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What Is NAD+?

Published by Dr. Venn-Watson
Highlights

Aging healthfully, also known as “anti-aging,” is a multi-billion dollar industry filled with products that guarantee they can make us look, feel, and stay younger. From hair dye to eliminate those greys, to supplements that support your brain power, there’s no shortage of products marketed to the 65+ crowd.

Many of us nowadays start thinking about aging much earlier, often in our 30s and 40s — our aging is more than just skin deep. 

In other words, we aren’t just concerned about a few gray hairs or wrinkles anymore; we’re concerned because our most recent blood panel says our sugar levels are too high, or that our cholesterol levels indicate precursors to heart disease. 

Whatever the case may be, we begin looking earnestly for options to keep us healthier. Searching for healthful aging supplements can lead you down a rabbit hole that extends much deeper than CoQ10 or St. John’s Wort into the study of how the body ages, and what the body uses to stay youthful — and a lot of us are here for it in the age of easily accessible information.  

So with that, let’s talk about one molecule that has been proposed to help you stay youthful: nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide, or NAD+.

What Is NAD+?

NAD+ is a molecule that works like a cellular uber, moving electrons from molecule to molecule which enables your cells to carry out necessary cellular functions. Without NAD+, cell processes don’t occur, and your cells eventually shut down. 

NAD+ helps ensure that the mitochondria in your cells have enough energy to sustain necessary cell processes. When your mitochondria don’t create energy for your cells, your cells become sluggish, which translates into sluggish bodily processes. 

What Does NAD+ Do?

There are many functions carried out by NAD+, but its largest function is to serve as “food” for certain enzymes (proteins) in your body. There are three enzymes in your body that consume the most NAD+ to carry out their functions: PARPs, immune enzymes, and sirtuins.

PARPs

Getting older changes the way your cells and genes operate. Some aging occurs naturally in the cell, but some happens because of external stressors. 

  • Free radical damage from pollution, cigarette smoke, and UV rays
  • Improper diet, such as a high sugar or high fat diet
  • Poor lifestyle choices like lack of sleep or poor sleep cycles, too much alcohol, not enough exercise

These factors all affect how your cells age. When your cells are damaged, enzymes called PARPs are released to help repair cellular DNA and heal the cells. PARPs require NAD+ as fuel. 

If there’s plenty of NAD+, PARPs can repair damage to the cell and maintain DNA integrity. If there’s not enough NAD+, PARPs can’t do their job, cells don’t get repaired properly, and the damaged DNA is left to repeat itself into new cells that are created. 

Immune System Enzymes

Inflammation increases with age. Known as chronic, low-level inflammation, our bodies create immune responses that increase with age. Because of this, our immune system produces more enzymes

Immune enzymes need NAD+ to function and help build a strong immune system. The problem is that aging increases the number of immune enzymes produced by our immune system, which means our immune system is consuming more NAD+. 

If the immune system is “hogging” the available NAD+, that means there is less of it for use in cellular function and DNA repair

Sirtuins

Known as enzymes that help you age healthfully, sirtuins help your body regulate its metabolism, help keep your chromosomes in top shape, and help assist PARPs with DNA repair. Sirtuins don’t require a lot of your NAD+ supply, but the more DNA damage and chromosome damage you endure over your lifetime, the more NAD+ sirutin will need to consume. 

How NAD+ is Made

Your cells make the NAD+ molecule through a process called biosynthesis, which means it takes one compound and turns it into another. There are three different ways your cells make NAD+.

Kynurenine (de novo) Pathway  

This method utilizes tryptophan, the enzyme made famous by Thanksgiving turkey. Cells take in tryptophan and convert it to NAD+ directly, but turkey isn’t the only source of tryptophan

Tryptophan is found in numerous other foods like eggs, other lean meats, and cheeses. 

Preiss-Handler Pathway 

This conversion pathway is a bit more complex and involves three separate steps. 

It starts with nicotinic acid (aka vitamin B3, or niacin) which your cells get from either your food, or from bacteria in your gut. Cells use an enzyme called NAPRT to convert nicotinic acid to nicotinic acid mononucleotide, or NAMN. Next, another enzyme called NMNAT converts NAMN to nicotinic acid adenine dinucleotide, or NAAD. 

In the last step, NAD+ synthetase converts NAAD to NAD+.  

That’s a lot of 3 and 4 letter acronyms to get from point A to point B, but your body does it efficiently and effectively. 

Salvage Pathway 

The salvage pathway also uses biosynthesis methods that originate with niacin compounds. Cells use nicotinamide, nicotinic acid, nicotinamide, mononucleotide (NMN), or nicotinamide riboside (NR) and, through similar enzyme pathways mentioned above, convert these compounds to NAD+.

The problem is, no matter how your body makes NAD+, it makes less of it as you get older. After puberty, the level of NAD+ your body makes begins to decline drastically.  

By the time you’ve reached your sixties, you’ll be making less than half of the NAD+ you made when you were a youth.

Effects of Declining NAD+

A decrease in NAD+ might not seem like a big deal, but remember, your body uses this molecule to carry out cell processes. Cells are the foundation of every tissue, organ, and system in our body. 

When our cells begin to decline, we experience age-related conditions and diseases like:

  • Sluggish metabolism
  • Obesity
  • Insulin resistance
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart function decline

One of the best and most successful ways we can age more healthfully is by focusing more on cellular health. However, does that mean taking an NAD+ supplement?

Should You Take NAD+?

There seem to be valid, confirmed benefits to taking NAD+... if you’re a mouse. Currently, published studies only indicate that NAD+ supplementation can increase life expectancy and delay the onset (or even prevent the onset) of age related diseases in mice and rats — the jury is still out in human populations. 

However, taking a precursor supplement, like NMN or niacin, could help your body make more NAD+, which could help your body age more healthfully. 

The issue then becomes how much you’ll need to take. For most studies (even the ones involving rats) the dosage was high — over 1000 mg per day. 

While side effects are generally mild, taking that much of any supplement can lead to gastrointestinal pain, diarrhea, or vomiting. 

There is, however, another science-supported option to keeping your cells supported, balancing your immune system, and aging more healthfully: pentadecanoic acid.

Fatty Acids for Better Cellular Health

If you’re like many, you want some hard evidence a supplement will actually work before you decide to take it on a daily basis. 

Pentadecanoic acid, also known as C15:0, is an odd-chain, saturated fatty acid that has a lot of science to show its potential for our health. 

We discovered that this molecule was important for our health, and later found that C15:0 is an essential micronutrient by helping dolphins live healthier, longer. Three years of studies were then performed showing similar benefits in humans. These studies were published in Nature’s Scientific Reports. During 2021 alone, 24 scientific publications from Harvard, Hopkins, and others have been published supporting the health benefits of C15:0.

What C15:0 Does

Similar to NAD+, C15:0 helps support your cellular health, gives your immune system support, and increases resistance to cellular degradation.* 

Here’s how it works.

  • Cell membranes. Your cells depend on their membranes to keep them protected from external stressors. When cell membranes fail, the cell undergoes damage. C15:0 is a sturdy fatty acid that integrates itself into your cells’ walls helping to fortify and protect them.* 
  • Mitochondrial function. Slower mitochondria mean less efficient cell function. C15:0 helps improve mitochondrial function by up to 45%, which means your cells function more effectively than they do without it.* Injured mitochondria mean that the cell doesn't have the energy necessary to carry out its normal processes. In muscle cells, this would mean they would tire more easily and would be weaker.

C15:0 also binds to special receptors in your body known as PPARs. These receptors are often called the “orchestrators of metabolism” since they can affect sleep, mood, and even appetite, giving you the ability to regulate these processes and balance them, naturally.* 

How To Get C15:0

Because C15:0 is found in trace amounts in whole dairy products and some fish and plants, you may not be getting enough in your diet. Plus, if you avoid full fat dairy, are lactose intolerant, or vegan, this can play a role in C150 deficiency, too.

That’s okay. You can take a once a day supplement containing the pure, vegan-friendly version of C15:0, known as FA15 ™, by taking fatty15.  

Fatty15 was created by the scientists who discovered that higher circulating levels of C15:0 in populations of dolphins helped them age more healthfully as they had less incidence of age-related disease.* 

Unlike NAD+ or any of its precursor supplements, you won’t need to take hundreds or even thousands of milligrams of fatty15 per day. Just 100mg is enough to help keep your cells supported.* 

Everyone ages, and leading a healthy lifestyle is important to staying youthful and ensuring you’re here for another decade. Adding fatty15 to your health stack is an important layer of support that helps you age on your own terms.* 


Sources:

Causes, consequences, and reversal of immune system aging|NCBI 

CD38 Dictates Age-Related NAD Decline and Mitochondrial Dysfunction through an SIRT3-Dependent Mechanism|PubMed 

What is NAD+? | Why Is It Important?|NMN.com 

Cancer Research Points to Key Unknowns about Popular "Antiaging" Supplements - Scientific American|Scientific American 

Profile photo for Eric Venn-Watson

Eric Venn-Watson M.D.

Eric is a physician, U.S. Navy veteran, and Co-founder and COO of Seraphina Therapeutics. Eric served over 25 years as a Navy and Marine Corps physician, working with the special forces community to improve their health and fitness. Seraphina Therapeutics is a health and wellness company dedicated to advancing global health through the discovery of essential fatty acids and micronutrient therapeutics.

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