Older man hiking outside

NAD Supplements: What Do They Do for You?

"Where did that even come from?" you ask no one in particular when you spot another sign of aging around your eye. It seems like it happens overnight: Father Time pays you a visit, and suddenly, you feel old. Your skin isn't as tight. Maybe you don't feel as spry as you used to. Perhaps your brain doesn't seem as sharp.

You're already eating healthy, staying active, and getting enough rest. (Good job!) But what else can you do? Well, you can boost your NAD+ levels. Let's explain what those are, and how supplementation can help.

What is NAD?

NAD, or nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide, is not actually a supplement. It is a coenzyme that plays a huge role in energy metabolism, the circadian rhythm, and aging, thanks to its activity with sirtuins and poly-ADP-ribose polymerases (PARPs—it's a mouthful, we know).

NAD is found in two forms in the body, NAD+ and NADH, both of which are also molecules. The main difference between NAD+ and NADH is that NAD+ molecule is oxidized and the NADH molecule is not.

NAD provides support for various reactions occurring in the body, including cell metabolism (which basically refers to all the stuff happening in your cells that helps to keep your body alive!). More specifically, it's important for the function of the mitochondria, which are the powerhouses of the cells; they need NAD in order to work properly. Some of the other reactions that the NAD molecule impacts include DNA repair (in which PARPs also play a role) and immune cell function.

But what does all that mean? Well, in a nutshell, maintaining healthy NAD levels is important if you want your body's sirtuins to continue doing their job so that you can experience healthy aging. This coenzyme supports the human body at a cellular level, so supplementing to boost your nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide levels can help you feel stronger as you collect more years.

This is so vital because, by the time we hit our 40s, we have half the NAD that we did in our youth! This makes supplementation to support healthy NAD levels very important.

What are NAD supplements?

NAD supplements help to boost the amount of NAD+ that's in your body. Importantly, these supplements are not NAD+ itself, but rather the precursors to NAD+. In other words, they contain substances that your body can then transform and use in the way it needs and wants to.

What are these precursors, exactly? Well, most commonly, NAD supplements are formulated with amino acids or certain vitamins that you can sometimes find in the food you eat, like L-tryptophan (commonly found in cheese and chicken) and niacin (AKA vitamin B3, found in red meat and legumes).

Another precursor is nicotinamide riboside (NR). Nicotinamide riboside (brand name of NIAGEN®) is a form of vitamin B3 that can help support youthful NAD+ levels. This is important as NAD+ is needed for the production of cellular energy.

NIAGEN® is a registered trademark of ChromaDex, Inc., Patents see: www.ChromaDexPatents.com.


Not all NAD supplements are made with NR; the molecule nicotinamide mononucleotide (NMN) also is a direct NAD+ precursor and has been used in supplements. But NMN supplements are considered an inferior choice, because NMN is unable to cross cell membranes (in fact, it has to be converted to NR and then back to NMN).  

(Plus, NMN recently was banned by the FDA, taking that option off the table altogether!)

Can you get NAD from food?

You might already be getting NMN from the food you're eating — namely edamame, broccoli, avocado, cabbage and cucumber. You also can get nicotinamide riboside from your diet. However, it's in very small amounts. Case in point: to get the amount of NR that's in a 300 mg supplement from conventional dairy milk, you'd have to drink more than 1,300 eight-ounce glasses.

Are NAD supplements safe?

Yes, NAD supplements are generally safe and well-tolerated. As always, we encourage you to speak with your healthcare provider before starting any new dietary supplement. This is especially important if you're pregnant, trying to conceive, breastfeeding, have a chronic illness, or if you're currently taking any medication.

5 benefits of taking NAD supplements

You already know a little bit about how a NAD supplement can offer you certain health benefits, but let's dive a little deeper into some of their advantages.

1. They may help you live longer

NAD-supporting supplements potentially might be able to slow down time and even impact lifespan. This is because, in part, as your body's NAD levels fall, sirtuin activity declines; a supplement that encourages youthful sirtuin activity is also, therefore, encouraging a longer life. Boosting NAD levels has been shown to support sirtuin activity and to promote longevity in yeast, worms, and flies.

Interestingly, too, in one study with mice, supporting healthy NAD levels helped support their muscle health (something that can be harder to maintain the older we get). There is also research suggesting that nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide can support a healthy inflammatory response.

2. NAD supplements can encourage healthy metabolism

Insulin is vital in helping blood sugar enter your body's cells so it can later be used for energy—something that plays a role in literally every bodily function. Thankfully, having enough NAD can support this process. Studies tell us that NAD levels might be able to help us support healthy glucose metabolism. Furthermore, a recent meta-analysis that included close to 15,000 individuals suggests that supplementing with NAD precursors can promote already-healthy triglyceride, total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein (LDL), and high-density lipoprotein (HDL) levels in humans.

Explore Our Best Anti-Aging & Longevity Supplements

Shop Now

3. They support brain health

If you want to stay sharp, quick-witted, and on top of things as you age, we have good news for you: NAD supplements help your body produce a protein that can protect your brain against oxidative stress. This is important because oxidative stress may be a factor in age-related cognitive function decline. In a study with mice, higher NAD levels were even associated with performing better in memory-based tasks! (You ever forget where you put your car keys? Same.)

4. They can support a healthy immune system

Boosting NAD levels can help maintain immune function as we age. Since sirtuin activity is dependent on NAD+ (which declines with age), supplementation with NAD precursors like nicotinamide riboside can help preserve cellular function.

5. You might feel more energetic and be able to maintain a healthy weight

Because NAD can boost your metabolism, it helps provide the fuel to burn fat and power your body. This essentially means that you might experience more sustained energy throughout the day and have an easier time keeping the pounds off.

Many of these benefits overlap with each other and combine to suggest one exciting idea: Supplementing with this coenzyme can, in general, help you live a longer and happier life and encourage healthy aging.

How to take NAD supplements

There is no time of the day or specific instructions when it comes to taking your NAD-boosting supplements, but taking them early in the day is a good idea if your supplementation goal is more energy. That being said, you can take them morning or night, with or without food. It does help, though, to take them at the same time every day, so you'll be likelier to remember. Be sure to follow the instructions on the bottle.

Best supplements to pair with NAD

If you want your supplement to pack an extra punch, then it's common to pair an NR supplement with resveratrol. You could also opt for NAD supplements that contain resveratrol, bio-quercetin and fisetin. This provides optimal energy support to fight general fatigue and promote longevity.

NAD. PARPs. Sirtuins. Nicotinamide riboside. It might all sound like a lot of jibberish, but the main takeaway is that for healthy cellular processes, we need a certain amount of NAD in our bodies. While you can encourage the presence of this coenzyme through your diet, supplementation will likely be a huge help to you. Talk with your healthcare provider to see if a NAD-boosting supplement is a good fit for your lifestyle.

Psst! Want to know how else you can boost your energy levels to feel better throughout the day? Take our quiz to learn more.

About the Author: Megan Grant has a degree in communications from University of Michigan. She has been writing professionally for 15 years, with a focus on nutrition, fitness, and general health. A lifelong competitive athlete, she's fascinated by how the human body responds to food and movement.


Popular Supplement