If you’re an American of a certain age, you’ve likely been made aware of a host of anti-aging products on the market today, each claiming an ability to turn back the figurative clock. Some promise to erase wrinkles with the application of a simple cream, while others vow to tighten problem spots with a dedicated regimen of serums, techniques, and exercises. Most enticing, however, are the products promising true anti-aging benefits that may actually add years to your life.
True Anti-Aging Has Nothing to Do With Moisturizers
For most people, information about anti-aging products comes primarily from television and magazine ads touting a more youthful appearance. However, the scientific definition of anti-aging refers to the process of slowing, stopping, or even reversing the process of aging in all your body’s cells. Since aging negatively affects cells, preventing them from functioning correctly and keeping your body working as it should, anti-aging medicine aims to minimize the cell damage that occurs as a result of the environment, stress, disease, and the natural effects of the years as they pass.
A healthy body typically features a coherent brain, exceptional memory processing, an optimal immune system, strong muscles, sturdy bones, and well-functioning organ systems. As we age, each of those pieces become less and less efficient. The purpose of anti-aging medicine is to maintain or regain total overall health — as well as longevity — regardless of advancing age.
Age’s Effects on a Cellular Level
Over time, cells undergo multiple chemical processes of aging — namely, oxidation, glycation, and methylation. During oxidation, unstable compounds known as free radicals can lead to cell damage and interact with other compounds to produce harmful chemicals. Through glycation, these chemicals attach to and negatively affect mitochondria, proteins, and DNA. Subsequently, DNA linked to other chemicals and lacking sufficient methyl groups cannot continue to produce generations of new DNA for future cells, and cell regeneration comes to a halt.
If your body can no longer produce new, healthy cells to continue to maintain its tissues and functions, aging and eventual death occurs. However, anti-aging supplements work toward restoring functional proteins and DNA or utilize antioxidants to prevent the oxidation that begins the process. One of the most effective anti-aging molecules found to date is nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide, or NAD.
What Does NAD Do for the Body?
NAD is a coenzyme found in all cells and intimately linked with cell metabolism. It exists in two major forms — NAD+, which is the form of NAD that is available to serve all its functions, and NADH, which is the form occupied by electrons and unable to work as needed. NAD+ helps turn the nutrients we eat into adenosine triphosphate, or ATP, which is how cells exchange and produce energy.
Further, NAD+ has recently been identified as a molecule that plays a role in human sleep cycles, as well as feelings of hunger. This circadian rhythm determines when you feel tired, when you feel awake, when you’re most active, and the pattern with which all of these feelings emerge. Proper NAD production both depends on and influences circadian rhythms and determines to what extent NAD+ interacts with proteins known as sirtuins. Together, NAD+ and sirtuins perform essential cell processes such as:
Preserving and stimulating mitochondria
The Body’s NAD Supply Is Finite
Once NAD+ interacts with sirtuins to ensure cell health, it gains electrons and is unable to continue providing additional benefits. Therefore, the body must continuously produce NAD to continue multiple cell processes and prevent cell deterioration. Unfortunately, as we age, our bodies produce less and less NAD.
Diminished NAD affects the body in multiple ways. First, less NAD reduces the cell’s ability to make and utilize ATP energy, which in turn diminishes its ability to perform its function within the body. Second, as a cell finds itself less and less able to produce other functional molecules that support cell health, it will die much more quickly. In these ways, NAD has proven itself to be essential to maintaining proper neurological and organ health; without it, the human body ages and decreases in function.
How Can a NAD Supplement Help?
Ever since scientists isolated depleted NAD levels as a potential cause of multiple age-related illnesses from osteoporosis and arthritis to cancer and Alzheimer’s, researchers have posited that perhaps continuous replenishment could work to prevent these diseases. As a result, animal studies involving the restoration of NAD to aging mice and rats commenced.
In these studies, researchers added NAD directly to some of the cell cultures, returning the aging mouse cells to NAD levels of younger mice. Then, the cells were exposed to the traditional stresses experienced with age, including oxidation. It was found that much fewer of these cells died than did those in the control group not treated with NAD, leading researchers to conclude that NAD enabled cells to withstand stress and avoid the mechanisms of cell aging.