NAD+ What it is and Why it Matters for your Health
Research into NAD+ has exploded in recent years as awareness of its unique health benefits has grown. NAD+ has been described as the ‘fountain of youth’ thanks to its anti-aging properties and reversal of DNA damage. Scientific research also suggests that increasing cellular levels of NAD+ can help to improve our overall health in a number of ways. So, what is NAD+ and how does it work? In this article, we discuss its varied roles within the human body and why it matters for our health.
What is NAD+?
NAD+ is short for ‘nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide’. It’s an important coenzyme in the biological reactions that happen inside living cells. It is fundamental to life as it’s involved in processes that are essential to all of us, like converting food into useable energy, regulating our sleep cycle, and maintaining healthy DNA.
Anyone who studies biology will come across NAD+ at some point. It’s central to our metabolism as it plays a pivotal role in transforming nutrients into energy. Without NAD+, we wouldn’t be able to do all the everyday activities that we take for granted, like moving and breathing.
In addition to its metabolic role, NAD+ is also involved in a range of other functions. It works alongside cellular proteins to maintain our health, particularly in stress situations. In this role it helps to preserve the integrity of our DNA, regulates circadian rhythms allowing us to rest and renew ourselves, and ensures high-quality protein production elsewhere in the body. Since our bodies are predominantly made of proteins and water, it’s important that their production is carefully managed.
What Does NAD+ Do?
NAD+ plays several specific roles in the human body. It’s involved in every level of our health, from genes to organs and everything in between. Here is an overview of some of its main functions;
- DNA - NAD supports the systems that fix DNA errors before they lead to bigger problems.
- Energy - NAD is a vital cog in the energy production process that facilitates everything we do.
- Circadian Rhythm - Involves NAD to regulate our sleep and wake cycle, allowing our bodies to restore and renew themselves.
- Genes - Our genes are constantly expressed (turned on and off) as we adapt to different conditions and require NAD+ to do this.
- Sirtuin Proteins - sirtuin activity (specifically sirt1 activity) maintains cell homeostasis under stressful conditions and require NAD+ to function.
- Protein Responses - NAD ensures that proteins fold into their correct shapes so that they can function appropriately.
- Liver - NAD is involved in metabolic activity like maintaining blood sugar levels and breaking down fats.
- Calcium Signaling - Depends on NAD for cell growth, muscle contraction, and neurotransmission.
- Stem Cells - Rely on NAD to ensure adequate support of internal organs.
As you can see from this list, NAD has a part in many different aspects of our health. Yet interest in this coenzyme has only recently increased. The more we learn about its varied role in the human body, the more its importance to our health and longevity is becoming apparent.
Why is NAD+ Important for your Health?
We know that NAD+ is important for our DNA, energy, protein activity, and numerous other biological processes, but what does this mean in real terms? How do these things affect our health and how we feel on a day-to-day basis? And can it really provide anti-aging benefits? Well, these seemingly small reactions can have big results. Low levels of NAD have been linked with a variety of physical and mental health issues, including chronic fatigue, a weakened immune system, depression, and anxiety. A lack of NAD+ is also associated with headaches, sleep problems, memory disturbance, and an inability to focus. Alcohol and drug addiction have even been linked with NAD+ deficiency. In fact, it has been suggested that low NAD+ may be an unrecognized epidemic of cellular disease.
A reduced form of NAD+ is a common supplement for people with chronic fatigue syndrome or fibromyalgia. Chronic fatigue syndrome is a debilitating illness with symptoms that include prolonged exhaustion, yet its precise cause is unknown. A treatment that is universally effective has yet to be developed, however NAD+ has been shown to reduce symptoms. One study of 73 patients showed that those who took NAD supplements reported a significant improvement in fatigue levels. Their bloodwork showed that cellular NAD and ATP levels (which is used for energy) had been increased. This shows that the supplements had been successfully absorbed and proved effective at a microscopic cellular level.
Weakened Immune System
The immune system requires NAD+ to function well. The more there is available, the better your immune system will work. Conversely, low levels of NAD+ can suppress your immune system and prevent your white blood cells from working as they should. The coenzyme is involved in the creation of signalling molecules called interleukines, without which your immune system has a hard time coordinating its efforts. So, supplementing with NAD+ may give your immune system a boost and make you less susceptible to illnesses.
Almost 7% of people in the USA are suffering with depression at any one time. According to the World Health Organization, over 300 million people experience it worldwide. Depression is a multi-faceted issue with many possible triggers, however dopamine can counteract some of the depressive feelings. NAD+ stimulates dopamine production, which is responsible for lifting mood among other roles. However, if NAD+ levels are low, then the brain can’t produce sufficient amounts of dopamine. Therefore, ensuring adequate NAD+ levels can help to protect against some types of depression.
Clinical trials of NAD have shown it to work in a similar way to some anti-anxiety drugs. Some of its benefits may be due to the increased vasodilation it causes which improves blood flow to the brain. It may also influence the production of neurotransmitters which are known to affect the degree of anxiety (as well as depression). Animal studies have shown that NAD+ and vitamin B6 deficiency can reduce how the central nervous system functions. However, supplementation can reverse these symptoms and reduce anxiety that’s been caused by nutrient deficiency.
People who suffer from headaches and migraines usually reach for painkillers (or other medications that dull the nerve responses). NAD+ and B-vitamins can provide an effective alternative without the questionable chemical properties. Studies have shown that these substances can increase the dilation of blood vessels and improve the ability of cells to metabolize energy. This means that NAD+ can have beneficial effects for people experiencing migraines and tension or stress-related headaches.
If you’re having sleep problems, then it may be down to an issue with your circadian clock. This internal timer is responsible for making you fall asleep and stay asleep throughout the night. Yet it can be undermined by any number of factors, such as changes to daylight savings times or blue light from smartphones and laptops.
NAD+ plays a key role in maintaining the rhythm of your circadian clock. In addition to helping you sleep well and feel rested, this also allows your body more time to recuperate from the stresses of the day. Adequate sleep enables your body to renew itself overnight so that your overall health is improved.
NAD+ is involved in numerous biological processes in the brain, including learning and memory. Nutrient deficiencies can have a marked effect on memory, particularly B-vitamins which are involved in the production and maintenance of brain neurons. Supplementing with NAD+ and B-vitamins has been shown to partially protected against memory loss in mice. It’s thought that NAD+ may hold one key to the prevention and treatment of neurological conditions like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
Inability to Focus or Concentrate
We often put a lack of focus or concentration down to boredom. We think that if we just try really hard we’ll be able to concentrate at work or on our studies. But sometimes our lack of focus has nothing to do with the subject matter, it’s caused by a nutritional deficiency. A lack of various B-vitamins can hold our brains back from concentrating on one thing. Because NAD has powerful brain-boosting effects, it’s also been linked with improving focus and concentration. That’s one of the many reasons that we combine NAD+ and a range of B-vitamins in our NAD Total Recovery Topical Patch.
Alcohol and Drug Addiction
Sustained alcohol and drug addiction can damage the brain over time. As well as being detrimental to brain cells, substance misuse can negatively affect the production of serotonin, dopamine, and noradrenaline. NAD+ can stimulate the production of these hormones which helps to rebalance the body’s systems. It has also been linked with repair of brain cells which may have been affected by years of alcohol addiction. Although NAD won’t cure the addiction, it can help to reverse some of the physical damage that’s caused by it.
Anti-Aging Benefits of NAD+
Much of the recent excitement around NAD+ has been in relation to its potential anti-aging properties. As we get older, our NAD+ levels slowly decrease. This means that our bodies aren’t as good at repairing damaged DNA, replacing brain cells, creating new proteins, or producing energy. It’s thought that if we could maintain our levels of NAD+ throughout our lifespan, then our bodies would age more healthily. It’s even been suggested that supplementing with NAD+ or NAD precursors may prolong both our health span and life span. After all, what’s the point in getting older if we’re not healthy enough to really enjoy it?
As we age, the mitochondria or ‘powerhouses’ of our cells begin to decrease in function. There now appears to be a link between NAD+, the sirtuin proteins that we discussed previously, and mitochondrial function. In scientific studies involving worms, scientists were able to increase their life span by activating some of these protein (which rely on NAD+ to function).
A thorough review of research studies found that decreased NAD+ concentrations contribute to both the aging process and chronic diseases of aging. The results also support NAD+ supplementation to protect against aging and age-related conditions (like neurodegenerative or heart diseases). If we consistently increase NAD levels, we may be able to stave off the aging process and feel younger for longer.
Close relations of NAD+ called nicotinamide mononucleotide and nicotinamide riboside have also been specifically associated with healthy aging. More research is currently underway to understand the other potential anti-aging benefits of these substances and whether their properties can be harnessed in supplement form too. Although these claims haven’t yet been approved by the food and drug administration, the research into the health benefits certainly looks promising.
NAD+ plays a role in every cell within our body. It helps to fix DNA errors before they snowball into bigger problems and manages our genes in response to changing conditions. It plays a vital role in energy production that is essential to everything we do. NAD+ supports our circadian rhythms, enabling our bodies to restore and renew themselves through good quality sleep. It also helps to control protein activity to maintain homeostasis and correct functioning.
Supplementing with NAD may help you prevent chronic fatigue and avoid a weakened immune system. In combination with professional guidance, it may be beneficial for those with depression or anxiety. It may also help to ward off headaches, sleep problems, memory problems, or concentration issues. Why not try it out for yourself and see how NAD can benefit your own health?