NAD benefits are widespread because most every cell in your body uses it. Importantly, NAD (Nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide) is an essential nutrient that plays a role in making energy, or NAD. Also known as activated vitamin B3 (niacin), NAD supplements for health come in a variety of forms.
The potential for niacin compounds like NAD to heal the body is high, especially for certain forms of it. This is true of any nutrient for that matter.
In this post, find out if you should consider adding NAD or niacin to your daily routine.
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Forms of niacin such as NAD increases lifespan, and energy, and reduce skin aging in early research. They also may improve immune function and eye function. Increasing NAD in the body has been studied for a wide range of health conditions, but only a few of which are addressed by more than one study. In other words, most studies are still preliminary.
NAD potentially reduces the damage of kidney injury, Alzheimer’s disease, chronic fatigue syndrome, dementia, hypertension, obesity, Parkinson’s disease, aging of the skin, psoriasis, skin cancers, type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes, and schizophrenia.
The beneficial forms of NAD include:
- Nicotinamide Riboside (NR)
- Nicotinamide Mononucleotide (NMN)
However, the forms of niacin found in most supplements are nicotinamide, niacinamide, niacin, and nicotinic acid. In foods, niacin occurs in these same forms.
Foods also do have trace amounts of NR and NMN as well.
NAD Benefits: NR and NMN
Niacin supplements in the body make the activated nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD). An important benefit of NAD is that it helps repair DNA and prevent premature aging by protecting our DNA and more. As we age, have poor diets, or get overweight, our ability to make energy as NAD from niacin gets impaired.
When using NR or NMN supplements, the process of making NAD and repairing DNA improves.
By mimicking the effects of calorie restriction, NR and NMN increase a substance called sirtuin. Sirtuin increases longevity and health in the body.
One might ask, is this another area of hype? Can’t we do well enough with our diet? Theoretically yes, but in practicality, this isn’t happening.
There are some very compelling reasons to have more NAD in our bodies.
Why Do We Possibly Need NAD Supplements?
Our calorie-rich, nutrient-poor, diets in the West make nutrients in short supply. This is probably the biggest reason we need more help with supplements.
We often can’t overcome the metabolic problems that are related to our foods; this is where NAD from NR and NMN may prove to be extra important.
The metabolism of niacin becomes altered due to:
- eating too many empty calories
Sadly, we can’t efficiently make NAD from other forms of niacin when these conditions are true.
NR and NMN may help us overcome some of the altered metabolism in these conditions. The end result may be more energy as NAD and even potentially less disease.
For example, using NMN completely normalized glucose use in the body and reversed diabetes symptoms in an animal study.
NMN also worked in animals who had age-related diabetes with as strong of results. It completely restored the ability to use glucose.
In contrast, “regular” niacin may have some harmful effects on insulin levels but leaves glucose levels unchanged.
Both NMN and NR seem safe to use in both humans and animals, but no one still knows the optimal doses for the best health.
Key Point: NAD helps repair DNA and prevent premature aging due to diabetes by protecting DNA.
NAD Benefits for the Brain
Using NAD as NR increases a longevity chemical in the brain called sirtuin and activates an energy-producing substance in the body called NAD in mice.
Other substances that activate this compound called sirtuin include resveratrol and quercetin.
Fascinatingly, NR reduces symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease by improving memory and stopping the spread of brain damage according to a study in mice. Further, NR renewed stem cells and improved the plasticity of synapses in these studies.
Interestingly, using NAD supplements and IV NAD helped reduce symptoms of Parkinson’s disease in about 80% of people with this disorder, especially younger people and people with a shorter duration of the condition.
However, more research is needed to confirm if NR works the same in most people.
NAD Heart Benefits
Supplements of NAD as niacin are used to reduce cholesterol and triglycerides. It works quite well for this. Supplemental niacin is generally good for the heart.
Niacin supplements function to help [R]:
- Reduce the risk of heart attacks
- Decrease requirements for further heart stent placements,
- Minimize stroke risk and transient ischemic attacks
While niacin has been used in supplemental forms for many years to reduce cholesterol and triglycerides, the most exciting area of niacin research is from a relatively newly identified class of niacin or NAD compounds called NR and NMN.
NR protects the heart and the kidney from stress in animal studies. It reduced heart muscle damage. NMN protects the heart from oxidation and improves artery function in mice [R]. It also protected animals from heart failure [R].
Also, NR may improve the circadian rhythm in the body. It helps balance the core circadian rhythm substance called CLOCK. Sleep patterns are important for heart function.
However, very few studies have looked at the long-term health benefits of activated NAD in people so far. The research does suggest that NAD supplements may help improve blood pressure and reduce aortic stiffness, but more research is needed.
NAD Benefits: May Increase Longevity and Energy
NMN supplements reduced signs of aging in mice, including [R]:
- Improved insulin sensitivity
- Reduced body weight
- Increased energy metabolism
- Increased physical activity
- Reduced cholesterol
- Stabilized skeletal muscle
However, no research in humans has been conducted to prove that NAD supplements have the same effects.
Absorption of Niacin from Food
The plant form of niacin is only 30% absorbed but can be enhanced by adding lime (not the fruit, but the alkaline stone) [R]. Fermentation of plant foods increases the absorption by up to 7 times [R].
Aside from this, little is known about niacin absorption to this day [R].
We do know that diets that are low in tryptophan can create a deficiency in niacin.
Niacin Deficiency Symptoms
The deficiency of niacin is called pellagra and over history, it has been relatively common. It remains common in developing countries.
Although the outright deficiency of niacin is not common in Western countries, disorders in NAD production do appear common.
The characteristic 4 Ds of pellagra are Diarrhea, Dementia, Dermatitis, and Death. Other signs of niacin deficiency can include:
- Sensitivity to sunlight
- Hair loss
- Smooth, beefy red tongue
- Trouble sleeping
- Mental confusion or aggression
- Lack of coordination
- Paralysis of extremities
- Nerve damage
- Enlarged, weakened heart
- Eventually dementia
Niacin deficiency can also be caused by [R]:
- Poor digestion
- Certain medications, like chemotherapy drugs, Sinemet, immunosuppressants, and tuberculosis drugs.
- Elderly with poor appetites
- Restrictive eating patterns
Deficiency of niacin almost always is worsened by deficiencies of other vitamins and minerals. Deficiencies almost always occur together.
An example of a disease state that leads to niacin deficiency is Crohn’s disease. Four case reports of pellagra have been reported in Crohn’s disease patients [R].
Other conditions that may reduce the body’s ability to generate energy from niacin include the use of immunosuppressants, Sinemet, and long-term kidney dialysis.
A disease called pellagra first appeared in the late 1700s in Spain and Italy. This was soon after the introduction of maize or corn to their diets. Corn became a big part of their diet and resulted in widespread pellagra.
In the 1900s pellagra was an epidemic in the United States. The widespread deficiency was related to the processing of grain.
The chemical structure of niacin was not discovered until 1937. An American biochemist Conrad Arnold Elvehjem at that time [R].
Food Sources of Vitamin B3
Niacin is the only vitamin that can be made from an amino acid; tryptophan. Niacin is widespread in whole foods but is lost in processing and cooking.
We can make an educated guess that there are also probably trace amounts of NR in other foods that naturally have niacin.
Another anti-aging form of niacin is NMR.
It is thought to be found in vegetables like:
How to Naturally Increase NAD Levels
NAD supplements and niacin are not the only way to increase NAD levels. You may be able to increase your NAD levels in your body by strength training, and eating foods rich in apigenin such as celery, parsley, oregano, and chamomile.
Safety of Supplementing NR and NMR
NAD supplements are safe in humans, but doses may be important [R].
Varying doses, up to 1000 mg per day seemed safe in a small study [R].
However, some research suggests that higher doses of NAD may cause more harm than good.
If you do choose to supplement NAD, low doses are probably the way to go.
Heidi Moretti, MS, RD is The Healthy RD. A registered dietitian for 23 years as well as a book author of the new book Gut Fix and The Whole Body Guide to Gut Health, Heidi has a passion for functional nutrition and natural medicine. She has researched supplements and natural medicine throughout her career. One of her biggest loves is helping people gain function and vitality by tackling the root causes of illness.
The information on this website has not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration or any other medical body and is shared for educational purposes only. Consult your doctor or healthcare provider before making changes to your supplement regimen or lifestyle.