Move over, collagen. NAD+ is being touted as the latest wellbeing supplement for strong muscles and skin – but does it work?
Every so often a supplement takes the health and fitness world by storm. We’ve seen protein powder introduced into virtually every exerciser’s diet, people evangelising about the benefits of collagen and the rise of creatine for mental and physical health.
In 2023, experts are expecting a new supplement to go mainstream: NAD+.
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“NAD+ is a compound that’s made naturally by the body, but levels can decrease with your lifestyle demands and as you age,” explains Geraldine Waterton, head of vitamin and beauty development at Holland and Barrett.
But before you rush to top up your levels of NAD+ with supplements, here’s everything you need to know.
What does NAD+ do for the body?
“NAD+ is a version of nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide, a type of vitamin B3 that is oxidised during cellular processes. It plays a key role in generating energy in your cells,” explains Waterton.
Research shows that its energy is important for regulating metabolism, repairing DNA and immune function, with some research being directed into the compound during the Covid-19 breakout.
In a 2020 review of NAD supplementation, researchers found studies that argued taking NAD+ improved exercise capacity and muscle fibre composition, as well as improvements in people with Parkinson’s disease.
Because of the age-proofing power of NAD+, it’s also being touted as a way to support healthy skin. “Nicotinamide is known to support hydration, protect the skin from environmental damage, such as sunlight, pollution and toxins, regulated oil in the sebaceous glands and stops skin cell decline,” adds Waterton.
The same 2020 review noted good research on supplementation of NAD+ being particularly useful in conditions including psoriasis.
How can you increase NAD+?
NAD+ is made naturally in the body as a result of chemical processes, but age, diet and exercise all impact the levels the body is capable of producing.
“Supplementation with NAD precursors is not the only way to increase NAD levels,” write researchers of the 2020 review. Other possible ways to build the level of NAD+ include strength training, with researchers concluding that exercise programs may be more effective for older people than taking NAD supplements.
Consuming flavonoids including quercetin, which is found in citrus fruits, apples and tea, is also associated with higher levels of NAD+ in the body.
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One of the main concerns with supplements is that they don’t always make it into the bloodstream, but are instead broken down by the digestive system. This is the case with collagen supplements – despite being touted as a brilliant way to increase levels of collagen in the skin, when ingested the compound is actually broken down into amino acids and directed to wherever the body needs it.
That doesn’t seem to be the case with NAD+. A 2021 paper, published in the Translational Medicine of Aging, found that oral supplementation of 500mg of nicotinamide led to a significant increase in blood NAD+. However, 100mg of the supplement and a control group taking no supplement had no increase in NAD+ in the body. For that reason, the compound might be more beneficial than other compounds that promise increased muscle and age-proofed skin.
Should you take NAD+?
Supplements of NAD+ are already hitting the shelves ahead of the expected boom next year. While the research looks promising, it’s still early days.
“NAD pharmacology is a promising treatment strategy that is likely to be safe for human use,” report the researchers from the 2020 study. “However, despite several decades of active investigation, there is still only suggestive evidence.
“In general, it is the case that more and larger studies are required to produce robust data in support of NAD pharmacology.”
We say, watch this space. Don’t be surprised if NAD+ turns out to be a great supplement for physical health, but in the meantime, keep up that strength training.
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