Our society’s quest for youth and beauty has been relentless, but still, it remains no match against the tides of time. Some choose to age gracefully while other delay aging as much as much as possible through a variety of different means. After all, the anti-aging beauty industry reels in at least $250 billion annually through its various products ranging from skin creams, health supplements, and beauty treatments.
But a group of researchers believes that beauty goes beyond skin deep, in fact, they believe that the secret to youth can be found at a molecular level. This is all good when it comes to an essential compound called nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide, or what we’ll come to know as NAD+ and yes, it is touted as the anti-aging molecule of the future.
We need NAD+ for basic bodily functions, without it we wouldn’t even be alive. The information on NAD+ is built on years of research into how human aging works on a cellular level.
The studies on NAD+ are not a quest to halt the human aging process per se but to make one’s quality of life better. After all, who doesn’t want to live better in their 60s to 90s?
What is NAD+?
Nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide is a coenzyme that exists in all biological cells. NAD+ has many functions, two of which are crucial for cellular function: (1) it’s a driving force in regulating human metabolism by converting nutrients we consume into energy. (2) There is a family of molecular level proteins called sirtuins that are NAD+ dependent. Without NAD+, sirtuin will do nothing, but be lazy. NAD+ activates sirtuins to regulate cellular homeostasis. Homeostasis involves keeping chemical processes in balance so that cells maintain optimal function. It sounds like a lot to take in, right? But all these processes are essential in keeping the human body healthy.
But here’s the thing, as we age our NAD+ levels go down. One directly cited reason is the compound known as CD-38.
CD-38 is a guardian of sorts. It makes sure we have the right amount of NAD+ and it promptly destroys NAD+ if we have too much in our system or if it’s interfering with our circadian rhythms. But as time passes, CD-38 can remain unchecked destroying more NAD+ in the process until we don’t have enough NAD+ to get our sirtuins going. This is called NAD+ depletion and it is a marker for aging. Once underway, it can become one of the underlying causes for age-related diseases, namely metabolic disorders, malignancies, and degenerative diseases.
But current studies show that attempts in elevating NAD+ levels may hamper the aspects of deterioration and aging.
Studies on NAD+
One such study, published the journal Science in March 2017, involved boosting NAD+ levels in older mice which in turn made them look younger and live longer than expected. Now scientists are trying to see if such results are possible in human trials. A randomised control trial, published in the November 2017 issue of the journal Nature found that people who took daily NAD+ supplementation show an increase in their NAD+ levels. These levels were sustained over two months.
So what do these studies mean? Well, we know NAD+ levels decline in humans over time, but can increasing NAD+ levels reverse the effects of aging?
Benefits of increased NAD+ levels in the body
NAD+ has shown huge potential for anti-aging solutions and better longevity. But what are the some of the amazing benefits we get when we have more NAD+ on a molecular level?
Restores vitality in blood vessels
Having adequate levels of NAD+ can help repair damaged blood vessels, even regulate high cholesterol and high blood pressure. NAD+, as a coenzyme, boosts the activity of SIRT1 (aka Sirtuin 1, the NAD-dependent deacetylase sirtuin-1). Increased SIRT1 signalling can help increase blood flow in nutrient-deprived areas.
Improves cognitive function
You may not feel like yourself when you have bouts of brain fog. Our mental capacity and clarity suffers as we age. That said, NAD+ has shown to have a positive impact on our brain’s condition and memory retention (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6342515/). Moreover, NAD+ as a coenzyme can improve cognitive function, battle the effects of a nutrient deficiency and even potentially help fight against the early onset of Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative diseases.
Enhances muscle function
Beyond our skin layer, a large portion of the human body is covered in muscles. Based on the latest research, NAD+ appears to protect the muscles from metabolic and structural degeneration over time. This also includes exercise-induced damage which can lead to reduced muscle force. Replenishing NAD+ stores may enhance muscle function by improving structural proteins, and decreasing inflammation in the body.
Telomeres are molecular caps on the ends of our chromosomes which have been demonstrated to act as a type of cellular aging clock. The shorter the telomere, the older the cell, which means the cell is closer to death. So, in a sense, the telomere is like a cellular fuse. NAD+ has been shown to activate the processes which elongate our telomeres, which in essence turns back the cellular aging clock. This is a direct anti-aging effect of plentiful cellular NAD+ levels.
Given these points, NAD+ may give you an edge in combating the woes of aging, but supplementing NAD+ levels can only take you so far. Without other efforts to stay healthy, your body is in for an uphill battle.
The best way, it appears, to slow down aging is to remain active both physically and mentally, eat a proper diet and stay social within a community that you enjoy. It wouldn’t hurt to try things to better the state of our bodies, which in turn can help NAD+ to thrive. And now research suggests that direct NAD+ supplementation either orally or through an IV may help to promote the anti-aging benefits of NAD+.
By Vasilly Eliopoulos and Khoshal Latifazai, Founders of Rocky Mountain Regenerative Medicine, is the only full-service integrative and regenerative medicine clinic of its kind in the nation specialising in Nad+ Therapy.
Image credit: Freepik
Peter Wallace has been an advocate for mental health awareness for years. He holds a master’s degree in counselling from the University of Edinburgh.