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9 Surprising Ways Your Body Uses NAD

9 Surprising Ways Your Body Uses NAD

Researchers have good reason to believe NAD might be the key to healthy aging.

It’s strange to say a molecule is getting “press,” but that’s exactly what’s happening to NAD (nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide) in publications ranging from Wired to Shape. NAD (pronounced en-aye-dee) is an essential molecule found in every living cell. Although biochemists have known about this critical coenzyme since 1906, they didn’t focus on studying it because NAD was found in so many places in the body. They also didn’t know NAD declines with age. Now the fact that we lose NAD over time, and that it's involved in so many different processes is precisely why some of world’s leading neuroscientists, biochemists, and researchers are paying attention to it.

Most of this research is in animals. But here are just some of the ways we know NAD is involved in our body’s functions.

1. NAD and Aging

Out of all the factors that require NAD, aging is probably the most significant and least avoidable. By age 60, a person’s NAD levels are approximately half of what they were in their 40s. This is simply because our cells make NAD, and as we age our bodies can’t replace the cells that die as quickly with new ones. But even if we’re still young and healthy, everything listed below may contribute to this age-related decline in NAD as well. 

2. NAD and Alcohol

Whether you get your buzz out of grapes, barley, potatoes, or molasses, all alcohol is created from sugar. For our bodies to process that after-hours beverage, the alcohol must first be detoxified by enzymes that require NAD to function. NAD is involved in two steps of this process: first to detoxify the alcohol into sugar, and then to help that sugar turn into energy.

3. NAD and Fat

One of NAD’s most essential functions is energy metabolism. Our cells use NAD to turn the food (and drinks) we consume into the energy we need to stay healthy. NAD does this by turning into the hydrogen-carrying version of itself (NADH) which aids in burning fats and proteins in the cell. 

4. NAD and Carbs

NAD also turns into NADH to help convert carbs into energy. This is because it plays an important role in glycolysis, the cycle by which our bodies convert sugars into energy. 

5. NAD and Sleep 

The production of NAD is one of the many biological processes in our bodies that follows a circadian rhythm. Energy metabolism, hormone regulation, and body temperature variations all rely on a 24-hour cycle as well. NAD helps regulate circadian rhythms, keeping them all in sync and working at their best. Which is a good thing because misaligned circadian rhythms lead to things like jet lag and sleep deprivation.     

6. NAD and Sunlight 

We’ve known for years that too much sun can definitely be a bad thing. But one of the reasons why that’s true is because of NAD. Our cells use NAD to help activate sirtuin proteins and to create the cellular energy needed for responding to long-term sun exposure. 

7. NAD and Muscles 

Strenuous exercise requires NAD for muscle recovery, while mice studies show that moderate or light exercise can actually increase NAD levels. 

8. NAD and Sitting

Even someone living a sedentary lifestyle requires NAD for basic biological functions like eating, sleeping, and breathing. 

9. NAD and Breathing

While our bodies need oxygen, the metabolism of oxygen can sometimes affect other parts of a cell through an imbalance known as oxidative stress. Since NADPH is an important part of the body’s defense against oxidative stress, oxygen metabolism depletes NADPH. There’s not much you can do to prevent this—after all, you can’t stop breathing. 

How We Know NAD Declines With Age?

How We Know NAD Declines With Age?

This clinical study got scientists thinking about NAD and healthy aging.

How We Know NAD Declines With Age

The Massudi article from 2012 is often cited when looking at the potential of nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD) to improve human health as we age. That’s because there’s a lot of promising research around the connection between lower NAD levels and the aging process as a whole.

Here are just a few of the reasons why teams like Massudi’s are interested in the effects of NAD levels on human health:

  • NAD levels decline by up to 50% in human skin tissue between the ages of 40–60
  • NAD depletion may play an important role in the aging process [1]
  • Preclinical studies show a correlation between lower NAD levels and some age-related health conditions
“A strong negative correlation was observed between NAD+ levels and age in both males and females.”
         — MASSUDI, H., ET AL., 2012


Read all the science and research surrounding NAD at:

Answering The Big Questions About Aging

Answering The Big Questions About Aging

Few of us question why we age. We want solutions and we want them now. How do we get rid of our grey hairs, treat wrinkles, and ease the pain in our aching joints? While it’s true we haven’t invented a way to time travel (yet), recent research shows the best way to understand what’s happening on the outside is to look within.

Answering The Big Questions About Aging

Can I stay feeling young even as I age?

Maybe this is obvious, but there’s no miracle pill that reverses aging. All the common advice we hear about staying physically active, mentally stimulated, and socially engaged is true. A large body of research indicates that healthy aging is a function of our genetic makeup and staying active. The jury is still out on whether staying positive helps. It definitely works for some people (while others seem to thrive with a bit of a chip on their shoulder).

That said, there’s no single type of activity that’s best for everyone. Exercises like dance, yoga, walking, hiking, running, swimming, and biking are all good. Certain supplements may help with muscle recovery (making it easier to stay active), or provide that extra energy boost we need to stay alert or get out of the house. But when it comes to healthy aging, it’s in the doing.


Do wrinkles mean I’m aging faster than somebody without them?

Aging of the skin has a great deal to do with our environment, which is why most dermatologists and skin experts recommend moisturizing and staying out of the sun. Skin wrinkles are caused by changes to the layers of the skin, and a decreased quality of those cells. In some layers, keratinocytes, a type of skin cell, are to blame for wrinkles. In other layers, collagen proteins are to blame. Either way, there is no evidence to support that skin aging happens at the same rate as the rest of our body’s tissues, but there isn’t much recent work done yet in this area.

Why do we age at all?

Researchers have identified several aging hallmarks, and if we can understand how they all relate to one another and what they have in common, it could help us age better. Here are three key hallmarks:

Put A Cap On It: Telomeres

If you follow the science around healthy aging, you’ve probably heard of telomeres. These tiny regions protect the ends of our DNA from damage. They function like little caps. But like the rest of our DNA, telomeres get old. This causes them to degrade, decline, or take on harmful behaviors. Our cells can only survive for as long as telomeres allow them to.

The Price Of Power: Oxidative Damage

Most of the energy our bodies produce depends on oxygen consumption in our mitochondria. But this energy is not without cost. These reactions also create what’s known as reactive oxygen species, which can damage our cells and tissues.

Stuff Happens: Genomic Instability

This aging hallmark is common in every organism. It’s a result of accumulated DNA damage from years of cells dividing and being exposed to environmental factors. Our innate ability to replicate and repair DNA is remarkable, but sometimes that damage goes unnoticed and gets passed onto new cells. This creates an imbalance, or genomic instability. But it’s our ability to protect DNA in the first place, before it replicates, that keeps our cells working well and helps prevent health problems.

Do we really start to die the second we’re born?

Nobody really knows for sure when we begin to age. One group of scientists reported that decline in cognitive function becomes noticeable in our early twenties, suggesting it may begin even earlier than that. Another measuring point is what the scientific community refers to as biological maturity, which happens after puberty. That’s when our bodies have completed our development into adults, and may begin to age. 

Most of the hallmarks of aging aren’t even measurable until mid-life or after. This isn’t to say there aren’t changes happening at a molecular level. But until a certain point, those changes go unnoticed.

Is there any way to age better?

It’s pretty clear now a certain molecule that is crucial to our health, also declines as we age. This molecule, known as NAD (nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide), is one of the few compounds that connects all of these hallmarks of aging. NAD is not only required for things like controlling reactive oxygen species, but also promoting telomere function and genomic stability.

In 2004, Charles Brenner—our Chief Scientific Advisor—discovered nicotinamide riboside (NR) as a vitamin that increases NAD. He later discovered this vitamin encouraged NAD to continue promoting telomere function and genome stability, which extended lifespan in yeast. It stands to reason that maintaining youthful NAD levels may also help us maintain that youthful resiliency as we age.

When it comes to our health, it’s tempting to reach for temporary fixes. While some aspects of healthy aging are outside of our control, many of them are within our grasp. If we really want to age better, we have to view it like an investment. Putting in different amounts over time as needed, and collecting on it later. We don’t have to change everything overnight, but we can start somewhere and we can start soon.