What is NAD?

NAD stands for Nicotinamide Adenine Dinucleotide, and is a compound known as a “coenzyme”. Coenzymes are essential for the functioning of enzymes, and enzymes are the main regulators of all chemical reactions in your body, essential for digestion and energy metabolism, which allow us to speak, think and move!

NAD was discovered in 1906, with it’s importance slowly discovered over the next 120 years. Even in 1930, Euler-Chelpin, in his Nobel Prize speech, referred to as “one of the most widespread and biologically most important activators within the plant and animal world.”

NAD is constantly being naturally produced and recycled by your body keeping levels as high as possible, but it is also boosted from the food we eat in various forms of Vitamin B3, including Niacin, Nicotinamide, Nicotinamide Mononucleotide, and Nicotinamide Riboside.

NAD is found in every cell in your body and is important as it plays a key role in to your cells’ ability transform the food we eat into cellular energy. You produce lots of it when you’re young but as you get older, your NAD levels naturally decline, meaning your cells produce less energy from the nutrients we consume to maintain their healthy functions.

How it works

Most living cells produce energy from nutrients through a process called cellular respiration. Cellular respiration refers to the breakdown of the food we eat, such as glucose and other respiratory substrates (including carbohydrates, lipids and proteins) to make the energy carrying molecules used in cells called Adenosine Triphospate (ATP).

For cellular respiration, the extraction of energy from food molecules is what is known as oxidation. Oxidation means the removal of hydrogen, which is equal to 2 high energy electrons, from the food molecule.

The importance of NAD lies here. NAD acts as the transporter, or carrier, of the hydrogen in this process, and exists in two forms, NAD+ and NADH, dependent on whether it is carrying hydrogen, or it is not.

NAD+, which is the form when not carrying electrons, collects hydrogen/electrons from the nutrients and food molecules we consume, transforming NAD+ in to NADH.

NADH then transports and donates the electrons to cells, enzymes and proteins that need energy vital for life! With each of these transfers of electrons, through the chemical reactions that occur, cellular energy – ATP is generated!

Once NADH has donated and no longer has its hydrogen atom, it transforms back to NAD+ and begins the cycle again

Powering the Mitochondria

Mitochondria are essentially tiny batteries within each cell that are the source of cellular energy. To make that energy, a series of chemical reactions must take place within the mitochondria.

There are three stages to the creation of cellular energy (ATP) by cellular respiration however the most, by far, is produced through NADH delivering electrons directly to inner membrane of a cell’s mitochondria where they are transferred to a structure called the electron transport chain.

When there are less NAD transporters, fewer nutrients get processed by the mitochondria, leading to lower ATP production.

The mitochondria is made up of an outer membrane, an inner membrane, the space in between called the intermembrane space, and the matrix – the center of the mitochondria.

The electron transport chain is a collection of carrier proteins. Carrier proteins are important molecules which facilitate the movement of hydrogen ions and electrons across the inner membrane, between the matrix and intermembrane space.

The electrons delivered by NADH are used to create energy for the carrier proteins in order to “pump” hydrogen ions from the center of the mitochondria (the matrix), across the inner membrane to the intermembrane space.

As the mitochondria requires a relatively equal amount of hydrogen ions on either side of the inner membrane, the hydrogen ions are then natural pumps back through.

It is the flow of these positive charges back across the inner membrane through a protein called ATP synthase that produces.

Enzymes - vital for life

Enzymes are molecules that initiate, significantly speed up the rate (by the millions!), and ensure the end result is what we want, of virtually all of the chemical reactions that take place within cells.

They are vital for life and serve a wide range of important functions in the body, such as aiding in digestion, metabolism, cell renewal and growth.

They are the workshops of our body –  by breaking down larger ones in to smaller ones, and combining molecules to make a new ones, they create the energy and molecules we need, in the quantity we need them, when we need them.  The ATP synthase, discussed above, is an enzyme critical for creating the cellular energy – ATP.

Sirtuins and PARPs are a class of enzymes that are responsible for your most vital biological processes including cell metabolism, DNA repair, stress resistance, neuronal function, the formation of new mitochondria and regulation of inflammation.