Is NAD+ the Anti-Aging Miracle Pill? Here’s What the Science Says
By: Courtney Sperlazza, MPH
January 5, 2020
- NAD+, or nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide, is a coenzyme that plays a critical role in supporting many biological processes within your body.
- NAD+ benefits include protecting cells from stress, maintaining healthy sleep cycles and helping your cells repair damaged DNA.
- A high-quality NAD+ supplement can help support healthy aging, since your natural levels decline as you get older.
When it comes to the supplementation game, NAD+ doesn’t always get the nod it deserves. While amino acids, multivitamins and protein powders generate more attention, NAD+ supplements deserve air time, too—especially if you’re looking for an anti-aging solution.
So, exactly what is NAD+? Short for nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide, it’s a coenzyme: a compound that certain enzymes need in order to do their work. (Remember biochem class?) Cellular NAD+ is crucial for the basic reactions in your cells that keep you alive, and it has many supportive health benefits.
However, there’s a catch.
Your NAD+ levels naturally decline as you get older. But that doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t do anything to counteract it. NAD+ supplements can be a great tool to help support healthy aging, as well as other important biological processes. And when you take an energy-supporting supplement like Bulletproof KetoPrime (which doesn’t contain NAD+, but supports energy production, nonetheless), you have a recipe for energy production at the cellular level.
Read on to find out what NAD+ and NADH do and how to boost your levels to keep your cells firing full throttle.
What is NAD+ and why do I need it?
NAD+ is a helper molecule. It picks up electrons and a charged hydrogen molecule, becomes NADH and drops them off as part of the cycle that turns your food into energy that you use to move and think.
On a microscopic level, your mitochondria, the battery packs of your cells, use energy to do the things they need to do to maintain homeostasis and repair themselves when there’s damage or stress. Mitochondrial dysfunction can have significant trickle-down effects, particularly in terms of age-related brain disorders. In fact, based on mice studies, researchers believe impaired mitochondrial function and oxidative stress are linked to Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. 
According to Dr. Charles Brenner, PhD, professor of biochemistry and director of the Obesity Initiative at the University of Iowa, “Conversion of our fuels, protein, fat and carbohydrate into energy requires NAD. Similarly, maintaining our blood glucose at night and generating ketones requires NADH. It’s actually reoxidized as NADH to NAD+. NADH is also re-oxidized to NAD+ when we make ATP from that fuel that we ate. This is required for all of our muscles to work, and for ideas to be transmitted along our nerves, and for us to hear.”
All the good food you’re eating won’t do a thing for you if your cells can’t extract energy. NAD+ plays a key role in energy production. In a nutshell, we can’t function without it.
How NAD+ works
Here’s how to understand what NAD+ does, without having to relive high school bio.
Think of it as a waiter that picks up an electron from one table and drops it off at another. The oxidized form of NAD+ grabs electrons from one molecule. While it has a hold on the electrons, it becomes NADH. NADH donates those electrons to another molecule, and it becomes NAD+ again.
The simple act of shuffling electrons around (aka redox reactions) helps your enzymes work. Those enzymes activate microscopic chemical reactions in your cells that keep them healthy, and your whole body humming.
However, the amount of this vital cofactor in your body starts heading in the wrong direction as you get older.
So, if you care about keeping your energy metabolism operating properly (along with other key biological processes), an NAD+ supplement can be an effective tool for counteracting any depletion of your body’s natural levels as a result of aging.
If your NAD+ levels are in order, your cells may be protected against both impaired mitochondrial function and oxidative stress. 
On the flip side, when scientists created conditions in the lab that led to the inhibition of NAD+, cellular metabolism was impaired—leading to cell death. While these conditions are not necessarily comparable to the kinds of conditions that exist in humans, the highly controlled environment of the lab is very useful to begin exploring scientific questions.
NAD+ also ensures proteins are properly folded into the form they need to have to do their jobs. For example, if the insulin receptor protein is the wrong shape, your cells don’t get the signal to accept the delivery of fuel that’s coming from your bloodstream.
It’s important to remember that most research on NAD+ comes from mammalian and in vitro studies. Still, there is plenty of evidence that reflects just how important of a role this coenzyme plays in supporting our health.
The activation of many of your body’s key processes wouldn’t be possible without NAD+. This coenzyme is needed in metabolic pathways like glycolysis, ?-oxidation and oxidative phosphorylation—the process of producing significant amounts of energizing ATP. 
Plus, the role of NAD+ in longevity and long-term cellular health has made it a popular topic with the anti-aging crowd. Let’s take a closer look at some NAD+ benefits, including how it may repair DNA damage.
1. Supports healthy aging
Proteins that regulate biological pathways called sirtuin protect your cells from age-related decline. Your cells use NAD+ to make sirtuin proteins work. Think of sirtuins as regulators: They play a crucial role in maintaining the length of telomeres, DNA strand end caps that keep our chromosomes from unraveling. Scientists have linked long telomeres with longevity.
According to Dr. Elissa Epel, PhD, co-author of New York Times bestseller “The Telomere Effect” and UCSF professor, “When we measure telomeres in midlife, they’re a pretty reliable predictor of who gets disease early and, in some studies, who dies early. So, they do matter when we’re older.”
Because you want long telomeres and the longevity that goes along with them, you need plenty of NAD+ to keep them working efficiently.
The thing is, your NAD+ levels drop as you get older. One reason is that there’s a compound called CD-38 that destroys NAD+, which is a good thing in the right amounts. It keeps your NAD+ from getting too high and messing up your sleep-wake and hunger cycles.
Rodent studies showed that with age came an increase in CD-38, which destroyed more and more NAD+. Eventually, the balance tips, and you have too much CD-38, and not enough NAD+.
2. Makes cells resistant to stress and protects the brain
There’s plenty of research that shows that NAD+ protects cells from stress.
In one study, researchers stressed rat brain cells by depriving them of oxygen, then they added NAD+ right to the cell culture. They found that cells treated with NAD+ were more resistant to stress and fewer cells died than in the cultures that did not get the extra shot of NAD+. Translation: Healthy levels of NAD+ may help your cells stay strong and resilient, especially in the face of stress.
Glutamate, a chemical that brain cells use to talk to other cells, causes neurons to get excited, which releases free radicals and stresses them. Being in ketosis increases the NAD+ to NADH ratio, which protects brain cells from damaging free radicals.
3. Helps DNA repair
NAD+ is involved in the repair of DNA that has been damaged from normal day-to-day exposures and processes. It brings a negative charge to places where DNA is damaged, which facilitates repair. This process snaps up the NAD+ supply, which takes time and nutrients to restore. Studies show that replenishing NAD+ increases lifespan in animal models because it makes DNA repair more efficient.
4. Helps you sleep and eat at the right time
Scientists have identified the role of NAD+ metabolism in sleep cycles and hunger patterns. Your circadian rhythm, your sleep-wake cycle, depends largely on light and dark, determines when you feel awake, when you feel tired, when you feel hungry—in general terms, it determines the flow of your day.
A healthy circadian rhythm, sirtuins and NAD+ are all interconnected. Sirtuins depend on NAD+ to work properly. Circadian rhythm determines when NAD+ is available. If either sirtuins or NAD+ get disrupted, your circadian rhythm goes haywire. Researchers demonstrated this by disrupting the circadian rhythm in mice by suppressing a specific sirtuin, which depends on NAD+ to do its thing.
It goes the other way, too. When mice had too much NAD+, their activity and rest patterns went wonky due to a disruption in the circadian rhythm.
Additionally, the circadian rhythm regulates the release of hunger hormones. in another rodent study, NAD+ showed an influence in regulating appetite, and, by extension, even body weight.
NAD+ supplements and how to increase NAD+ levels
You don’t have to put up with the problems that come with NAD+ drops as the calendar continues to turn. Here are some ways to boost your levels naturally:
- Consume NAD+ supplements: These come in capsule form and are easy to find. Nicotinamide riboside supplements, including niagen, get converted into NAD+ to give your levels a boost.
- Up your NAD+ building blocks: Give your body the raw materials with NAD+ precursors, which help your body naturally produce NAD+. Specifically, tryptophan, nicotinamide mononucleotide (NMN) and three variations of niacin (vitamin B3): nicotinic acid, nicotinamide (aka nicotinic acid amide) and nicotinamide riboside. You can get these nutrients in supplements, but also whole foods rich in vitamin B3 like beef, eggs and salmon.
- Take oxaloacetate: A higher ratio of NAD+ to NADH helps you make more energy and makes your cells work better. Animal studies show that oxaloacetate may activate the longevity pathway in a similar way that calorie restriction does. In roundworm studies, oxaloacetate converted to malate, which raised the NAD+ to NADH ratio. This made more NAD+ available for these roundworms to use. Even though human research isn’t there yet, if you want to see how this fascinating ingredient can support energy production, try the KetoPrime supplement. This highly bioavailable form of oxaloacetate supports healthy cells so they produce clean energy.
- Follow a high-fat, low-carb keto diet: Following the keto diet allows your body to enter the state of ketosis, where your body uses fat instead of glucose for energy and increases the NAD+ to NADH ratio. You want higher NAD+, because it protects cells from oxidative stress—an imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants in your body that contributes to aging. Seeking clean and quality fat sources? Stock up on Bulletproof Brain Octane C8 MCT Oil and Bulletproof Grass-Fed Ghee.
- Practice intermittent fasting: Restricting your eating increases NAD+ levels. Though calorie-restriction diets and periods of fasting will do it, those aren’t sustainable for the long term. Intermittent fasting is, if you do it right.
The bottom line: Though the human race will never stop looking, there’s no one fountain of youth pill. NAD+ can give you an edge in the anti-aging game, but if you don’t have the diet and lifestyle basics down, it will only take you so far. The best way to slow down aging is to do something to better yourself, physically and mentally, every single day.
Join over 1 million fans
Sign-up for the Bulletproof mailing list and receive the latest news and updates!
This article has been updated with new content.