Last Updated: 31 July 2023

Nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD) may have many health benefits, spanning from improved energy levels and cognitive function to cardiovascular support and weight maintenance.

Middle aged woman on a swing having fun and feeling youthful

Key takeaways:

  • NAD is important for cellular metabolism and energy production, and its decline with age is linked to certain diseases.
  • NAD may support cognitive function and improve brain health.
  • NAD may help maintain a healthy heart.
  • NAD’s involvement in DNA repair suggests a potential role in preventing cancer.
  • NAD supports optimal metabolic function and may contribute to weight maintenance.

As more and more people search for natural ways to enhance their health and well-being, a tiny molecule called NAD is capturing the spotlight. This molecule plays a crucial role in many of the body’s processes, including metabolism and DNA repair, but it can decline as we age.

NAD+ and NADH are two forms of the same molecule, with NAD+ acting as the oxidized form and NADH as the reduced form. For simplicity, we will use the term NAD throughout this article.

Related: NAD: How Much Should You Take?

Below, we explore the benefits of NAD, including its potential role in healthy aging and cancer prevention.

1. NAD Helps Boost Energy Level

NAD plays a crucial role in cellular metabolism. It’s involved in various metabolic pathways, including glycolysis. During glycolysis, glucose is broken down into smaller pieces to create energy as adenosine triphosphate (ATP). NAD is a cofactor supporting energy production by helping convert food into ATP.

By supporting ATP generation, NAD can improve energy and physical performance. As we age, the NAD levels in our bodies tend to decline, leading to impaired mitochondrial function and cellular metabolism. This decline in NAD levels is associated with various age-related disorders.

Research shows that the energy-producing process in stem cells, called mitochondrial respiration, is important for maintaining the function of different types of adult stem cells as we age.

When NAD levels decrease, it affects stem cells’ ability to keep their mitochondria healthy.

Increasing NAD levels in muscle stem cells was found to potentially improve mitochondrial health, protect the cells from aging, and maintain muscle function in aging mice. This suggests that boosting NAD levels could be a helpful strategy for improving lifespan in humans; however, more research is needed.

2. NAD May Promote Healthy Aging

As we age, our cells undergo changes that can lead to a decline in their overall function, including their ability to produce energy. This decline is linked to the aging process.

Research has shown that a decrease in NAD can contribute to various age-related conditions like cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and neurodegenerative disorders.

Additionally, scientists have found transporters and receptors that play a role in how NAD precursors are processed in the body.

Studies suggest that boosting NAD levels in our bodies may help slow down age-related changes, maintain healthy aging, and improve age-related health problems.

While more research is needed to understand how NAD supplementation could affect age-related changes, the evidence suggests that it could promote healthy aging.

3. NAD May Support Cognitive Function

Recent studies have also suggested that NAD may help protect neurons from oxidative stress and inflammation, which can lead to neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.

Oxidative stress and inflammation occur in our bodies when there is an imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants. Free radicals are unstable molecules that can cause damage to our cells, including neurons. Conversely, antioxidants can neutralize free radicals and protect our cells from damage.

Researchers found that giving NAD to rats with cognitive deficits improved their brain function by protecting the mitochondria, reducing harmful substances, and stopping brain inflammation.

Boosting NAD levels through supplements has shown promise as a potential treatment for various conditions that affect cognitive ability, such as Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia, as well as diabetes, stroke, and traumatic brain injury. Different forms of NAD precursors, including nicotinamide (NAM), nicotinamide mononucleotide (NMN), nicotinamide riboside (NR), and niacin, have been studied as potential treatments.

While most research conducted so far has been in animals and has shown positive results, more clinical studies are needed to fully understand the effects of NAD precursor supplementation on human cognitive health.

4. NAD Potentially Protects Against Cardiovascular Diseases

NAD potentially plays a role in regulating blood flow and can contribute to maintaining a healthy heart. It may help support the function of blood vessels and improve circulation, which helps ensure the heart receives the necessary supply of nutrients and oxygen.

A study found that NAD can help protect against conditions like metabolic syndrome, heart failure, injury caused by lack of blood flow, irregular heartbeat, and high blood pressure. Evidence suggests that therapies that boost NAD levels and activate sirtuins – a group of proteins that help regulate cellular processes – can effectively treat and prevent age-related cardiovascular and metabolic diseases.

Another study found that increasing NAD levels through genetic or natural dietary strategies can improve the health of the heart and blood vessels in various experimental models. While there is evidence of NAD’s positive effects on human cardiovascular health, further research is needed to better understand its full potential.

5. NAD May Help Prevent Cancer

NAD is involved in DNA repair, which may help prevent cancerous cell development. Additionally, NAD is an important part of regulating the cell cycle. Proper cell cycle regulation helps prevent the uncontrolled growth and division of cells that can lead to cancer.

While the involvement of NAD in cell cycle regulation suggests a potential role in cancer prevention, further research is needed. Scientists are exploring the relationship between NAD levels and cancer development to determine whether NAD supplementation could effectively prevent or treat cancer.

6. NAD May Aid With Weight Maintenance

Metabolic processes are essential for maintaining a healthy weight. In addition to converting glucose into energy, NAD also helps regulate the breakdown and utilization of fats in our bodies. By supporting optimal metabolic function, NAD may contribute to maintaining a healthy weight.

Increasing the levels of NAD activates sirtuins like SIRT1 and SIRT3, which help our body’s ability to produce energy and protect against metabolic disorders. In a study, researchers looked at the effects of NR on NAD levels and sirtuin activity in cells and tissues. They found that NR supplementation increased NAD levels and activated SIRT1 and SIRT3, leading to improved oxidative metabolism and protection against metabolic problems caused by a high-fat diet.

These findings suggest that as a nutritional supplement, NR may help improve certain metabolic and age-related disorders.


What foods contain NAD? 

NAD itself is not found naturally in foods. However, Foods such as edamame, broccoli, cabbage, cucumber, and avocados contain precursors of NAD, such as NMN, which can support the body’s natural production of NAD. Beef liver, chicken, and turkey breasts are good sources of Niacin, another NAD precursor.

Should I take a NAD IV drip?

NAD infusions – or IV drips – are generally considered safe when administered under medical supervision. However, talking to a healthcare professional to assess individual circumstances and potential risks is important before undergoing NAD infusion therapy.

Does NAD help with hearing loss?

A study on mice with age-associated hearing loss found that increasing NAD levels through supplementation with nicotinamide riboside (NR) prevented hearing loss, restored hair cell loss, and improved cochlear health, suggesting a potential intervention for hearing problems. However, additional research is needed. 

What are ways to boost NAD levels naturally?

To naturally increase NAD levels, maintain a balanced diet that includes foods rich in NAD precursors like turkey, cabbage, broccoli, and avocado; exercise regularly; and consider calorie restriction.

NAD vs. NADH: What’s the difference?

NAD+ is the oxidized form of NAD. NADH is the reduced form of NAD that carries electrons for energy production in cellular processes.

How do I choose NAD supplements?

When choosing NAD supplements, look for reputable brands with good reviews. Check certifications or third-party testing to ensure the supplements meet safety standards. Talk to a healthcare professional who can provide personalized advice and recommendations based on your needs and goals.

Final Thoughts

NAD holds great potential in promoting overall health and well-being. While further research is needed to fully understand its benefits, incorporating NAD-supporting strategies can be wise. Consider adopting a balanced diet rich in NAD precursors, exercising regularly, and adding NAD supplements if desired. Consult with a healthcare professional for guidance on NAD supplementation.

Maggie Aime RN

Maggie Aime, MSN, RN

Maggie Aime, MSN, RN is a freelance health, wellness, and medical personal finance writer. Her extensive nursing experience includes oncology, kidney transplant, cardiology, and home health. Read more about her work at