursors NMN or NR (nicotinamide ribonucleoside). However, NMN is currently no longer allowed to be marketed as a dietary supplement in the U.S. as it is already being investigated as a potential new drug, and therefore, NR supplements are now becoming a more popular alternative.


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