We’ve heard it all before, the extraordinary claims that product X or process Y can turn back the clock on aging – so how is NAD+ different?
For one thing, NAD+ is backed by science. NAD+, or nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide, is a coenzyme found in all living cells, and it’s required for the fundamental biological functions that make life possible.
“Researchers have found that upping NAD+ in older mice causes them to look and act younger, as well as live longer than expected,” according to the Feb 26, 2018, edition of Time magazine.
NAD+ (written with a plus sign to show a formal charge on a nitrogen atom) enables the transfer of energy from fatty acids and glucose (the foods we eat) to the mitochondria, which converts them to cellular energy. NAD+ is also required to turn off genes that accelerate degenerative aging. As NAD+ levels decline with aging, mitochondrial function is impaired resulting in fewer mitochondria surviving.
This vicious cycle of mitochondrial depletion results in many of the physical symptoms of aging.
Taking a closer look, a study published in the National Center for Biotechnology Information shows a very “intimate connection” between NAD+ and sirtuins, key enzymes responsible for longevity. Sirtuins, specifically SIR1 and SIR3, disable certain genes that promote aging such as those involved in inflammation, in fat synthesis and storage, and in blood sugar management. But for the sirtuins to slow aging, they need to be activated.
NAD+ activates sirtuins directly.
“NAD+ acts as a signaling molecule,” says natural health expert Dr. Joseph Mercola. “It basically acts as a sensor for stress and disease. Anti-age researchers have identified this molecule as one of the primary control mechanisms for slowing down the aging process – and it may actually be the most critical one.”
NAD is currently being studied by scientists worldwide for its role in activating anti-aging mechanisms. One of the leading researchers is Dr. Charles Brenner, head of Biochemistry and a director of the Obesity Initiative at the University of Iowa. He’s also co-discovered something called nicotinamide riboside (NR), which is one of the few compounds out there that can boost NAD in your body.
“We suspect the story is just beginning about the benefits of NR,” says Brenner.
In animal studies, Brenner says animals under metabolic stress with type 2 diabetes or chemotherapy treatment, actually get greater benefits from nicotinamide riboside than healthy, active animals.
The Amazing Reversal Of Vascular Aging
But NAD+ is not just about reversing the aging process. Compelling research shows that NAD+ has a unique ability to protect tissues and induce DNA repair. Studies have been investigating NAD+ as a potential therapy for age-related degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, macular degeneration, and even cancer.
This research is important with potentially significant health benefits for humans because as we age, our tiniest blood vessels wither and die, causing reduced blood flow and compromised oxygenation of organs and tissues. Vascular aging is responsible for a constellation of disorders, such as cardiac and neurologic conditions, impaired wound healing, and overall frailty, among others.
Muscles begin to shrivel and grow weaker with age, a condition known as sarcopenia. The process can be slowed down with regular exercise, but gradually even exercise becomes less effective at holding off muscle meltdown.
Additionally, scientists now believe that age-related decrease in NAD+ causes defects in both energy and gene-related functions. The consequences of a decline in NAD+ levels and subsequent reduction in SIRT 1 and SIRT 3 enzymes are:
- Neurodegeneration in the brain.
- Increased fat storage in the liver, which can lead to nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).
- Increased fat production and deposition in white adipose tissue, the primary fat storage form found in dangerous belly fat.
- Insulin resistance, preventing cells from appropriately removing glucose from the blood, producing higher blood sugar levels and leading directly to metabolic syndrome.
Insufficient NAD+ Is Just Plain Bad
Since the age of 13, certified integrative nutrition coach Connie Rogers says she has been interested in finding a way to slow the aging process. She now feels that NAD+ is a salient piece of that puzzle.
“As a health coach, I see clients concerned with premature aging and voicing their concerns about improving metabolic health, reversing obesity, and healing from diabetes, cardiovascular disorders, cancer, and depression,” says Rogers. “Recently these ailments have been linked to depleted levels of NAD+.”
According to Rogers, low levels of NAD+ lead to “compromised” immune and metabolic systems.
There’s also evidence that along with acquired NAD+ deficiency, there may also be a genetic disorder that is present at birth. Symptoms can appear in young children as difficulty sleeping, behavioral problems, hyperactivity, impaired concentration, academic stress, and underachievement.
Researchers are also looking into the possibility that some birth defects are caused by a NAD+ deficiency in the embryo.
NAD+ levels can be measured through blood samples using high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC).
If someone has extremely low NAD+ levels, they have a nutritional disorder known as pellagra. The symptoms of pellagra are dermatitis, dementia, and diarrhea. If left untreated, it can be fatal.
In adults, often NAD+ deficiency is first evident in brain-related symptoms of poor concentration, difficulty focusing, and attention deficit disorders. If the energy shortage lasts long enough, brain neurons cannot synthesize neurotransmitters. When this occurs, the molecules of consciousness (such as serotonin, dopamine, and noradrenaline) are affected. Anxiety, depression, sleep disturbance, and other mood changes can then occur.
4 Ways To ADD To NAD+
1. Food – Some foods are more likely to elevate your NAD+ levels. The crimini mushroom, for example, is popular in non-Western societies cooked into a stew or made into a soup. Then there’s cow’s milk. While problematic for many people, cow’s milk is loaded with NAD+ promoter nicotinamide riboside.
Chicken meat is also good, just don’t eat it fried. Some varieties of fish, such as tuna, sardines and salmon contain high amounts of NAD+. Fresh green vegetables, especially peas and asparagus, contain NAD+.
One surprising product on the NAD+ list is beer. Beer contains yeast, which, like cow’s milk, is loaded with NR. Of course, there is plenty of downside to consuming alcohol. The key is to drink responsibly.
According to Mercola, a simple and cost-effective way to boost intracellular NAD+ is by consuming the bark of the Amazon pau d’arco tree. Commercial products containing pau d’arco are available in capsule, tablet, extract, powder, and tea forms. Mercola recommends mixing one-half to 1 teaspoon of pau d’arco with 4 to 8 ounces of water then letting it steep for 10 to 12 hours.
2. Severe Calorie Restriction – “Overeating reduces levels of NAD+,” says Rogers, especially when it comes to mindless snacking and eating at fast food restaurants that serve foods known to raise insulin levels producing higher blood sugar levels and a compromised digestive system.
Studies show that calorie restriction (CR) is the most consistent non-pharmacological intervention increasing life span and protecting against the deterioration of biological functions.
3. Supplements – The problem with calorie restriction is the same problem with just about every diet — most people find significant calorie restriction to be nearly impossible in practice. That’s why researchers turned to NR, which is actually a form of vitamin B-3 (niacin). Over 400 enzymatic reactions throughout the body involve vitamin B-3, which is essential for production and management of cellular energy.
“In supplement form, you can get a day’s worth of NR in a pill,” says Brenner.
William Faloon, a co-founder of the renowned Life Extension Foundation, says “The capsules work and boost NAD,” but when you get to a certain age, you first need NAD itself infused or absorbed into your body and then you can maintain those levels with precursors.
4. Infusion therapy – People are surprised to learn that NAD+ infusion therapy has been around since 1961 when it was first introduced as a treatment for schizophrenia and drug addiction.
Over time, NAD+ infusion therapy has evolved into being an anti-aging type of treatment as well as a treatment for stress, anxiety, depression, and even PTSD. It’s normally given by IV for four days.
And it’s still a popular detox treatment given over a 10 day period. According to Ann Rodgers, the director of Brain Restoration Therapy in Los Angeles, NAD+ infusion therapy restores the brain to a state of clarity and well-being in a very short time.
“I’m not sure we can say we know every biochemical process of how it works,” says Rodgers, “but it does seem to replenish the energy in the cell, and the cell uses that to repair.”
The pricing for NAD+ infusion therapy varies considerably from clinic to clinic, but expect to pay between $1,000 to $1,500 a day for the various programs.
Thomas Ropp Longtime journalist Thomas Ropp is an environmental advocate and proponent of living healthier. After spending most of his life in Arizona, he relocated to a Costa Rican rainforest 11 years ago and helped with reforestation projects to expand the habitat of the endangered mono titi monkey. He has dual residency in the United States and Costa Rica.
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