The Necessity of NADH: Why We Need This Coenzyme for Healthy Aging and How It Differs From NAD+
If you're interested in anti-aging and longevity, you’ve likely heard of NAD+. This essential molecule—nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide—is indispensable for both healthy aging and life as a whole, as NAD+ facilitates the creation of cellular energy. But what about its lesser-known cousin, NADH?
NADH is chemically similar to NAD+ but acts a bit differently in the body. However, both molecules are vital for producing cellular energy in the form of ATP (adenine triphosphate)—in fact, each molecule of NADH produces three molecules of ATP.
Every cell in our bodies requires a continual supply of ATP to function correctly—without any ATP, our bodies would shut down within just a few seconds. Despite its necessity, ATP production can gradually decline with age, partly because molecules like NAD+ and NADH see similar reductions as we grow older. With this drop in NADH levels comes a subsequent decrease in ATP production, leading to physiological signs of aging like low physical and mental energy. Therefore, adding NADH supplements to your daily routine can help to bolster ATP production, which supports energy levels, mood, and mental focus as we age.
Biochemistry 101: What Is NADH?
The main chemical difference between NAD+ and NADH is that the latter has a hydride—a hydrogen atom with an extra electron, tacking that “H” onto the end.
To back up a little bit, NAD (without the “+”) encompasses all of the potential forms that NAD can become in the body—including NAD+ and NADH. With a term you might remember from chemistry class, these two molecules are known as a “redox couple,” with NADH being reduced and NAD+ being oxidized. In this slightly contradictory phrasing, NADH’s gain of electrons is referred to as reduction, while the oxidized NAD+ has lost its electron.
So, what exactly does this mean for us? Well, the slight structural differences make a big difference when it comes to how they function in our cells. Simply put, you can imagine NAD+ as an empty shuttle with room to spare, as it doesn’t have those extra electrons hanging around. This extra space allows NAD+ to accept and shuttle electrons into the mitochondria, the area of our cells that produce energy.
Conversely, NADH is a “full shuttle,” with no room for anything else to hop in. NADH carries its cargo to unload onto mitochondrial enzymes, where they get to work creating more ATP. After NADH drops off its load, it becomes NAD+ again and is ready to reload and do it all over again—the neverending process of creating energy for us to live.
The moral of the story? Both NAD+ and NADH are essential components for transporting and making energy from the food we eat—we need both sides of the redox coin to keep it going.
NADH Supports Mood, Energy, and Cognitive Function
Research has suggested that supplementing with NADH may support mood and physical and mental energy. Chronically fatigued people (the kind that doesn’t get better with rest and is made worse by expending physical and mental effort) may benefit from NADH.
One 3-month clinical study found that those who supplemented with 20 mg of NADH experienced significant reductions in anxious feelings and heart rate after stress tests. Another study found that people who took 20 mg of NADH (combined with 200 mg of the antioxidant Coenzyme Q10) for eight weeks significantly reduced their total fatigue scores and boosted cellular measures of NAD+/NADH ratios, CoQ10 levels, and ATP production.
NADH has also been studied for its role in supporting brain health. A small study of 17 people with impaired cognition found that those who took 10 mg of NADH per day for 8-12 weeks had significantly improved cognitive function. Further, a 6-month clinical study showed that people who supplemented with 10 mg of NADH per day exhibited significantly higher scores of memory performance, including verbal fluency and reasoning.
All of these studies used oral forms of NADH, which are often not as bioavailable as other forms. In ProHealth Longevity’s NADH Pro, you’ll find NADH in a lozenge form, which enables the supplement to be absorbed into the blood vessels under the tongue. This avoids digestion in the gastrointestinal tract, allowing the NADH to be more rapidly delivered to the bloodstream for use.
The Bottom Line
NADH is chemically similar to NAD+; both are vital molecules for producing cellular energy, which affects how we feel and think. However, both of these molecules decline as we age, bringing a subsequent reduction in ATP production that manifests as a lack of physical and mental energy, stamina, and cognitive function.
Supplementing with NADH has been reported in research to support physical energy, mood, and cognitive function, and ProHealth’s NADH Pro lozenge form can help these vital compounds get where they need to go to support energy at any age.
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