Scientists far and wide have proven that our bodies need different fuels for various reasons. Proteins help us build muscles, carbohydrates provide us with energy, water keeps us hydrated, and vitamins A, D, and C boost our immune system. While the functions of these classes of food are widely researched and understood, health professionals are still attempting to isolate the biochemical instruments that regulate our metabolism and slow or reverse the aging process. 

Despite the uncertainty of this investigation, some experts have speculated that a compound in our cells called nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD+) is partly responsible for accelerating metabolic processes and reversing aging in humans.

What Is Nicotinamide Adenine Dinucleotide (NAD)?

NAD+ and NADH — discovered in 1906 by William John Young and Sir Arthur Harden — are two sides of the same coenzyme critical to every cell and many metabolic processes in our bodies. Although both are similar, they're still different. NAD+ carries the positive sign to indicate it has been oxidized, while NADH has not. A coenzyme is a compound that drives essential reactions within our cells to create what our bodies need. Nothing in our bodies would work without the presence of coenzyme.

NAD+ facilitates and catalyzes some of the most important cellular processes in our bodies. Some of the processes that NAD+ is essential to include:

  • Regulating sirtuin protein functions. The sirtuin, a group of seven proteins in our cells, directs metabolism and cellular aging processes.
  • The function of Poly (ADP-ribose) polymerases (PARPs). The PARPs help repair DNA and are dependent on NAD+ for this process. PARPs also help maintain cardiovascular health, regulate normal blood sugars, and effect a healthy metabolism.
  • Catalyzing the activity of ADPR (adenosine diphosphate ribose)-cyclases. ADPR-cyclases are also NAD+-dependent enzymes that control calcium signaling, metabolic pathways, critical processes in the nervous system and brain, and immune function.

Our cells break down fats and carbohydrates, via cellular respiration, and convert the by-products into energy to be stored by Adenosine triphosphate (ATP) and energy to aid electron transport by NADH. NADH is then converted into NAD+ through oxidative phosphorylation in the mitochondria. An overabundance of NADH levels means a decrease in NAD+ levels.

NAD+ is produced naturally by our bodies. However, the levels available vary depending on the systems that have priority at any given moment. Our bodies redirect NAD+ from the processes that are not a priority, reducing biochemical resources allocated to these momentarily unnecessary processes. Keep in mind, though, that the levels of NAD+ in humans also decrease with age.

What Causes Decreases in NAD+?

Aging isn't the only physiological phenomenon known to reduce our body's production of NAD+. There are several other factors, including:

  • DNA damage. Damage to our DNA activates the PARP molecules to initiate repair. Because PARP molecules are NAD+-dependent, this repair always consumes some of the available NAD+ supply.
  • Alcohol use. Oxidation of alcohol by antidiuretic hormone reduces the oxidized NAD+.
  • Overeating. Consuming too much food lowers the oxygen levels in our cells, a decline that reduces the amount of NAD+ in the human body.
  • High blood sugar and insulin levels. An excessive rise in blood sugar levels or reduction in insulin levels affects the NADH-NAD+ ratio and lowers the NAD+ levels. 

Can You Increase Your NAD+ Levels?

Increasing the glycolytic reaction that converts NADH to ATP (i.e., for energy) also raises the levels of NAD+. Here are some ways to induce and accelerate this reaction:

  • Exercise. Exercise produces energy stress, which naturally increases the consumption of NADH to produce energy. This NADH depletion yields higher levels of NAD+. Interval training is ideal, but aerobic exercise can also create and sustain the energy stress to produce more NAD+.
  • Diet. Excess carbohydrates can induce an accumulation of NADH, reducing the amount of NAD+. To increase the NAD+ levels, you need to decrease your caloric intake, perhaps through portion control, calorie counting, or fasting.
  • Fermented foods and kombucha. Fermentation produces lactate by using NADH, resulting in the production of NAD+.
  • Ketosis. This fat-burning process increases NAD+ by burning up the NADH available.
  • Fructose. Fructose, found in honey and fruits, activates the enzyme —  lactate dehydrogenase — that converts NADH to NAD+.
  • Heat shock and saunas. Not only do you sweat out toxins during a sauna, but you also increase your levels of NAD+.
  • IV nutrient therapy. IV therapy is a great way to quickly and effectively boost NAD levels and the positive benefits that come along with it.

In addition to these methods for increasing your levels of NAD+, there are also several supplements that have been linked, during human trials, to increasing NAD+ levels. Still, it's important to note that the FDA does not currently approve these supplements. You should always consult your physician before trying any new supplements. Some of these NAD+-increasing supplements are:

  • Succinic acid
  • Apigenin
  • Resveratrol
  • Malic acid
  • Niacinamide
  • Lithium
  • Nicotinamide riboside

You can also add several NAD+ intermediates to increase cellular and mitochondrial NAD+. Again, these supplements have not been approved by the FDA and you should consult your doctor before starting any. These are some popular intermediates:

  • Tryptophan and aspartic acid
  • Nicotinamidemononucleotide
  • Niacinamide

There are also foods believed to naturally boost our body's NAD+ levels. These include:

  • Whole grains. Whole grains are rich in vitamin B3.
  • Milk. Cow's milk is an excellent source of Nicotinamide riboside.
  • Fish. Sardines, salmons, and tuna are rich sources of NAD+.
  • Yeast. Nicotinamide riboside is also found in yeast.
  • Green Vegetables. Peas and asparagus are two of the top green vegetables for our bodies, and they increase NAD+ levels.
  • Mushrooms. Mushrooms, in particular the crimini mushrooms, increase  NAD levels.

Why Is NAD Important?

NAD is responsible for several of your body's key processes, which would stall without NAD. NAD supports healthy aging, helps our DNA repair itself, makes our cells resistant to stress while protecting our brains, and helps us eat and sleep at the right times according to our body's needs. The production of NAD+ provides an edge when it comes to the anti-aging game, allowing us to slow down the aging process. If you'd like more information on NAD+ supplements or any other health benefit you seek, contact us at the biostation. Our knowledgeable staff would be happy to discuss options with you.