Interview: Dr. George Birkmayer on NADH for Energy, Healthy Immune Function and More
January 30, 2006
The following Q & A is with George Birkmayer, M.D., Ph.D. Dr. Birkmayer is the widely respected researcher and physician who first discovered the application of NADH in cellular development and energy transmission. He holds NADH use patents for a number of health conditions, and also produces the patented Enada brand of stabilized NADH.
"All we need is energy. Every living cell needs energy to stay alive. But exactly how is this energy for life produced? Hydrogen and oxygen react to form water and energy. The biological form of hydrogen is NADH, the abbreviation of nicotinamide-adenine-dinucleotide hydride. The oxygen comes from the air we breathe and is present in every living cell." --George Birkmayer, M.D., Ph.D.
Q: I understand from an article you wrote that NADH was first discovered in 1905, and was found to be one of the most important coenzymes ("coenzyme 1"). Your extensive research and work has brought about the application of NADH to assist the production of energy and other vital functions in the human body. My first question is, how does NADH support the healthy function of the immune system?
A: Dr. Birkmayer: The immune system is based on the activities of our white blood cells, the main subgroup of which are lymphocytes and macrophages. Macrophages are responsible for the direct elimination of foreign bodies such as bacteria or viruses. They take them in and degrade them, a process comparable to eating and digesting. Therefore they have been named macrophages, which means big eating cells.
A direct relationship exists between the intake process of the macrophages and the activation of the immune system. When foreign agents such as bacteria or viruses enter the body the metabolic activity, including oxygen consumption of these eating cells, is markedly increased. Oxygen is converted to superoxide which destroys these bacteria and viruses. During this oxygen activation high amounts of NADH are consumed. Hence the more NADH the human organism has available, the better the immune system works.
During the processing of bacteria and viruses macrophages produce signal molecules which activate other cells of the immune system -- the lymphocytes. These signal molecules are called cytokines. Cytokines are molecules in the human body necessary for the communication between different white blood cells.
The most important cytokines are the Interleukines, named after their functions to communicate between the various subgroups of the leucocytes. NADH stimulates the production of Interleukine IL-6 (dosage dependent up to 18.000 fold). Hence NADH possesses cytokine modulating effects on peripheral white blood cells, which are the key components of our cellular immune system. (Reference: Influence of reduced Nicotinamide Adenine Dinucleotide (NADH) on the production of Interleukin-6 by peripheral human blood leucocytes, Nadlinger K, Birkmayer J, Gebauer F , Kunze R Neuroimmunomodulation , ( 2002) 9: 203 – 208.)
Q: How does a deficiency in NADH cause problems with energy levels ?
Dr. Birkmayer: NADH is the fuel for cellular energy production. All living cells require energy to stay alive. Without energy a cell dies because energy production represents the essential prerequisite for every living cell.
How energy is produced involves food being taken in and digested. Its components, proteins, carbohydrates, and fats, are degraded into smaller molecules such as amino acids, sugars and lipids. They are processed leading to a reducing power in the form of NADH, the reduced form of coenzyme 1.
NADH reacts with oxygen, present in every living cell, to produce in a cascade of reactions water (H2O) and energy. This energy is stored in the form of the chemical compound adenosine triphosphate, abbreviated ATP. Scientific studies have shown that a loss of NADH leads to an ATP depletion, which in turn leads to cell death. (Metabolic and Energetic Changes During Apoptosis in Neural Cells, J.C. Mills, D. Nelson, M. Erecinska and R. Pittmanm, Journal of Neurochemistry, 1995). Simply put, the more NADH a cell has available, the more energy it can produce.
The question is: Can the energy level of a cell be increased by incubating the cell with NADH? If the answer is YES, it would mean that cells could produce more energy and due to this can live longer Most recent scientific studies have discovered that the energy level in a cell can actually be increased by NADH.
When isolated heart cells are incubated with NADH (NADH is outside the cell), the ATP concentration in these heart cells increases. In other words these heart cells have more ATP -- energy. Hence they can function better and can liver longer. This is a sensational new discovery and has enormous implications for protection of the heart and other organs. If cells live longer organs live longer and due to this the entire organism. In other words NADH has a - scientifically proven - anti-aging effect.
Q: How does NADH help enhance mental clarity? What is the process through which NADH affects cognitive function?
Dr. Birkmayer: One third of all the energy we produce in our body is used up by our brain. Due to this an energy deficiency is first realized in the brain with symptoms such as lack of concentration and alertness, or mental fog (Newsweek Dec 17, 2001). NADH provides the brain more ATP energy in the same way as it does with heart cells.
With more NADH the brain cells function better. This has been demonstrated in a study performed at Cornell University in New York. When you suffer from sleep deprivation your cognitive performance goes down and the consequences are negative.
Nearly a third of the U.S. adults manage less than seven hours sleep each night according to the National Sleep Foundation and some 69 percent complain of frequent sleep problems. The consequences of sleep deprivation are many fold. Reduces alertness, concentration and reaction time increases the risk of an accident by 630 % (Teran-Santoz et al.), is the cause of 1/3 of all traffic accidents and of 1/4 of all fatal ones (Stoohs et al.)
A further mechanism by which NADH affects cognitive function is by stimulating the production of adrenaline and dopamine. Both of these substances are essential for our cognitive performance and our memory.
Q: What are the circumstances under which NADH levels in the body can drop or become depleted?
Dr. Birkmayer: There are two main reasons why NADH levels in the body can drop:
1. Over consumption of NADH due to an extreme energy demand (e.g., marathon run, severe illness and the like)
2. Reduced production due to a decreased or totally blocked metabolic pathway caused by toxins (environmental, food additives, drugs such as AZT and other cytostatics or antibiotics and the like).
Q: What are the conditions the body needs for normal healthy production and maintenance of NADH in cells?
Dr. Birkmayer: Sufficient amounts of nutrients such as carbohydrates, proteins and lipids in form of a balanced diet. All the enzymes involved in NADH biosynthesis must function at best performance. If these enzymes are inhibited by toxic substances such as drugs, NADH production declines. Minute amounts of NADH are taken up when eating meat, poultry or fish as these are rich in NADH. Vegetables have a very low content of NADH. Hence the uptake of NADH by vegetarian is neglected.
Q: How is NADH different from chemical stimulants (like caffeine) and how is it better?
Dr. Birkmayer: NADH is by all means much much better than caffeine or other stimulants for various reasons. Caffeine and the other stimulants containing ephedrine release adrenaline (also called epinephrine) from the nerve cells. This triggers a quick boost in adrenaline. You are less tired and more alert. However only for a very short time. The next coffee will not give you the same boost as the first one because your adrenaline pool in the nerve cells has been emptied. If the pool of adrenaline in your central nervous system is totally depleted, you can drink as much coffee as you want but you will not get any more boost.
NADH on the other hand stimulates the biosynthesis of adrenaline and due to this fills the pool of adrenaline in the central nervous system. This is the essential prerequisite for caffeine to become active.
In addition, NADH increases the real ATP energy in the cells. With more energy the nerve cells do produce not only more adrenaline, dopamine and also serotonin but other components necessary for good performance. NADH is the only substance which has been shown to increase cellular energy. Coffee, and all the so called energy drinks, do not increase cellular energy. In fact they do nothing but release adrenaline from nerve cells and are therefore mere stimulants. Too much and to high stimulation can cause considerable side effects or adverse reactions such as irregular heart beat.
Q: NADH is described as an active vitamin -- what does that mean ?
Dr. Birkmayer: NADH is the abbreviation of Nicotinamide-Adenine-Dinucleotide-Hydride. Nicotinamide is another name for vitamin B3. Hence, NADH is the coenzyme form or active form of vitamin B3. Vitamin B3 itself is inactive. As a vitamin it is essential for our body. It is absorbed and converted in the cells to NAD (oxidized form of NADH). NAD is then converted to NADH. However, it cannot be emphasized enough that neither Nicotinamide nor NAD (oxidized form of NADH) shows the energizing effect of NADH not even in very high dosages as we have tested in our numerous studies.
Q: How is NADH different from Coenzyme Q10 ?
Dr. Birkmayer: Both support cellular energy production. Coenzyme Q10 is involved in cellular energy production however at a much lower level than NADH. Coenzyme Q10 needs NADH to be transformed into its reduced form. Only in its reduced form CoQ10 is active and can transport electrons from NADH to oxygen which then leads to energy production in form of ATP.
[I believe] CoQ10 should always be taken with sufficient amount of ENADA NADH, the only stabilized, absorbable form of NADH. In contrast NADH can produce energy without CoQ10 even without oxygen (under anaerobic conditions). When highly conditioned athletes perform for too long (marathon runners, or cyclists) their muscles come under anaerobic conditions. Even under these circumstances NADH can produce ATP energy, whereas CoQ10 is unable to do so under anaerobic conditions. NADH is by far superior in producing cellular energy.
However, CoQ10 will add to the energy producing capacity of NADH when taken in conjunction. NADH however has many more functions in the body in addition of producing energy. It does repair cell and DNA damage, it stimulates the immune system, it stimulates the biosysnthesis of the neurotransmitter, adrenaline, dopamine and serotonin. It stimulates the production of NO (Nitric Oxide) which induces relaxation of blood vessels in many organs such as heart, lung, brain and kidney.
Q: Is there anything else our reader should know or understand about NADH?
Dr. Birkmayer: NADH has been shown to increase energy in form of ATP inside of heart cells and these cells have been shown to live longer. Based on these unique findings a patent for extending the lifespan of cells, tissues and organs (anti-aging) is pending. This will be the first and so far only nutritional supplement with a scientifically proven anti-aging effect.