What Is NAD+? The Secret to Living Healthier and Longer

What is NAD

Have you ever wondered what gives our bodies the energy and vitality to thrive? The answer lies within a tiny molecule called NAD+. But what is NAD+? NAD+ stands for nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide. NAD+ is a fundamental molecule found in every living cell, from humans to bacteria.



It acts as a critical coenzyme that plays an important role in metabolism, and it has recently been gaining attention for its potential to improve cellular health and slow the aging process.


As we grow older, our NAD+ levels naturally start to decline. This decline has been linked to age-related diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. But it is not all doom and gloom, as scientists have been investigating the potential of NAD+ supplements, particularly those containing precursors like NMN and NR.


In animal studies, these supplements have been found to boost NAD+ levels and even reverse some of the signs of aging. If NAD+ supplements are proven to be as effective in people as they are in animals over the long run, they could profoundly impact public health, extending life expectancy and reducing the burden of age-related diseases.

Now, we’ll take you through everything else you need to know about NAD+, including its potential benefits and how to increase levels in your body. Let’s dive deeper into - what is NAD+?


What is NAD+?


NAD+ is an important molecule in the body comprising two nucleotides joined together by phosphate groups. One nucleotide contains an adenine nucleobase, and the other contains a nicotinamide.


NAD+ is important for many cellular processes, including DNA repair, energy metabolism, and cell signalling. NAD+ levels decline with age, and this has been linked to age-related diseases such as Alzheimer's disease, cancer, and Type II diabetes.


However, NMN supplementation has been shown to reverse some of the age-related changes in NAD+ levels and improve health in animal studies (R).


How is NAD+ made by our cells?


pluripotent stem cells


NAD+ is produced by our cells as part of our metabolism. In order to make NAD+, cells use a process called the NAD salvage pathway. This pathway involves taking NADH that has been used by the cell and recycling it back into NAD+.


NADH is recycled back into NAD+ through a series of reactions that involve enzymes. These reactions convert NADH back into NAD+, which the cell can then use again.


The NAD salvage pathway is an important part of metabolism, and it helps to keep NAD+ levels high so that cells can function properly. 


How does NAD+ work in the body?


As mentioned, NAD+ is a molecule found in every cell of your body. It's involved in a wide range of metabolic processes and plays an important role in energy production, DNA repair, and aging.


NAD+ plays a crucial role in the body, primarily in cellular functions including:


Energy Metabolism:

NAD+ is key in converting nutrients into energy, participating in metabolic reactions like glycolysis and the Krebs cycle. It helps in producing ATP, the cell's energy currency.

DNA Repair and Cell Signalling:

NAD+ aids in repairing damaged DNA and influences cell signalling, impacting processes like stress response and cell survival.

Aging and Longevity:

NAD+ activates sirtuins, proteins related to aging and cellular health. Its levels decline with age, linking it to aging and related diseases.


Studies have shown that when you boost your NAD+ levels, you give your health and longevity a boost as well. NAD+ supplements sound perfect in theory, although NAD+ supplements available on the market can be quite pricey and not as effective as we'd like them to be.


A better option is available - Have you heard of NMN or NR? NMN and NR are NAD+ precursors. These precursors are easily absorbed by the body and have shown promising results.


According to a published study (R), NMN has been shown to have the ability to increase NAD+ levels and protect mice against age-related diseases.


While human studies are still ongoing, the early results are definitely looking encouraging. A 2022 study published in the Nutrients Journal (R) found that taking NMN could reduce drowsiness and increase energy levels in older adults, benefiting both their physical and mental health.


If you’re looking for ways to live healthier and longer, it seems safe to say that NMN or NR supplementation is an option worth seriously considering.


If you're looking for ways to live healthier and longer, NAD+, NMN or NR supplementation is a promising option worth considering.


NAD+ Levels Drop With Age


Based on the charts presented, there is a decrease in NAD+ levels observed in both males (left) and females (right) as they age. In these graphs, the red line labeled “a” illustrates the variation of NAD+ levels throughout a lifetime, while the blue line labeled “b” reflects changes in NAD+ levels after puberty. Image Source: PLOS ONE


The human body is an amazing machine that can adapt and change in response to its environment. But one thing that it can't do is stop the hands of time. As we age, our cells experience more DNA damage, and our NAD+ levels start to decline.


CD38 increases with age, contributing to the NAD+ decline and mitochondrial dysfunction through SIRT3-dependent mechanisms. This identifies CD38 as a potential target for NAD+ replacement therapy (R).


This Decline in NAD+ has been linked to a number of age-related diseases, such as diabetes, cancer, and Alzheimer's disease. While there's no way to completely stop the aging process, there are things we can do to slow it down.


For example, exercising and eating a healthy diet can help keep our cells healthy and prevent some of the DNA damage that occurs with age.


So even though you can't turn back the clock, you can take steps to protect your cells and prolong your healthspan. 


What happens when NAD+ levels are reduced?


Numerous studies have shown that NAD+ levels are reduced in conditions of disturbed nutrient intake, such as obesity and aging.


This reduction in NAD+ can lead to problems with metabolism, which can, in turn, lead to disorders such as obesity and insulin resistance.


Obesity is a major risk factor for diabetes and high blood pressure. Therefore, maintaining healthy NAD+ levels is crucial for preventing these serious health problems.


Not to mention that reduced NAD+ levels can also lead to lower strength, older-looking skin, decreased eyesight and many other factors that come with the aging process. 


Potential Benefits of NAD+


NAD healthy


NAD+ is important for mitochondrial maintenance and gene regulation, both of which are crucial for preventing aging. However, NAD+ levels in our body drastically decline as we age.



"By the time you're 50, you have about half the NAD+ you once had when you were 20"

- David Sinclair of Harvard University.


This decrease in NAD+ results in a decrease in mitochondrial function and an increased risk for age-related diseases. However, there are ways to counteract this NAD+ loss.


Exercise and caloric restriction have been shown to increase NAD+ levels, as well as raise levels of SIRT1, an anti-aging protein. Additionally, supplements that contain NAD precursors, such as nicotinamide riboside (NR), can also raise NAD+ levels.


By maintaining high NAD+ levels, we can keep our mitochondria healthy and avoid age-related diseases.


How NAD+ Affects Body Systems 


Understanding the impact of NAD+ on body systems such as aging, muscle function, metabolic disorders, heart function, and neurodegeneration could pave the way for innovative treatments and improved health outcomes. Let's explore what NAD+ does for these systems:




The sirtuin family of genes are some of the most important genes in the body. Often referred to as the "guardians of the genome," sirtuins play a vital role in maintaining the health of cells and preventing disease.


Sirtuins are responsible for sensing when the body is under stress, such as during exercise or periods of starvation, and sending out troops to defend the body.


In addition to their role in protecting the genome, sirtuins also promote DNA repair and have been shown to have anti-aging properties in model animals.


Thus, sirtuins play a critical role in maintaining the health of the body and preventing age-related diseases.


Muscle function


Mitochondria are often referred to as the powerhouse of the cell, and for good reason. These organelles are responsible for producing the energy our cells need to function. NAD+ is a key player in mitochondrial function, and research has shown that it plays an important role in exercise performance.


NAD+ levels decline with age, and this can lead to decreased muscle function. However, supplementing with NAD+ can help to restore mitochondrial function and improve exercise performance.


In one study, participants who were supplemented with NAD+ saw a significant increase in endurance compared to those who didn’t supplement (R).


So if you’re looking to maintain healthy mitochondria and steady energy output, NAD+ may be worth considering.


Metabolic disorders


Obesity is a condition that is characterised by an excessive amount of body fat. Obesity can lead to a number of health problems, including metabolic disorders such as diabetes. In 2016, diabetes killed 1.6 million people around the globe.


Obesity is also a risk factor for heart disease and stroke. In fact, obese individuals are more likely to die from heart disease than non-obese individuals.


Treatment for obesity often includes lifestyle changes such as diet and exercise. Medications and surgery may also be used in severe cases.


If you are obese, it is important to talk to your doctor about treatment options.


Heart function


The heart is a vital organ that pumps blood throughout the body. The arteries are responsible for carrying blood away from the heart.


The elasticity of the arteries helps cushion the pressure waves sent out by heartbeats. However, as we age, our arteries begin to stiffen, and this can contribute to high blood pressure.


High blood pressure is one of the most important risk factors for cardiovascular disease.


Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, with one person dying from it every 37 seconds. The CDC reports that almost half of all adults in the United States have some form of cardiovascular disease.


Heart health is therefore a key concern for many people. By maintaining a healthy lifestyle and getting regular check-ups, we can help reduce our risk of developing cardiovascular disease.




Neurodegeneration is a major problem facing the world today. Neurodegenerative diseases are characterised by the progressive loss of structure and function of neurons, resulting in cognitive impairment. The most common neurodegenerative diseases include Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, and Huntington's disease.


These diseases are devastating, not only for the individuals affected, but also for their families and caregivers. Neurodegenerative diseases are currently incurable, and there is no effective way to prevent or slow their progression.


However, research is ongoing, and scientists are hopeful that new treatments will be developed to improve the quality of life for those affected by neurodegenerative diseases.


Does NAD+ increase lifespan?


NAD lifespan



Taking NAD+ precursors may help you live a longer and healthier life. That's what scientists have found in a study published in Science in 2016. In the study, mice that were given NR, a precursor to NAD+, lived an average of 5% longer than mice that didn't receive NR (R).


The mice receiving NR also showed signs of improved healthspan, meaning they spent more of their lives free of age-related diseases.


So if you're looking for ways to extend your lifespan and improve your healthspan, boosting your NAD+ levels may be a good place to start.


How to Increase NAD Levels


NAD+ levels can be naturally increased by promoting its synthesis — enhancing the enzymes involved in NAD+ biosynthesis or taking NAD+ precursor molecules.


Eating Healthy


Eating healthy and exercising regularly are two of the best things you can do for your mental health. But did you know these activities can also help boost your NAD+ levels? NAD+ is a molecule that plays an important role in energy metabolism, and levels of this molecule decline with age.


However, mild physical stress to the body, such as fasting and exercise, can stimulate the production of NAD+.


As a result, leading a healthy lifestyle through a healthy diet and moderate exercise is good for your mental health and can help keep your NAD+ levels high.


Moving Your Body


Regular exercise is one of the simplest ways to improve overall health and increase NAD+ levels. Exercise helps keep you strong and fit while maintaining a healthy weight.


In addition, exercise can enhance the DNA-rebuilding proteins in your body, helping to keep your cells healthy and prevent disease.


So if you're looking for a natural way to improve your health, be sure to get plenty of exercise. Your body will thank you for it.


Staying out of the sun’s harmful rays


levels of NAD+ decline with age, which has been linked to several age-related diseases. However, new research suggests that exposure to sunlight may also play a role in reducing NAD+ levels.


UV radiation from the sun causes damage to the skin, and the body uses NAD+ to repair this damage. As a result, spending too much time in the sun can significantly decrease NAD+ levels.


This is another reason to ensure you wear sunscreen and limit your exposure to direct sunlight.


Searching for heat sources


While spending time in direct sunlight is bad for your overall health and NAD+ levels, spending time in natural or artificial heat can certainly help you boost those NAD levels.


Common heat sources, such as saunas, hot tubs, and heated pools, may cause your heart to beat quicker, forcing your body to use more energy to keep cool. This increase in energy expenditure leads to an increase in NAD+ levels.


So, if you're looking for a way to boost your NAD+ levels, spending some time in the heat may be a good option for you.


Supplementing with NAD+ precursors


Both NMN and NR are used in the "salvage pathway" of NAD+ biosynthesis. This means that they can be converted into NAD+ in the body, boosting levels of this important molecule.


In addition, both NMN and NR are safe for human consumption. As a result, they offer a potential way to increase NAD+ levels and slow down age-related declines in cellular function.


The Future of NAD+

As the population continues to age, chronic diseases will become an increasingly burdensome issue. In 2016, the nation's health care treatment for chronic diseases totaled $1.1 trillion, according to the Milken Institute.


A large portion of this cost is due to the treatments for Alzheimer's and dementia, which are projected to increase five-fold by 2050. However, there may be hope on the horizon in the form of NAD+. NAD+ is a molecule that plays a role in cell metabolism, and it has been shown to decrease with age.


Recent research has suggested that boosting levels of NAD+ could potentially reverse some of the damages associated with aging, including cognitive decline. While more research is needed, the potential of NAD+ offers a ray of hope for those facing the challenges of an aging population.

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Kendall Jenner NAD IV

Written By Natasha Jordan

BHSc Nutritional Medicine, International health - University Of Queensland

Diploma In Dermal Science - AACDS

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