Our cells are constantly under attack. Each day, we negatively impact our cells from poor habits like drinking alcohol, overeating and, as summer lingers, spending too much time in the sun. Even habits that we consider ‘healthy’ such as exercise may damage our cells if done in excess.
Fortunately, our cells have powerful defenses to help combat and repair this damage—but they still need all the help they can get. The best way we can support our cells is through a thorough knowledge of how they work.
An Expensive Repair
Genetic damage can come in many forms: from metabolic damage or UV radiation that form lesions in our DNA, to stress on the immune system stimulating inflammation and resulting in an onslaught of oxidative damage.
If this damage accumulates, it can wear away at our telomeres and cause cellular senescence, considered one of the nine hallmarks of aging along with mitochondrial dysfunction and altered intercellular communication. It should come as no surprise that metabolically active organs such as the skin, liver, heart, and ovaries suffer from the damaging effects of aging earlier than others. These specific organs are constantly exposed to stressors from the outside world.
Our bodies, and especially the metabolically active tissues, churn through countless molecules of NAD+, a key coenzyme, to help generate energy, support and regulate cellular defenses and maintain cellular resilience.
The Sirtuin is Mightier Than the Sword
One fundamental enzyme family that has caught the attention of researchers for decades is the Sirtuins. These proteins are so fundamental that they’ve remained almost unchanged from yeast (where they were first studied) to people.
Sirtuins consume NAD+ as they regulate cell metabolism. When Sirtuins “rev up” metabolism to process the energy we eat (or cope with other stressors like the alcohol we consume, excess sun exposure or to fight off an infection), they may deplete levels of NAD+ in the process. As levels of NAD+ decline due to sirtuin consumption, cells are drained of this vital cellular resource which, research demonstrates, may play a major role in the aging process.
On the other hand, when food is in short supply, Sirtuins slow metabolism down, helping to explain the life-prolonging effect of calorie restriction (simply eating about 30% less is suggested to extend one’s lifespan somewhere between 5-20 years). Scientists believe that boosting levels of Sirtuins could effectively “mimic” calorie restriction, delaying the aging process.
Sirtuins strike an important balance between food breakdown for energy (metabolism) and cellular upkeep and repair. Activating Sirtuins by boosting NAD+ may hold the key to defending your cells and slowing the effects of aging.
Increase Your NAD+ Levels. Activate Sirtuins.
NAD+ is critical for ensuring proper cellular function and energy metabolism, but declines over time due to aging and other stressors on the body such as sun exposure, over exercise, and immune stress. A 2020 review article in the Journal of Biomolecules examined the importance of NAD+ homeostasis and its potential subsequent impact on the maintenance and regulation of cellular function in preclinical models. Authors of the review postulated that there may be an interplay between NAD+ balance and human disorders.
In light of all of these different internal and external threats to our bodies, scientists around the world are conducting research to better understand the role of NAD+ in supporting cellular health. Many studies are examining the impact of maintaining or even raising NAD+ levels on health outcomes. It turns out there are several ways to start supporting your NAD+ levels right now.
One: Proper sleep. Sleep is necessary for both mental and physical restoration, and the CDC recommends adults achieve seven or more hours of sleep every night for the best health and well-being. Several chronic health conditions such as obesity and higher risk of heart attacks can be attributed to short sleep (less than seven hours of sleep a night).
Two: Calorie restriction. Another way to support NAD+ production is to practice fasting (also known as calorie restriction). Periodic fasting and calorie restriction are linked to a range of health benefits. The increase in NAD+ may help explain the positive effects of fasting on lifespan. However, please consult your healthcare practitioner if you have any additional questions.
Three: NAD+ precursors. To stand up to stressors that deplete NAD+ levels, like aging, consider additional support through supplementation. While there are many NAD-boosting supplements on the market, it’s important to research a brand’s claims and see if the product has clinical studies and regulatory acceptance. An example is Tru Niagen®. It is a patented and commercialized form of Nicotinamide Riboside (NR) that is clinically proven to effectively increase NAD+ and has been shown in preclinical studies to activate Sirtuins.
Sometimes the best defense is a strong offense. Given the important role of NAD+ in cellular health, boosting your NAD+ levels may prove to be a way to help defend your cells against physiological stress.