What Is NAD+? (And Why We Need It)

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What is NAD+ and, more importantly, why do we all need to learn more about it? This article answers these questions, so keep reading to find out more.

In this article:

  1. What Is NAD+?
  2. Why NAD+ Is Crucial for Optimal Health?
  3. What Does NAD+ Do?
  4. How to Maintain or Increase NAD+ Levels

What Is NAD+ and Why Is It Important?

What Is NAD+?

NAD+ phys
NAD stands for nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide, which is a coenzyme that’s present in every living cell. There are two kinds of NAD: NADH and NAD+.

Coenzyme Definition: A non-protein substance that works like an enzyme, i.e., creates a chemical reaction

The main difference between these two is usage. NAD+ is the type that’s available for the body’s cells’ use.

Think of the difference between NADH and NAD+ is like a business. NADH has a “Closed” sign hanging on the door while NAD+ has an “Open” sign and is ready for business.

NAD+ is key for healthy nerves and organs, and it can help people improve energy metabolism and minimize health risks.

Why NAD+ Is Crucial for Optimal Health

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NAD+ plays a crucial role in maintaining optimal mitochondrial health and functioning, which decline as one ages. Risks for age-related health conditions increase when the cells’ mitochondria underperform or suffer substantial damage.

Mitochondria Definition: Commonly referred to as the powerhouse of the cell, mitochondria are responsible for absorbing nutrients and converting them into energy

NAD+ promotes optimal health by facilitating protein-to-protein interaction, which is crucial for repairing DNA damaged by oxidative stress and other factors.

It’s also important for maintaining brain health and cognitive function. It protects nerves from demyelination and can also act as a type of neurotransmitter, helping boost mood and mental performance.

Demyelination Definition: A process that erodes the protective layer of nerve fibers, i.e., the myelin sheath

Finally, NAD+ plays an important role in slowing down the aging of blood vessels. While regular exercise can help do this, it has its limits—that’s why there is the need to maintain adequate NAD+ levels.

What Does NAD+ Do?

The primary purpose of NAD+ is to convert the nutrients ingested by the body into energy, i.e., metabolism. To do this, NAD+ converts nutrients into ATP or adenosine triphosphate.

ATP is a molecule found in living cells that transports cellular energy after food molecules break down and become chemical energy, which happens during the metabolic processes.

Another important function of NAD+ is assisting certain types of proteins in terms of:

  • Repairing DNA damage
  • Facilitating mitochondrial function
  • Keeping the integrity of chromosomes
  • Expression of genes
  • Modifying one’s epigenetics
  • Calcium signaling

One of the types of proteins that NAD+ works with is sirtuins. This type of protein:

  • Manage biological passageways
  • Activate and deactivate specific genes
  • Assist in protecting cells from declining because of age

To be able to do all of these, sirtuins need NAD+.

For example, NAD+ helps improve SIRT1 function. This helps facilitate new mitochondria formation.

NAD+ also helps in forming SIRT6. This kind of sirtuin promotes longevity by maintaining the length of DNA telomeres or ends.

NAD+ becomes NADH after it does its job, which means cells can no longer use them. Given the need for NAD+, the body’s cells need a constant supply of it throughout their host person’s life.

But there’s a problem with this: the human body produces less NAD+ as it ages. So, how can a person ensure he or she gets adequate supplies of NAD+?

How to Maintain or Increase NAD+ Levels

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Maintaining NDA+ levels by engaging in healthy exercise regularly

1. Regular Exercise

One of the simplest and cheapest ways to increase NAD+ levels in the body is through regular exercise. It helps the body burn NADH and create more NAD+ in the process.

The best type of regular exercise for increasing NAD+ levels is high-intensity interval training (HIIT). It hits the sweet spot between exerting enough effort or energy and workout time efficiency, i.e., short workouts.

2. Intermittent Fasting

Caloric consumption and metabolism have a profound effect on one’s NAD+-NADH balance. When the body either consumes too many calories or burns too few of them, NADH levels may likely increase and NAD+ will most likely go down.

Intermittent fasting can help increase NAD+ and decrease NADH by reducing caloric consumption significantly.

3. A High-Fat Diet

A keto diet encourages consistent burning of body fat, i.e., stored calories and caloric reduction via carbohydrate constriction. A high-fat diet like this can be helpful to people who have a sluggish metabolism.

4. Supplementation

The best way to increase NAD+ levels is by taking NAD supplements. There are two ways to do it: orally and intravenously (IV).

Oral NAD supplements are more affordable. But NAD+ absorption through the gastrointestinal tract isn’t as efficient or effective compared to the IV method, which guarantees 100% absorption in the body.

One can also take supplements that contain NR or nicotinamide riboside, niagen, and nicotinic acid (Vitamin B3). These may also help increase NAD+ levels in the body when the body converts them into NAD+.

Of special interest is nicotinamide riboside, or NR, which is available naturally in small amounts in yeast and milk. Specifically, it helps:

  • Protect neurons
  • Safeguards the myelin sheaths of neurons
  • Regulates metabolism

A published study in Nature showed that in healthy middle-aged and older adults, regular NR supplementation increased NAD+ levels. While this needs further validation through more studies, it shows the potential of NR supplementation for healthy aging.

Lastly, one can also consider supplementing with a type of polyphenol called resveratrol. Scientists believe it’s a potent compound that helps minimize cellular oxidation, which is key to preventing chronic illnesses.

5. Fructose

In moderate amounts, fructose can be healthy and help increase levels of NAD+. It’s because it activates the sirtuin SIRT1, which is often called the longevity gene or coenzyme.

The key is to consume natural fructose, which is available in fresh fruits such as apples and grapes.

6. Take Preventive Measures

As cliché as it sounds, prevention really is better than cure. So even before considering how to increase NAD+, it’s best to consider maintaining its level first before it depletes significantly.

Some preventive measures, which help minimize the need to use NAD+ for cellular repair or improve mitochondrial health include:

  1. Avoid excessive sunlight exposure or using sunscreen and sun-protective clothing to minimize the effects of UV rays.
  2. Practice meditation to help reduce or minimize stress levels.
  3. Eat a healthy diet, e.g., rich in antioxidants and Omega-3 fatty acids that fight free radicals that damage cells.

It can be concluded that NAD+ is necessary for human cell functions. This is exactly why science is exploring more and better ways to increase it in our bodies.

Seek advice from your doctor about NAD+ supplements that suit you.

Do you think you have adequate levels of NAD+ in your body and if not, what will you do to increase it? Let us know in the comments section below.