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Functions of NAD+ in Your Body 

NAD+ (nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide) is a naturally produced molecule essential for the function of your 37.2 trillion cells. It helps activate mechanisms that generate over 90% of your body’s energy and plays a major role in pretty much all of your body’s vital functions. This post will outline the function of NAD+ in the body from a bird’s-eye view, taking into account the various organ systems where it plays an important role.  

Defining NAD+ 

Before we dive into some of the specific functions of NAD+, let’s define it. NAD+ is one of the most important molecules for any living cell to function. It’s vital to the energy-generating mitochondria that power everything you do, and it’s also crucial in protecting the integrity of your DNA to counteract the effects of aging and illness. NAD+ can be viewed kind of like mass transit, except it’s transporting electrons rather than people. NAD+ works by transporting electrons between different molecules in your cells to support them in carrying out various reactions.  

Your NAD+ levels decline as you age, and this decline has an impact on metabolic and cellular function and how well your body is able to bounce back from the myriad physiological stressors that we all face every day. Reduced cellular energy production and the ability to repair compromised DNA are at the heart of what we understand to be aging. Aging is ultimately a cumulative decline in cellular function over time.   NAD+ plays a role in hundreds of cellular processes. To crystallize your understanding of how NAD+ functions in more tangible ways, here are some of the key roles NAD+ plays when it comes to your health.

Functions of NAD+ in Your Body - Image

1. NAD+ and Aging 

A published study in PLOS One provides quantitative evidence that the depletion of NAD+ may play a significant role in the aging process by regulating cellular energy production, DNA repair, and genomic signaling. Research suggests that NAD+ declines by up to 65% between your early thirties and age 70. A 2018 review paper highlights the relationship between NAD+ depletion and age-related health conditions and investigates how boosting NAD+ may support healthier aging.  

2. NAD+ and Heart Health

NAD+ ensures that your mitochondria produce enough energy to drive cellular function. A decline in mitochondrial count and function in cardiac cells can affect heart health. In conjunction with a healthy diet and regular exercise, boosting your NAD+ levels helps your mitochondria produce the energy required to keep your heart healthy so you don’t skip a beat. Powering healthy mitochondrial function in the heart can help support healthy blood pressure within normal range, healthy blood flow, and more.  

3. NAD+, Your Nervous System, and Brain

Research supports the hypothesis that boosting cellular NAD+ is important for normal brain function. A recent study showed an increase in brain NAD+ with supplementation of an NAD+ precursor in healthy humans. Consequently, NAD+ precursors can help support healthy neurons in the brain. Many animal studies are emerging showing how increased NAD+ can defend against the hallmarks of brain aging and support brain health overall. 

4. NAD+ and Muscles

NAD+ is crucial for your muscle health in two ways. Exercise and movement in general require significant energy, and your muscle cells use NAD+ to help fuel contraction and relaxation. This process of energy production occurs in your cells’ mitochondria (the powerhouses of the cell), can cannot be accomplished without NAD+. Your cells also need to repair themselves from any damage done by those vigorous sessions at the gym, and cellular repair requires NAD+, too. The function of NAD+ with respect to muscle health cannot be underestimated. 

5. NAD+ and Eye Health

Your tissues and organs need a constant supply of cellular energy to function, and NAD+ plays a crucial role in this supply. One such energy-demanding tissue is the retina. A review article highlighted that declining levels of retinal NAD+ have been linked to health conditions of the retina in preclinical models. UV light exposure can also damage ocular tissues. NAD+ is important in maintaining healthy tissues due to its influence on cellular repair and recovery.   

6. NAD+ and Environmental Stressors

Daily environmental factors such as smoking and pollution can trigger oxidative stress, leading to a decline in NAD+ and mitochondrial health. Oxidative stress is an imbalance that’s a byproduct of oxygen metabolism and can cause cellular damage. We’re subject to it every day. NAD+ is an important part of the body’s defense against oxidative stress. 

7. NAD+ and Alcohol 

Processing alcohol in your body is an energy-expensive project, especially in your all-important liver cells. Your body works hard to metabolize and detox when you drink. On a cellular level, this requires your mitochondria (the power generators inside each of your cells) to kick into overdrive. When you drink alcohol, the liver must work to break it down into a substance called acetate. Without NAD+, this process couldn't occur.     

8. NAD+ and Sunlight

Did you know that excess sun exposure can damage your DNA? The good news is that NAD+ can actually help mend broken DNA strands. It’s required by the repair enzymes that help you and your cells bounce back. As mentioned earlier, maintaining NAD+ levels helps support sirtuins, which help maintain cellular health and repair cellular damage. 

9. NAD+, Fat, and Carbs

NAD+ creation and consumption by your cells is linked to the regulation of fat metabolism and storage. NAD+ also plays an important role in the process of glycolysis, the cycle through which our bodies convert sugars (carbs) into usable energy. 

10. NAD+ and Sleep

Misaligned circadian rhythms lead to things like jet lag and sleep deprivation. NAD+ helps regulate circadian rhythms, helping keep energy metabolism, hormone regulation, and body temperature variations all in sync and working at their best. 

What Is the Function of NAD+? Main Benefits: 

 If you’re looking for more information on NAD+ and specific organ systems and health areas, check out these pages:  

Sources Cited:  

  • Massudi, H., Grant, R., Braidy, N., Guest, J., Farnsworth, B., and Guillemin, G. J. (2012). “Age-Associated Changes in Oxidative Stress and NAD+ Metabolism in Human Tissue.” Plos One 7, e42357. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0042357. 

  • Janssens, G. E., Grevendonk, L., Perez, R. Z., Schomakers, B. V., Bosch, J. de V. den, Geurts, J. M. W., et al. (2022). “Healthy Aging and Muscle Function Are Positively Associated with NAD+ Abundance in Humans.” Nat Aging 2, 254–263. doi: 10.1038/s43587-022-00174-3. 

  • Aman, Y., Qiu, Y., Tao, J., and Fang, E. F. (2018). “Therapeutic Potential of Boosting NAD+ in Aging and Age-Related Diseases.” Transl Medicine Aging 2, 30–37. doi: 10.1016/j.tma.2018.08.003. 

  • Lautrup, S., Sinclair, D. A., Mattson, M. P., and Fang, E. F. (2019). “NAD+ in Brain Aging and Neurodegenerative Disorders.” Cell Metab 30, 630–655. doi: 10.1016/j.cmet.2019.09.001. 

  • Vreones et al. (2022) “Oral Nicotinamide Riboside Raises NAD+ and Lowers Biomarkers of Neurodegenerative Pathology in Plasma Extracellular Vesicles Enriched for Neuronal Origin.” Aging Cell Vol. 22, Issue 1. doi: 10.1111/acel.13754. 

  • Jadeja, R. N., Thounaojam, M. C., Bartoli, M., and Martin, P. M. (2020). “Implications of NAD+ Metabolism in the Aging Retina and Retinal Degeneration.” Oxid Med Cell Longev 2020, 2692794. doi: 10.1155/2020/2692794. 

  • Circu, M. L., and Aw, T. Y. (2010). “Reactive Oxygen Species, Cellular Redox Systems, and Apoptosis.” Free Radical Bio Med 48, 749–762. doi: 10.1016/j.freeradbiomed.2009.12.022. 

  • Poljsak, B., and Milisav, I. (2016). “NAD+ as the Link Between Oxidative Stress, Inflammation, Caloric Restriction, Exercise, DNA Repair, Longevity, and Health Span.” Rejuv Res 19, 406–413. doi: 10.1089/rej.2015.1767. 

  • Zakhari S. “Overview: How Is Alcohol Metabolized by the Body?” Alcohol Res Health 2006;29(4):245-54. PMID: 17718403; PMCID: PMC6527027. 

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