In this week’s episode we discussed Nicotinamide Adenine Dinucleotide, or NAD+ for short. NAD+ is a biologically important molecule that is used to generate energy inside your cells! A significant number of human and animal experiments have found that NAD+ supplements offer significant health benefits. In fact, increasing your NAD+ can result in a cascade of downstream effects that “reverse the effects of aging” (Mehmel & Spitz, 2020). Today we are going to dive into this mechanism on a molecular level to see how something so minor can have a huge impact on our health!
So what role does NAD+ play in the generation of energy? Well you can think of NAD+ as a positively charged molecule, designed to bind to the electron of a hydrogen atom, forming NADH. Stick with me, I promise this gets cool! Our bodies are designed with natural sensors designed to keep us at homeostasis, our naturally stable equilibrium. When we have a higher amount of NAD+ than NADH that signals our body to create more energy. In addition to this, NAD+ can bind to 2 important proteins: PARPs & Sirtuins (Rajman, Chwalek, & Sinclair, 2018)
I’ll spare you the gross name that PARP is an acronym for and skip right to why it is important. PARPs are involved in a wide array of important reactions, many of which stabilize your DNA to protect it from damage, as well as regulating when to kill off poorly functioning cells (Meyer-Ficca et al., 2005).
Sirtuins are a class of enzyme that repairs DNA, regulates cellular growth (important for preventing cancerous growth), helps to maintain vascular health, and reduces free radicals throughout the body (Imai & Guarente, 2016; Navas & Carnero, 2021; Oellerich & Potente, 2012). High levels of NAD+ activate sirtuins, leading to the above mentioned effects (Imai & Guarente, 2016)!
As you can see NAD+ conducts an orchestra of positive bodily changes. The downstream effects on our DNA and cellular health essentially reverse the natural and pathological decay that is seen in normal aging. In fact, studies on mice have shown that increased sirtuin activity (which can be mediated by NAD+) significantly slows the aging process (Imai & Guarente, 2016). While I hesitate to speak so positively about NAD+ and NAD+ supplements as I am a believer in the old saying, “there is no free lunch,” I have been strapped to find many downsides to taking these supplements. That being said, it is important to always be cautious and keep an eye on the research coming out about these molecules!