NAD+ is an essential coenzyme that helps regulate and support our cells. But our NAD+ levels decline with age, and maintaining our NAD+ levels may play a role in helping to reduce the cellular effects of aging.
Here’s a comprehensive guide on how to naturally increase your NAD+ levels.
Metabolism is how our cells extract energy from the food we eat. Not enough energy and a cell withers; too much energy stresses our cells. NAD+ helps strike a delicate balance with our cellular energy while activating many cellular repair processes to keep our cells in good shape.
Unfortunately, between aging and our often-unhealthy lifestyles today, most people experience a significant decline in NAD+ over the course of their life, according to Cell Metabolism. Scientists believe this decline may be a significant contributor to many age-related changes in the body.
The good news is that elevating NAD+ levels may help reduce these effects. A review published in the Translational Medicine of Aging discusses the potential health benefits of boosting NAD+ as we age.
As described in Scientific American, researchers found that those who eat less have more NAD+ in their bodies. Along with increasing NAD+, calorie-restriction was also shown to produce significant anti-aging effects in monkeys.
The metabolic process of breaking down our food can damage our cells and DNA by generating dangerous free radicals. NAD+ regulates and powers the enzymes that repair this damage. Eating fewer calories means less metabolic damage, resulting in less repair and less NAD+ depletion. Strategies such as calorie counting and intermittent fasting are calorie-restricting practices that can all increase NAD+.
It’s no surprise that, as discussed in Forbes, animals with slow metabolisms who don’t consume and process food nearly as quickly as we do, like tortoises or cold-water sharks, can live hundreds of years. However, humans still have a daily nutritional requirement that we have to meet. Taking calorie restriction to an extreme can become equally unhealthy.
As reported in Physiology Reports, another strategy for reversing age-related NAD+ decline is regular exercise.
In the process of extracting energy, muscle contraction activates enzymes that generate NAD+, which in turn helps muscle cells generate the energy they need to contract. This process is a positively reinforcing circular process, with NAD+ being an indicator of energy demand.
As muscle contraction requires more fuel, it generates more NAD+, letting the body know to speed up metabolism and provide more fuel for the muscle.
In particular, aerobic endurance training, like long-distance running, is the most efficient way to raise NAD+ because it forces your muscles to fight for every last drop of energy.
Stressors on your cells, such as toxins or sunburn, require DNA repair that can deplete your NAD+ levels. In other words, lifestyle choices can help keep your cells healthy and NAD+ levels intact.
In the case of sun-exposure, The Conversation discusses how the sun’s harmful UV rays are a mutagen, meaning they can cause genetic mutations.
Avoiding sunburns with sunscreen is an excellent way to help prevent this damage. Still, it may also help maintain NAD+ levels as you spare your DNA repair mechanisms the extra work needed to combat UV radiation.
Likewise, combatting stressors like processing alcohol in the liver can deplete NAD+ levels, as discussed in Hepatology Communications. Avoiding heavy drinking can help maintain your natural levels of NAD+.
Vitamin B3 is a common vitamin found in multivitamins that can elevate your NAD+ levels. A century ago, scientists realized that nutritional deficiencies in vitamin B3 caused a deadly disease called pellagra, and national efforts to enrich flour with vitamin B3 have saved thousands of lives since.
Today, pellagra is no longer a pressing medical issue, but maintaining optimal NAD+ levels remains imperative for long-term health.
Vitamin B3 comes in three forms: niacin, nicotinamide, and nicotinamide riboside. Niacin is the most common form of vitamin B3 and was used to fortify our flour during the pellagra epidemic.
Other than niacin-enriched flour or cereals, you can find niacin in other foods like liver, chicken breast, tuna, and other animal-based proteins. Peanuts and avocado are also good sources for those who are going meatless.
However, niacin’s effectiveness is not as great as its counterparts in the vitamin B3 family. People also found that ingesting niacin in high doses can lead to uncomfortable flushing of the skin.
It’s hard to know whether you elevate NAD+ effectively just by consuming enough vitamin B3 in your diet. Currently, the only way to measure NAD+ levels is with a blood test.
Also, most of the available vitamin B3 in our foods come in the form of niacin, one of the least efficient NAD+ boosters.
Alternatively, the best way to increase NAD+ levels amongst the vitamin B3 family is by consuming nicotinamide riboside. A clinical study showed that nicotinamide riboside increased whole blood NAD+ by 40-50% in as little as two weeks. But it's quantities are only found in trace amounts in dairy milk and yeast, yielding far too small in quantity to make a significant impact.
Fortunately, nicotinamide riboside is available in synthetic form, mainly as Niagen®. Niagen® is the only form of nicotinamide riboside that has been successfully reviewed twice under the FDA’s New Dietary Ingredient Notification (NDIN) program and successfully notified to FDA as Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS).
While raising NAD+ levels naturally is a worthwhile goal, NAD+ boosting supplements, like Niagen®, can help the process along by increasing cellular energy and supporting healthy aging.
Moreover, research suggests that NAD-boosting strategies synergize with one another. According to a human trial from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, supplementing with nicotinamide riboside resulted in a minor improvement in body composition.
Making lifestyle changes around good diet and exercise, cutting out “bad” habits, and supplementing with an NAD+ boosting supplement can provide you with a multi-approach strategy to maintain your NAD+ levels for better aging.