Age Backwards with NAD Miracle Molecule and the Power of NMN SupplementsMar 23, 2023
NAD is currently referred to as the "miracle molecule" because it's one of the key determinants of cellular youthfulness and health. In this article, you’ll learn what NAD is, how it works, how it declines, and how to support its levels naturally to look and feel young again.
The article is based on the Inka Land podcast episode in which molecular biologist Dr. Nichola Conlon explains everything about NAD and NAD supplements. All information is presented more comprehensively in the full episode.
Full episode links
Table of contents
1. Can you turn back the aging clock?
2. What is NAD?
3. How NAD declines with age
4. What declines NAD?
5. How does NAD get into cells?
6. NMN (nicotinamide mononucleotide) and NR supplements
7. Take home message
Can you turn back the aging clock?
Healthspan of a human does not match the lifespan humans reach. For example, in the UK, the average lifespan of a woman is 83 years, but her average health span is only expected to be 63 years. This means, that people are expected to spend a whole 20 years from the lives in ill health. Most disease, including Alzheimer’s Disease, diabeters, and heart disease is related to aging. Not chronological aging (in days and years) but cellular aging. Cells can age faster or slower depending on habits and lifestyle.
Research from the past decades demonstrates that interventions can make an old cell appear like a young cell again. And that lifestyle and habits can significantly affect how healthy and long you live.
One of the key determinants of cellular aging and lifespan is how much they can produce and recycle NAD.
What is NAD (nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide)?
NAD has been a fascinating breakthrough in aging research in past years. It’s a natural molecule found in every single cell in your body. It's incredibly important for coordinating over 500 different reactions, especially energy production and DNA repair. In fact, it’s so crucial that without NAD, your cells couldn't produce energy, and they would die.
NAD also supports so-called sirtuin pathways. Sirtuins are sometimes referred to as longevity proteins. They basically sit at the top of many different cellular pathways that promote good cellular health. So when the sirtuins are switched on, they will regulate gene function to ensure that inflammation is reduced, autophagy is switched on, metabolic processes are functioning well, and repair processes are switched on. Sirtuins cannot function at all without NAD.
When there are high NAD levels and production, the cells produce a lot of energy and have a lot of repair processes. And when NAD declines and is low, there’s less repair and energy.
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NAD declines with age
NAD levels are found to decline in our cells as we age. Obviously, this is a problem and a big determinant of aging because lower NAD means less energy and less cellular repair. As a result, we see an accumulation of damage in the cells, ultimately leading to signs and symptoms that we associate with aging and getting older.
Hundreds of studies demonstrate that restoring cellular NAD levels can switch back on youthful repair processes, youthful mitochondrial, energy production, sirtuins, and overall improve cellular health.
The average statistic is that your NAD levels will be half every 20 years from birth. So even by the time you're 20, your levels of NAD have halved. And then again, by the time you're 40. This is why we have an exponential decline, and in our 50s and 60s, our levels of NAD are already very small.
What declines NAD?
Worts habits to make NAD decline fast would be not exercising (being sedentary) and overeating.
Exercise and fasting boost NAD because NAD gets created as a consequence of energy stress. For example, if you're exercising or fasting, your energy is depleting. This is when cells switch on survival processes, and the energy sensors, such as AMPK, activate pathways that make NAD. Consequently, your NAD levels will go up and increase energy production in the mitochondria and turn on longevity pathways like Sirtuins. Energy stress activates many repair processes to ensure the cell can survive this period. That’s why NAD is boosted in response to exercise and fasting.
How does NAD get in cells?
Your cells produce NAD themselves through a recycling process. NAD is so important we wouldn't want to rely solely on an external source.
Cells have a process called a salvage pathway. When NAD gets used by the body, for example, in the DNA repair process, it's broken down into its building blocks (precursors) and recycled back to NAD. One of the main precursors is Nicotinamide. Our cells recycle this straight back into fresh NAD again, and this helps the cells to sustain their supply.
But it’s been found that this process declines with age. As well as the levels of an essential enzyme in this process (NAMPT). Unfortunately, this coincides with an increased demand for NAD because older cells are more prone to damage and inflammation and need more repair. Consequently, more NAD is being used, and less is made. And this leads to cells losing their vitality and youthfulness.
To support NAD recycling, we must switch it back on the NAMPT enzyme. Natural ways of doing it are again exercising and fasting, but many people also use supplements.
NMN (nicotinamide mononucleotide) and NR supplements
A lot of people are taking supplements to boost NAD levels. They generally contain NAD precursors. The most common ones are nicotinamide riboside (NR) and nicotinamide mononucleotide (NMN).
These are the precursors that cells use to make NAD. The idea is that when the production has gone down, you give the cells more raw material to make more NAD.
But this process is not so simple. Research shows that, yes, some of it gets incorporated into NAD and boosts NAD levels. But new research also shows that it ignores the root causes of NAD decline. Which can be an issue.
For example, when the enzyme NAMPT goes down, supplements can’t provide a sustained boost in NAD because the recycling process is damaged. Some data even suggest it can worsen the issues of NAD decline because byproducts accumulate in the cell instead of being recycled. This leads to the overexpression of another enzyme called NNMT, a methylating enzyme. Now, there’s more need for methyl donor enzymes, and methyl donors are depleted. So fixing a problem without addressing the root cause may lead to another problem.
Another reason for declined NAD (that NMN and NR supplements do not fix) is increased inflammation and increased levels of inflammatory enzyme CD38. It is a huge NAD consumer. So even if you could boost NAD with supplements, CD38 might be using it. Therefore, you need to inhibit CD38 first. For example, with apigenin which is naturally found in things like spinach and parsley.
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Take home message
Yes, you can turn back the aging clock, and yes, NMN and NR supplements can help, but you need to know what you’re addressing and fix underlying issues. Usually, a single precursor supplement is insufficient if you want a sustained boost in NAD. Instead, you need supplements that also inhibit CD38. But even more importantly, you must first focus on lifestyle habits: exercise, avoiding overeating, and proper sleep - which are crucial for activating NAD recycling.
Dr. Conlon suggests that you might want to consider NAD boosting from the age of 30 onwards.
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