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NAD has gained a lot of attention in recent years because of its links to aging and age-related conditions. As we get older, NAD levels decline which has a big impact on how our cells repair and regulate themselves.
Research studies have shown that increasing NAD in mice reverses some of the hallmarks of aging which has sparked interest in this field.
Although it's as yet unproven in humans, there are hopes that increasing NAD levels may have positive outcomes on our healthspan.
In this article, we're going to take a closer look at all research-backed ways you can increase NAD levels naturally through your lifestyle choices.
What is NAD?
NAD (or NAD+) is the universal "energy currency" of your cells. In essence, your cells use NAD as the "fuel" to carry out all the things it needs to do.
That means NAD is crucial for life and is involved in processes such as the regulation of metabolism, DNA repair, circadian rhythm, and insulin regulation to name a few.
Studies show that NAD levels naturally decline with age. And therefore, all the cellular processes that NAD is involved in work less well.(1)
That's why there's a lot of excitement around increasing NAD levels as we get older to maintain cellular youth for as long as possible.
With all that said, it's important to mention that the research in this field is still in its early stages and as yet unproven in humans. So far, positive results have been seen in animal studies which can't be directly correlated to humans for obvious reasons.
Nevertheless, there are many ways to naturally increase your NAD levels. And naturally increasing NAD is by far, the safest way to maintain health.
Ways to increase NAD naturally
You won't be surprised to hear that most of the ways to increase NAD levels naturally are already well-known to be good for health anyway.
In this section, we're going to dive into the science behind lifestyle factors that have been shown to increase NAD levels naturally.
Fasting (aka caloric restriction) is one of the most powerful ways to boost NAD levels naturally. It may seem counterintuitive because reducing food intake would make you think that energy levels would drop.
However, studies have shown that fasting switches on genes that make your cells generate more NAD via "salvage pathways".(2)
Now the next question most people think of is, how many hours do I need to fast?
The problem is, there's no specific type of fast that is proven to be the best. A popular entry-level method is the 16:8 fasting regimen which involves having no calories for 16 out of 24 hours in a day.
With that said, fasting is definitely not suitable for everyone and you should speak to your physician before trying it out. This is especially important if you have any pre-existing medical conditions or are taking regular medication.
There are certain foods that are rich in NAD precursors. These are the molecules that cells convert into NAD and the most well-known include Nicotinamide riboside (NR) and Nicotinamide mononucleotide (NMN).
For example, cucumber, cabbage, and soybeans are decent sources of NAD precursors. Broccoli has 0.25–1.88 mg of NMN per 100 g, avocado and tomatoes 0.26–1.60 mg/100 g.(3)
On the other hand, high fat and protein diets reduce NAD levels. In simple terms, the abundance of high-energy sources of food reduces the availability of free NAD at a cellular level.
We all know that exercise is good for us. It may be partly due to the fact is also increases NAD levels naturally in our muscles.
Similarly to fasting, exercise upregulates genes that increase the abundance of NAD in cells.
Certain types of exercise such as HIIT (high-intensity interval training) are thought to have the most benefit. But any exercise that increases your heart rate and makes you feel like you are exerting yourself is good.
You must speak to your doctor if you do plan to try intense exercise such as HIIT as it's not suitable for everyone.
There's a huge amount of research that shows that good quality sleep has a tremendous impact on our overall well-being. For a long time, it was a neglected part of our health which is now taking center stage.
On that note, you won't be surprised to hear that NAD levels rise and fall in tandem with our circadian clock.
Poor quality sleep can therefore negatively impact NAD levels by disrupting the circadian rhythm.(4)
5) Heat and cold shock
By now you've probably noticed a general trend in how to boost NAD levels naturally. Essentially, "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger".
In other words, putting the body under a certain degree of physiological stress seems to activate protective and reparative genes.
In keeping with this, "heat and cold shock", has also been shown to increase the ratio of NAD. This essentially means exposing cells to temperatures outside of the optimum comfortable range.(5)
This research is mainly done by examining cells in the lab so it's far from proven in a real-life human. But it's why there is some hope that saunas and ice baths may be beneficial for longevity.
Once again, it's important to highlight that saunas and ice baths can be dangerous for some of us. It's not a good idea to embark on trying this without speaking to your healthcare professional. In addition to the fact that it's not proven yet to impact longevity.
Anything else to consider?
Aside from the points mentioned above, there are also natural "NAD boosters" available in the form of supplements.
The most well-researched being:
- NMN (Nicotinamide mononucleotide)
- NR (nicotinamide riboside)
The first two are precursors to NAD. On the other hand, Resveratrol is a plant-derived antioxidant that has been shown to indirectly increase NAD levels.
That brings us to the end of our look into the currently known ways to increase NAD levels naturally.
In essence, putting the body outside of its comfort zone appears to activate protective genes. This "perceived adversity", whether it be via fasting or high-intensity exercise, causes cells to hunker down into survival mode.
With that said, there's a fine line between benefit and harm. On one end, pushing the body too much will clearly cause damage. On the other end of the spectrum, over-indulgence in food and drink whilst living a sedentary lifestyle is also harmful as we all know.
In summary, it's all about striking the right balance for optimum health and longevity.