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NAD boosters (aka NAD+) have gained massive interest in recent years because their decline in our body has been strongly linked to aging and age-related medical conditions.
NAD is one of the most abundant molecules found in all living organisms and is essential for metabolism, energy production, and DNA repair to mention just a few of its functions.
Although the research into NAD and aging is still in its early days, several animal and human studies have shown that NAD levels fall as we get older and that replacing or "boosting" levels could have health implications.
Hence boosting NAD levels either naturally, through food or supplements is a hot topic right now.
With the introductions out the way. Let's get straight into our in-depth guide on NAD boosters.
What's the hype around NAD boosters?
NAD is short for "Nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide" and is essential for all the processes in our body that require energy. In other words, it's crucial for life and present in all our cells.
The reason why NAD is gaining so much interest recently is that it's involved in sirtuin activation which are enzymes linked to the aging process. To put it simply, some of the functions of sirtuins include DNA repair, controlling inflammation, and antioxidative defenses. The levels of which all decline with age.
Sirtuins are NAD-dependent enzymes and boosting NAD has been shown to upregulate sirtuins. Hence the massive interest in NAD boosters in recent times.
What is a NAD booster?
When people talk about NAD boosters, they are generally referring to supplements that have been shown to increase NAD levels in our cells.
So, what is a NAD and what are so-called NAD boosters?
To understand this, we first need to go into the science of how NAD is made in the body.
In simple terms, NAD is made of 3 components.
1- Vitamin B3
The first step to making NAD is the combination of Vitamin B3 and Sugar. This molecule is called NR (Nicotinamide Riboside).
The next step is adding a phosphate to NR which makes a molecule called NMN (nicotinamide mononucleotide)
The final step is putting two NMN molecules together to finally produce NAD.
When it comes to NAD boosters, NR and NMN are the most well-known because they are the precursors to NAD. And on that note, studies have shown that supplementing NR and NMN, in both animals and humans, increases NAD levels.(1)
There are other NAD boosters including Resveratrol which has been shown to increase NAD indirectly (more on this later).
You may be thinking, why not just take NAD supplements to boost NAD levels?
It's a good question with a simple answer: NAD is way too large to be absorbed through the gut. Whereas NR and NMN and resveratrol can be absorbed directly.
On that note, we'll now take a closer look at the three most popular NAD boosting supplements on the market - NR, NMN, and Resveratrol.
NAD boosting supplements
Before we go any further, it's important to emphasize that efforts to boost NAD levels should be approached with caution. That's because the science is relatively new and a lot more research needs to be done.
With that said, there are some promising studies that show NR and NMN boost NAD levels.
1. Nicotinaide riboside (NR)
NR was first discovered in the early 2000s in yeast. It was fed to yeast and they lived 30% longer which scientists linked to higher levels of NAD.(2)
Since then, its NR has been studied in numerous animal and human studies and has been shown to boost NAD levels.
These studies have shown that doses of around 250mg to 1000mg a day didn't have any side effects and were well tolerated.(3)
It's important to mention that despite the good safety profile reported in these studies, it's not been confirmed over long periods (i.e several years) and the number of people it was tested on is relatively small compared to proper drug trials.
2. Nicotinamide mononucleotide (NMN)
After NR is absorbed from the gut, it goes around the body and is taken up by your cells. Here it's converted into NMN by adding a phosphate to it.
In other words, NMN is the next step up from NR in the road to producing NAD. And for that reason, many scientists believe that NMN is superior at boosting NAD levels. Simply because it's the direct precursor to NAD.
It seems like the closer you get to NAD, the better. And NMN being the closest molecule to NAD is naturally the frontrunner in this race.
NMNs superiority at boosting NAD has been shown in some animal studies but it's still a hotly debated topic that needs more research.(4)
The main downside in opting for NMN over NR is that it's much more expensive. Simply because adding the phosphate component to NR to make NMN is expensive from a chemistry perspective.
We mentioned earlier that NAD boosters are gaining interest because they activate sirtuins that resist aging and the diseases associated with it.
In the early 2000s, one of the first discovered sirtuin activators was resveratrol which raised activity 13-fold. And it's thought that resveratrol partly does this by enhancing NAD production in cells.(5)
Compared to NR and NMN, it's relatively well studied with 20 years of research into it. The main problem with resveratrol is that its relatively insoluble. This means it doesn't dissolve in water and therefore isn't absorbed well through the gut. However, in the presence of fat, this problem is mitigated. In other words, if you're planning on taking resveratrol, it should be taken with a meal.
Do NAD boosters work?
The answer that everyone wants to know: Do NAD boosters actually work?
This depends on what you're asking.
Do NAD boosters such as NMN, NR, and Resveratrol actually boost NAD levels. The answer to this is yes because it's been measured in animals and humans. For example, oral administration of NMN shows NAD levels are boosted by 2-3x.(6)
But if the question is more specifically: Do NAD boosters work to slow down aging?
Then the answer is - we don't know yet.
In animal studies, boosting NAD levels has been shown to have a positive effect on the hallmarks of aging. These include reducing inflammation, enhancing mitochondrial function, and improving insulin sensitivity.(7)
But this doesn't mean it will do the same in humans. There are trials underway currently to see if supplementation with NAD boosters will have a similar impact in humans, but it's a long way away from having concrete evidence.
How fast do supplements boost NAD levels?
You may be interested to know that NMN and NR raise NAD levels pretty quickly.
For example, studies have shown that with NR supplements, it takes around 9-10 days to get to peak NAD boosting levels. And NMN is a little faster than that.
How can you boost NAD naturally?
Aside from taking supplements to boost NAD levels, we can also naturally boost levels. The research suggests that when the body experiences adversity, the longevity genes which repair and restore our cells are turned on.
Next up, we'll go into two well-researched adversity states that have been shown to have health benefits. With that said, this won't be relatable to everyone and people with health conditions should speak to their doctor before trying this out.
Specific fasting regimens are beyond the scope of this article. But being in a fasted or "Low caloric" state activates genes that promote NAD production.
In other words, when we are hungry, genes come on that make more NAD. This NAD is used by sirtuins as fuel to carry out their restorative functions.
Scientists have theories of why this may be. And it's all to do with evolution and how not having enough food causes the cells in our body to "hunker down" for the long haul. Rather than being in a growth phase.(8)
NAD boosters are thought to mimic the fasted state by upregulating sirtuin activity and our natural defense mechanisms.
High Intensity Exercise
There are lots of interpretations of what high-intensity exercise means. But essentially any physical activity that raises your heart level and causes a degree of physical struggle has been shown in studies to boost NAD levels via various mechanisms.(9)
High-intensity exercise, in particular, has been shown to be especially effective for not only boosting NAD levels but also activating other genes that are involved in longevity.
Once again, it's thought that from an evolutionary perspective, physical stress on the body, associated with high-intensity exercise, is another trigger for genes involved in repair being turned on.
There's a fine balance between fasting for too long or exercising too much and everyone has different limits. So you should speak to your physician before considering embarking on significant lifestyle changes.
NAD intravenous drips
We mentioned earlier that taking NAD orally doesn't work because it's too large a molecule to get through the gut into the bloodstream. Th
There are companies that offer NAD via an IV drip to bypass this obstacle and anecdotally people report better levels of energy, endurance, and muscle function.
But at the time of writing, there are no randomized placebo-controlled trials to prove this. So we don't know for sure whether NAD IV drips actually work.
What foods boost NAD?
A better question may be what foods are high in vitamin B3, NR, NMN, and Resveratrol because these have been shown to directly or indirectly boost NAD levels.
The list is vast but certain foods such as oily fish, whole grains, and green vegetables are particularly good. But there's no surprise there as these feeds are good for health for so many reasons.
Resveratrol is found in high amounts in fruit and vegetables that are often deep red or purple in color. For example grapes blueberries and cranberries. It's also found in peanuts, pistachios, grapes, red and even cocoa, and dark chocolate.
With all the said, the doses used in the studies that measured a positive effect on NAD levels are several thousand times higher than what you could achieve from dietary sources. Therefore, boosting NAD from food alone is unrealistic.
That doesn't mean you shouldn't consider eating more fruit and veg in your diet!
NAD boosters: Final words
That brings us to the end of our dive into NAD boosters. It's a hot topic right now and there's lots of interest around boosting NAD to slow aging and, therefore, reduce the burden of age-related diseases.
But it's important to bear in mind that the research into this area is new. There are no large-scale or long-term studies in humans that have proven NAD boosting supplements have positive effects on health.
Thus far there aren't any major safety concerns in the studies done so far, but it's not been tested long term in humans. Therefore you should approach with caution and speak to your physician.
With all that said, the research is fascinating and exciting. And we look forward to updating this article as more evidence from the research community comes out.