What Is NAD+, Why Do You Need It, and How Does It Work
You’ve probably heard about something called “NAD+”. It comes up often in discussions about aging and staying healthy as one gets older. But you probably also have a lot of questions.
It can be really confusing, right? You want to take care of yourself, but you also want to make educated decisions about what you put into your body.
As Joyce Meyer says: “I believe that the greatest gift you can give your family and the world is a healthy you.”
In order to help you be as healthy and educated as possible, we’ve put together this simple guide to NAD+. We’re going to try to answer the basic questions about what it is and what it does. By the end, you’ll have a firm grasp on the subject and be able to make informed decisions regarding NAD+.
What Is NAD+?
Let’s start with the basics. NAD+ stands for nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide. The compound is found in every cell in your body and plays a role in regulating how quickly your cells age.
NAD+ also contributes to the transfer of energy from fatty acids and glucose to the mitochondria, which converts them to cellular energy.
If you want a very science-heavy explanation of the process, watch this short 2-minute video:
As David Stipp writes in Scientific American:
Descended from bacteria that colonized other cells about 2 billion years, they get flaky as we age. A prominent theory of aging holds that decaying of mitochondria is a key driver of aging. While it's not clear why our mitochondria fade as we age, evidence suggests that it leads to everything from heart failure to neurodegeneration.
In other words, having healthy mitochondria is really important for your body.
As you get older, your NAD+ levels typically decline, meaning that the energy transfer mentioned above starts faltering. This leads to mitochondrial problems which then cause the symptoms of aging. Remember, bad mitochondria spells the beginning of the end for your body.
NAD+ helps in the battle against aging by activating enzymes called “sirtuins”, which help control your genes in ways that promote healthy aging. The ones of particular interest for this discussion are the sirtuins SIRT1 and SIRT3.
Are you tracking so far? More NAD+ means more activated SIRT1 and SIRT3 enzymes which in turns means healthier mitochondria which means longevity for your body.
And, as your get older, your NAD+ levels will begin falling, leading to less activated sirtuins, which then causes problems with the mitochondria, which then causes your body to get old, your joints to ache, your energy to flag, and your brain to degenerate.
Does NAD+ Prevent Aging?
There is reason to think that NAD+ can at least slow the aging process. Now, to be clear, the research is in the early phases but the results are promising so far.
A recent study was done at Harvard in which mice were bred with a defect in SIRT1. As you might expect, these mice aged rapidly and showed significant problems with their mitochondria.
When these mice were 22 months old, they were given increased levels of NAD+, and the results were marked:
- Less insulin resistance
- Less inflammation
- Less muscle wasting
Suddenly, it appeared that these mice were approximately 6 months old.
Here’s a brief video explaining the research:
This suggests that increasing overall NAD+ levels in humans can potentially slow the aging process and give us more time.
Again, David Stipp helps us understand this in the context of the research:
Recent research suggests it may be possible to reverse mitochondrial decay with dietary supplements that increase cellular levels of a molecule called NAD (nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide). But...while there's promising test-tube data and animal research regarding NAD boosters, no human clinical results on them have been published.
In other words, things are looking good for NAD+, but we don’t have all the results in yet. Yes, things definitely improved with the mice, but we need to see more data when this is tested on humans.
No, NAD+ isn’t some sort of fountain of youth that will turn you into an immortal being. But if you can increase the levels of NAD+ in your body, you may be able to stay healthy longer, which could be a huge benefit.
As aging researching Christopher Martens said:
I’m always reluctant to say there’s going to be a miracle molecule that is the next great thing, but NAD seems to be very important.
How Can You Increase NAD+ In Your Body?
There are a number of ways that you may be able to increase NAD+ in you body.
First, you can drink a glass of red wine every night. This actually bypasses the need for NAD+ and works to directly increase SIRT1 levels in your body. You’ve heard doctors recommending a glass of red wine every night? This is why.
But what if you don’t like red wine? Or more specifically, realize that red wine just doesn’t have very much of the compounds we seek and want to take a more direct route?
You could take a resveratrol supplement. Resveratrol is the ingredient in red wine that works to directly increase the SIRT1 levels in your body. If you want to get the effects of red wine without the taste or alcohol, a supplement could be your best bet. You could also consider taking pterostilbene, which is chemically similar to resveratrol and has many of the same potential effects.
Putting yourself on a restricted calorie diet has been shown to increase NAD+ levels in the body. The reason is a bit complex, but has to do with the ratio of NAD+ to other compounds in your body. When you restrict your calories, it allows your body to properly balance this ratio by increasing NAD+ production.
Exercise puts your body in a similar state to calories reduction. It causes a favorable ratio of NAD+ to other compounds in the body.
You could consider taking a supplement such as nicotinamide riboside, which supports healthy NAD+ levels in the body. In fact, all the way back in 1953, the Connecticut State Medical Journal reported that Niacin can help slow and reverse some of the aging process.
Things are looking good for NAD+. If researchers can find ways to dramatically increase the NAD+ levels in humans, much like they did in mice, we may be able to dramatically slow the aging process.
Trying to increase your levels certainly won’t hurt you. And it might just have a big impact on your overall health as you get older.