What Is NAD and Why Is It So Important?

In our development in life and our later journey to become healthier as we age, NAD is responsible for many of the critical processes that happen in our bodies. It monitors everything from the creation of energy in the body to the regulation of pivotal cellular processes.

However, as we age, or during times when our bodies fall ill, NAD becomes less effective and thus drastically slows the production of energy and the monitoring of our metabolic process.

Luckily, there is a way to increase NAD in a healthy manner.

Let’s discuss what NAD is, how it was discovered, and what you can do to make more of it in your body’s daily processes.

What is NAD?

NAD is the shorthand term for nicotinamide adenine dinucleotidethe most abundant and crucial molecule in the body. It is found anywhere from single-cell organisms like bacteria to more sophisticated species like primates and, of course, humans.

Essentially, if NAD were to disappear, so would the living organism that contains it.

The NAD molecule is crucial for the functioning of generator cells, such as the mitochondria. Its purpose isn’t just to convert food into energy but also to maintain DNA integrity and ensure proper cell function in order to protect our bodies from aging and disease.

How Does NAD Work in the Body?

NAD has an interesting way of distributing important processes throughout our bodies. Essentially, it works like a pick-up bus, transferring electrons from one molecule to another within cells to carry out all sorts of reactions and processes.

Without sufficient NAD levels in our bodies, our cells wouldn’t be able to generate any energy to survive and carry out their functions. Additionally, some other functions of NAD include regulating our circadian rhythm, which controls our sleep and wake cycle.

NAD Levels Are Affected by Aging

As we grow older, our NAD levels naturally decrease over time. This has significant implications for our metabolic function and age-related diseases. Additionally, with the decrease in NAD levels, we may also experience DNA damage which accumulates and then snowballs with aging.

Any damage to our genetic blueprint also activates several proteins, namely enzymes called PARPs (Poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase). When the NAD levels are sufficient enough, PARPs can perform their usual DNA repair functions. However, any depletion of NAD stops the efficiency of PARP enzymes and thus leads to numerous diseases.

Out of all the functions that come with NAD, scientists believe that PARPs have the biggest role in how it is used and accumulated in the body.

Many other enzymes in our body also consume NAD. In fact, the more active the immune system is, the more NAD the enzymes will consume in order to function properly. Interestingly, the level of enzymes in our immune system increases with age and thus depletes the NAD levels in our body.

This is why it is so important to understand the importance of NAD and what we can do to increase its levels even as we grow older.

How Is NAD Made by Our Cells?

The process by which cells generate molecules is called biosynthesis. When it comes to the creation of NAD, there are three known pathways for its creation:

  1. The kynurenine pathway
  2. The Press-Handler pathway
  3. The salvage pathway

Kynurenine is a pathway that starts tryptophan, which is an essential amino acid commonly found in milk, turkey, and tuna. The conversion of tryptophan to NAD happens in the aqueous parts of cells, called cytosol, which is outside of the cellular components.

Next, the Preiss-Handler pathway begins with the consumption of nicotinic acid, which is found in many dairy products. 

Finally, the salvage pathway of NAD biosynthesis uses naturally occurring compounds related to vitamin B3. 

There are further chemical components and reactions that take part in this process, but the most important thing to remember is that it starts with the intake of good, fresh, healthy food sources.

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What Happens When NAD Levels Drop?

Numerous studies have demonstrated that reduced NAD levels often happen in poor health conditions such as obesity and aging. This is a serious point to keep in mind because the reduction of NAD also leads to serious problems with our metabolism.

These problems can then lead to further disorders such as high blood pressure and insulin resistance.

Most importantly, what starts out as just one problem will then cascade down to even bigger health issues. For example, high blood pressure and other heart function decline can send damaging pressure waves to the brain that may lead to cognitive impairment.

The Importance of NAD in Body Functions

By the time we reach the age of 50, we have only half as many NAD levels as we had in our twenties. However, research has shown that replenishing NAD levels in our bodies has anti-aging effects and shows promising results in age-related diseases while also increasing our lifespan and healthspan.

Before we move on to discuss how we can replenish our NAD levels, let’s look at the most important body functions that NAD is important for.

Aging

Sirtuins are genes known as “guardians of genomes”, which protect all living organisms against deterioration and diseases. When the genes sense the body is under physical stress, such as exercising or hunger, it sends out troops to defend the body. 

Sirtuins sustain genome integrity, promote DNA repair and have shown anti-aging related properties in model animals like increasing lifespan. NAD is the fuel that drives these genes to work, which means that the higher our NAD levels, the more prepared our bodies will be in times of stress.

Muscle function

Since it is well-known as the powerhouse of the body, the mitochondrial function is crucial for our performance during exercise. NAD is essential for maintaining healthy mitochondria and steady energy output.

Increasing NAD levels in muscle can improve its mitochondria and fitness levels. It will help to improve stamina, durability, and even higher exercise capacity.

Metabolic disorders

Declared as an epidemic by the World Health Organization (WHO), obesity is one of the most common diseases in modern society. It can also lead to other metabolic disorders such as diabetes, which kills an average of 1.6 million people every year.

The combination of aging plus a high-fat diet greatly reduces the levels of NAD in our bodies. Therefore, managing a healthy weight is a key start in maintaining healthy levels of NAD and preventing the formation of any other serious diseases.

Heart function

Normally, arteries are elastic in order to act as a buffer between the pressure waves sent out by heartbeats. However, as we age, our arteries stiffen, which contributes to high blood pressure. High blood pressure is the most important risk factor for cardiovascular disease.

High blood pressure can cause an enlarged heart and blocked arteries that lead to strokes. By boosting our NAD levels, we are also able to give extra protection to our heart and improve its cardiac functions.

Neurodegeneration

Although people are living longer, they are not necessarily living healthier lives. With so much fast food and ready meals available, people quickly forget the importance of fresh, homemade food. This is why aging has become such a problem because we are not treating ourselves any better as we age.

Aging is the main risk factor for many neurodegenerative diseases, including Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s, both of which cause cognitive impairment. By boosting our NAD levels, we will also be able to protect our brain cells from dying when there is insufficient blood flow to the brain.

How to Increase NAD Levels

Luckily, there are natural ways by which we can increase our NAD levels and thus promote synthesis in our bodies and enhance the enzymes that are so crucial in keeping us healthy.

Eating Healthy Food and Exercise

Leading a healthy lifestyle through a healthy diet and regular exercise is not only good for your mental health, but it can also boost your NAD levels.

For example, mild physical stress on the body, such as fasting and exercise, can stimulate the production of NAD. This means ensuring that you eat smaller portions of food that are full of healthy nutrients and minerals and that you also go on a regular daily walk on a more enhanced physical activity.

Staying Out of the Sun

Although some sunlight is good for your body, about 15 minutes of sunlight per day is enough to produce the vitamin D that your body requires. On the other hand, spending too much time in the sun will actually decrease your NAD levels. 

This is because too much sunlight may cause your body to use a significant amount of NAD to repair damage caused by the sun’s ultraviolet rays (UV) from the sun. Try to reduce the amount of time you spend in direct sunlight and always wear protective sunscreen.

Boost Heat Sources

Although spending too much time in the sun is bad for you, spending time in natural or artificial heat can actually help you boost your NAD levels. 

Common heat sources include saunas, hot tubs, and heated pools. They cause your heart to beat quicker, which forces your body to use more energy to keep cool. This triggers the increase of NAD production to supply essential amounts of energy.

Conclusion

Although the chemical processes that go into the production and maintenance of NAD levels in our bodies are complex, by simply understanding the basics, we can help our bodies be healthier and less prone to diseases that come with aging.

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.

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