You may have never heard of it before, but NAD+ (which stands for nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide) is crucial for our daily functioning. It’s needed for biochemical reactions that help us breathe, digest food, and make energy. It is also found in all of our living cells, and typically triggers processes in the body that help us break down fats, proteins and carbs, and help regulate blood sugar and energy. NAD+ also helps make “messenger” molecules needed to send important signals in our bodies, like when to eat, contract specific muscles so we can move, or when we need to fight off an infection.
NAD+ can also be converted into molecules for processes that help us with things like repairing our DNA and making antioxidants. These not only help to prevent disease, but also promote a longer lifespan and a graceful aging process. NAD+ molecules protect our liver and play a role in detox, which encourages hormone regulation, gut health, and glowing skin. These molecules also help us use the energy from food that we eat.
What Happens to NAD+ As We Age?
As we get older, we lose some of the NAD+ stored in our cells, because our bodies experience more DNA damage, inflammation, and oxidative stress. Our immune systems also become more regulated since aging makes us more susceptible to infections, which is linked to lower NAD+ levels. It also plays an important role in our metabolic function, which makes sense, since we know that metabolism slows as we age. Our diet, sleep, and stress also impact NAD+ levels, which is another reason why it’s so important to eat nutrient-dense foods, give our bodies time to rest, and practice self-care.
So, How Does this Affect Us?
Low NAD+ levels affect the amount of energy our bodies can make and use. This can lead to DNA damage and inflammation, which impacts how we age and our overall health.
NAD+ helps activate special proteins our bodies need to cope with environmental and biological stress (like toxins from pesticides or food we eat, air pollution, or inflammation in our bodies). This supports our optimal body function as well as brain health, and also may help prevent age-related and degenerative diseases. So, if NAD+ levels are lower, this may predispose us to disease and faster aging.
How to Optimize NAD+ Levels
NAD+ is made in our bodies by two different pathways. The main pathway involves vitamin B3 and nicotinamide riboside, which help form NAD+. Vitamin B3 is carried through our blood, and once it enters our cells, is converted to NAD+ or NADP+.
Nicotinamide riboside is only found in very small amounts from food (such as dairy and yeast), but has recently become available in higher doses as a supplement, to help support NAD+ levels in the body. Supplementing with Nicotinamide riboside has been found to increase the amount of NAD+ in our bloodstream, fat tissue, skeletal muscle and liver, as well as activate the special proteins I talked about earlier.
We don’t absorb much of it’s usable form from diet, but some food sources of Vitamin B3 include:
- Fish (tuna, salmon)
- Meat (chicken, turkey, lean beef)
- Peanuts, lentils, beans
- BUT – If we use oils or water to cook any of these foods, we lose the B3 from them (it’s a water-soluble vitamin)
- Vitamin B3 is also made in smaller amounts in our livers from tryptophan (which we can get from foods like: salmon, chicken, eggs, seeds and nuts)
Research suggests that exercise and fasting are linked with increased NAD+ levels, whereas obesity and high fat diets are linked with lower levels. Diets rich in a variety of nutrients seem to support higher NAD+ levels, and so does following the ketogenic diet (associated with higher brain levels of NAD+).
Other Potential Benefits
Given its important role in so many reactions and daily functioning of our bodies, NAD+ is definitely something worth knowing about. Supplementing could have potential benefits for age-related, metabolic, and degenerative diseases, as well encouraging a longer lifespan, optimizing our natural aging process, and maintaining our overall health. It also may help protect us from inflammation, cardiovascular disease, and cancer, in addition to lowering cholesterol and blood pressure, and improving our metabolism.
As always, be sure to consult with a naturopathic doctor or healthcare practitioner to see if new supplements or dietary changes may be best for you.
In good health,