What Is NAD+, And Why Is It Important for
Living Healthier and Longer?
NAD+ stands for nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide.
From single-cell organisms like bacteria to sophisticated multicellular ones like primates, NAD+ is one of the most abundant and crucial molecules. Basically, without NAD+, we would be on the fast track to death. The molecule is a linchpin to the function of the generators of cells — mitochondria. NAD+ not only helps convert food to energy but also plays a crucial role in maintaining DNA integrity and ensures proper cell function to protect our bodies from aging and disease.
How does NAD+ work in the body?
NAD+ works as a shuttle bus, transferring electrons from one molecule to another within cells to carry out all sorts of reactions and processes. With its molecular counterpart, NADH, this vital molecule participates in various metabolic reactions that generate our cell’s energy. Without sufficient NAD+ levels, our cells wouldn’t be able to generate any energy to survive and carry out their functions. Other functions of NAD+ include regulating our circadian rhythm, which controls our body’s sleep/wake cycle.
NAD+ levels drop with aging
As we age, NAD+ levels fall, suggesting important implications in metabolic function and age-related diseases. DNA damage accumulates and snowballs with aging. The damage to our genetic blueprint activates several proteins, including enzymes called
PARPs. By consuming NAD+, PARPs can perform DNA repair functions. The depletion of NAD+ through PARP activation during aging appears to contribute to various diseases. Out of all these functions that require NAD+, many scientists believe that PARPs contribute the most.
Enzymes in our immune system consume NAD+, too.
The more active the immune system is the more NAD+ the enzyme consumes. The level of enzymes in our immune system increases as we age, depleting the NAD+ levels in the body. Another class of enzymes that use NAD+ are called sirtuins. These proteins, which are linked to healthy aging and longevity, use NAD+ to regulate metabolism, maintain stable chromosomes, and repair damaged DNA. As DNA damage and chromosome instability accumulate with age, sirtuins consume more NAD+.
What happens when NAD+ levels are reduced?
Numerous studies demonstrate reduced NAD+ levels in disturbed nutrient conditions, such as obesity, and aging. Reductions in NAD+ levels can lead to problems with metabolism. These problems can lead to disorders, including obesity and insulin resistance. Obesity causes diabetes and high blood pressure. Metabolic disorders caused by the low NAD+ level cascade down. High blood pressure and other heart function decline can send damaging pressure waves to the brain that may lead to cognitive impairment.
Targeting NAD+ metabolism is a practical nutritional intervention in protecting against metabolic and other age-related diseases. Several groups have done studies indicating supplementing with NAD+ boosters improves insulin resistance from obesity. In mouse models of age-related diseases, supplementing with NAD+ boosters improves symptoms of the diseases. This suggests that reduced NAD+ levels with age may contribute to the onset of age-related diseases. Preventing the decline of NAD+ offers a promising strategy to combat metabolism disorders with age. As NAD+ levels decrease with age, this can lead to reduced DNA repair, cellular stress response, and regulation of energy metabolism.
Known as the “guardians of genomes,” sirtuins are genes that protect organisms, from plants to
mammals, against deterioration and diseases.
When the genes sense the body is under physical stress, such as exercising or hunger, they send out troops to defend the body. Sirtuins sustain genome integrity, promote DNA repair, and have shown anti-aging related properties in model animals like increasing lifespan.
NAD+ is the fuel that drives the genes to work.
But like a car cannot drive without its fuel, sirtuins require NAD+. Results from studies show that raising NAD+ levels in the body activates sirtuins and increases lifespan in yeast, worms, and mice. Although NAD+ replenishing shows promising results in animal models, scientists are still studying how these results can translate to humans.
As the powerhouse of the body, mitochondrial function is crucial for our exercise performance. NAD+ is one of the keys to maintaining healthy mitochondria and steady energy output. Increasing NAD+ levels in muscle can improve its mitochondria and fitness in mice. Other studies also show that mice that take NAD+ boosters are leaner and can run farther on the treadmill, showing a higher exercise capacity. Aged animals that have a higher level of NAD+ outperform their peers.
NAD+ Infusions Metabolic disorders
Declared as an epidemic by the World Health Organization (WHO), obesity is one of the most common diseases in modern society. Obesity can lead to other metabolic disorders such as diabetes, which killed 1.6 million people around the globe in 2016. Aging and a high-fat diet reduce the level of NAD+ in the body. Studies have shown that taking NAD+ boosters can alleviate diet-associated and age-associated weight gain in mice and improve their exercise capacity, even in aged mice. Other studies even reversed the diabetes effect in female mice, showing new strategies to fight metabolic disorders.
NAD+ Infusions Heart Function
The elasticity of the arteries acts as a buffer between pressure waves sent out by heartbeats. But arteries stiffen as we age, contributing to high blood pressure, the most important risk factor for cardiovascular disease. One person dies from cardiovascular disease every 37 seconds in the United States alone, CDC reports. High blood pressure can cause an enlarged heart and blocked arteries that lead to strokes. Boosting NAD+ levels gives protection to the heart, improving cardiac functions. In mice, NAD+ boosters have replenished NAD+ levels in the heart to baseline levels and prevented injuries to the heart caused by a lack of blood flow. Other studies have shown that NAD+ boosters can protect mice from abnormal heart enlargement.