I received this email: hey Joe, I want to raise my NAD levels, but I don't want to take supplements like NMN or nicotinamide riboside because they are expensive. What do you suggest? Raising NAD (nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide) is quite popular with those who want to attempt to slow their aging process. While this is often accomplished with supplements like NMN (nicotinamide mononucleotide) and nicotinamide riboside (NR), I think there is a better, more natural way.
What is NAD?
So, if you're unfamiliar with NAD, it stands for nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide. Technically called a coenzyme, NAD plays a vital role in many cellular health functions, including energy production, DNA repair, and cell signaling.
Important Functions of NAD
- Cellular energy production
- DNA repair
- Activation of sirtuins (anti-aging enzymes)
- Maintaining a healthy balance of free radicals and antioxidants (Redox Balance)
- Cellular signaling
- Mitochondria biogenesis
- Immune system response to pathogens
- Learning and memory
We tend to make less NAD as we get older. This has led to speculation that declines in NAD may play a role in the aging process. Because of this, artificially raising NAD through supplements like nicotinamide riboside and NMN has become popular with anti-aging biohackers who want to try to prolong their maximal lifespan.
Supplements That Elevate NAD Levels
NMN & NR
The most widely known supplements to achieve this are NMN and nicotinamide riboside (NR) sold under the brand name TruNiagen. While nicotinamide mononucleotide (NMN) remains very popular, due mainly to Dr. David Sinclair, remember that NMN must be converted into nicotinamide riboside before it can enter cells.
This doesn't necessarily mean that nicotinamide riboside is better. Unfortunately, there seem to be few NMN vs. NR clinical trials that would help consumers figure out which is better.
However, both NMN and NR will raise NAD levels. And while both are widely available to purchase, you may not be able to find NMN on Amazon due to the warnings of the FDA banning that supplement.
Fortunately, you have other alternatives.
Lesser Known NAD Boosting Supplements
While not as widely known, several dietary supplements have been shown to augment cellular NAD concentration. For example, the body can transform the amino acid tryptophan into NAD. Vitamin D, resveratrol, and various B complex vitamins have also been shown to work. See this video for some on the lesser-known mitochondrial health supplements and foods shown to boost cellular health.
The best-known vitamin to improve mitochondrial health is vitamin B3, also known as niacin. The downside of niacin, however, is that too much can trigger the “niacin flush,” which results in rash, feelings of warmth, and sometimes an itchy feeling.
The niacin flush often shows up about 15 minutes after ingestion and usually lasts 30-45 minutes. While this adverse reaction is harmless, high doses of niacin can have other, more severe side effects, such as rising blood sugar and damaging the liver. Because of this, some opt for the alternative form – niacinamide – which can also raise NAD in cells.
What Is NAMPT & Why It's Important For Longevity?
We can't talk about boosting nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide without mentioning intracellular NAMPT. NAMPT (nicotinamide phosphoribosyltransferase) is the rate-limiting enzyme in cells necessary for NAD production. In other words, this is the enzyme that drives the production of NAD in skeletal muscle cells.
Here it is in simple terms:
- As the NAMPT enzyme increases, NAD levels rise.
- As NAMPT levels fall, so does NAD production.
Protip: Notice we are talking about intracellular NAMPT. This is the enzyme form that drives forward NAD production. We are not discussing the more damaging form, called extracellular NAMPT, which does not participate in NAD synthesis. This form can increase inflammation and is thought by some to play a role in cancer development.
NAMPT In Younger & Older People
Studies suggest younger people have higher NAMPT enzyme levels than older folks. Some research suggests those in their 20s have about 70% higher levels of NAMPT than those in their 70s.
One reason for this aging-related decline may be that older folks are less active. This begs the question, can exercise level up this critical NAMPT enzyme? If yes, it might mean physical activity can naturally boost NAD synthesis.
So what is the proof?
A Natural Way to Raise NAMPT In Muscle Cells
In one review, researchers analyzed five studies involving exercise and the NAMPT enzyme. The conclusion was that participation in moderate-intensity physical activity resulted in significantly higher levels of intracellular NAMPT inside skeletal muscles.
In general, those who exercised regularly had over a 70% chance of having significantly higher NAMPT levels in their skeletal muscles than those who did not exercise.
And those who exercised regularly had about 50% higher intracellular NAMPT levels than non-exercisers.
So far, research doesn't highlight any specific kind of physical activity that's better than another. What is known is that those individuals who participated in aerobic-type exercise had about a 70% increased chance of having higher NAMPT levels. Those who regularly performed strength training had about a 66% higher probability of having greater amounts of NAMPT.
Does Exercise Raise NAD?
Boosting NAMPT levels is one thing, but does that translate into higher NAD levels, too? Several studies reveal it does. Some suggest that healthy aging and muscle function are associated with higher NAD in skeletal muscles. In other words, the greater the abundance of NAD in muscles, the better those muscles function. This may reduce the possibility of frailty and sarcopenia.
In this study, exercise was shown to protect against the age-associated decline in skeletal muscle NAD levels.
In another clinical trial, exercise was shown to reverse the age-related decline in NAD in human skeletal muscles. In other words, physical activity raises this longevity molecule in seniors.
What Is Moderate Exercise?
Most studies showing exercise enhances NAMPT and NAD involve participation in moderate-intensity exercise training. So, what is moderate intensity? One definition is whether you can talk with another person during physical activity; if yes, that is good and is one definition of moderate-intensity exercise.
Another way to figure this out is to use the ratings of the perceived exertion scale (RPE Scale), also called the Borg Scale. This is a scale from zero to 10 where a rating of zero is so easy you can do it all day. Conversely, a rating of 10 is the most challenging exercise you can withstand, resulting in your cessation after a few seconds.
If you're using the RPE scale, moderate-intensity exercise has a rating of 3. The beauty of the RPE scale is that it can be used to gauge how difficult aerobic and strength training is. It's very versatile.
If you want the best overall NAMPT & NAD boosting effect, combine aerobic and strength training in your exercise training program. This will give you the most broad spectrum protection against aging-related declines.
Aging & NAD: Chicken Or The Egg?
Aging is associated with lower cellular NAD levels. Does this mean reductions in this molecule are the cause of aging? Or is it possible that the aging process itself is the cause of lower NAD? Alternatively, is it possible that the declines are due to less physical activity that tends to occur as we grow older? To be sure, this is a complex affair because if the aging process was simple, we would have cracked that nut by now.
What Does This Mean?
While augmenting cellular NAD by popping a supplement like NMN, nicotinamide, riboside, niacin, and others is easy, they will incur a monetary cost. On the other hand, exercise is free. Longevity biohackers who are genuinely interested in living longer should add regular participation in exercise to their anti-aging routines.
What Do You Think?