Last Updated on 25 May 2020 by Ray Plumlee
Science is beginning to show us that when it comes to our health, we should be thinking not big, but small. Our healthy bodies are built from the smallest element up. Most of us would think that that means at the cellular level, but we have to go even farther than that. Although cells are considered the building blocks of the body, we can look into the cell to find even smaller structures called organelles. One type of organelle is the mitochondrion, the powerhouse of the cell. Strange as it may seem, the mitochondria in our cells originally evolved from bacteria which colonized other cells, and were eventually made a part of the internal structure of those cells. A classic case of invaders turned into servants.
Mitochondria produce about ninety percent of the energy needed for our survival, but this energy output decreases as we age. Just imagine what your ten year old self was up to compared to the more sedentary lifestyle you now prefer. So our energy naturally decreases until it reaches critical levels. It’s simple – no energy, no life. But these organelles do so much more than just provide energy. They also provide other chemicals needed throughout the body, help to break down and dispose of waste products which would otherwise choke the cell, and, strange as it may seem to consider this a benefit, they can also play a special role in helping cells to die. Consider this: if a cell were to continue beyond its assigned lifespan, continuing to grow, this becomes a tumor, an uncontrolled growth of rogue cells. Mitochondria, working properly, help to prevent this from happening.
Problems arise, however, when the mitochondria in our cells ages and degenerates. Studies have shown that mitochondria definitely does degenerate as we age. A ninety year old has approximately 95% of his mitochondria damaged or deficient, while a five year old child has no mitochondrial damage at all. Science has linked virtually all degenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s, heart failure, type 2 diabetes, and even cancer to the degeneration in our mitochondria. Mitochondria seem to be more susceptible to the aging process than other parts of the cell, leading to a degeneration at a more rapid pace than other cellular components. But our mitochondria is the only part of the cell, apart from the nucleus itself, to contain DNA. This means that it can reproduce itself, a process called regenesis. And if we can manage to rejuvenate our cells at this most basic level, we can surely manage to improve our overall health and well-being.
But recent research has come up with a solution to help our aging mitochondria, in the form of NAD, or nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide. A study conducted in 2018 found that NAD significantly restored mitochondrial function, allowing cells to function at their previous level of efficiency. It has been touted as a possible treatment for severe mitochondrial disease, which usually causes death in infancy. But NAD can also be used to rejuvenate our own mitochondrial material. NAD is a substance which naturally occurs in the body, helping our cells to produce the energy and chemicals we need to survive and thrive. But, as with other naturally occurring substances, the production of NAD decreases as we age. It might be said that just when we need it most, the supply of available NAD dries up. This may be part of the natural aging process, but that does not mean we can’t do something about it. Supplements are available which provide nicotinamide riboside, a precursor of NAD which is found in trace amounts in milk and may be able to increase the amounts of NAD in our bodies.
In 2013, a study by David Sinclair of Harvard and his colleagues reported that the mitochondria in lab mice was restored to youthful productive levels when treated with NMN (nicotinamide mononucleotide), a substance which boost levels of NAD in the body. Such a study speaks well to the success of increasing NAD in our own bodies, and the benefits to be gained from doing this. Increased levels of NAD can rejuvenate our mitochondria to the point where it acts like its more youthful self, allowing us, in turn, to rebound to our own youthful vigor while decreasing the threat of so many all too common degenerative ailments.
Given the promising research, and our own concern for our health and youthfulness, it should come as no surprise that a number of supplements have appeared on the market. Most of these products contain NR (nicotinamide riboside), a substance which is converted to the all-important NAD (nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide) in the body. While studies have been very promising about the benefits of this substance, as with many other health supplements, concrete and conclusive evidence is still lacking. That being said, there doesn’t seem to be evidence for any serious side effects, except to your wallet. These supplements, while the benefits may prove to be extraordinary, do not come cheaply. You can expect to pay, on average, between $40 and $60 a month. But before turning yourself into a guinea pig, remember that there have been no studies on long term side effects.
Some of the more popular products out there are NIAGEN and BASIC. Both of these products are manufactured by reputable companies which boast of Nobel laureates on their advisory boards. The company who manufactures NIAGEN operates with a patent licensed from the university which first synthesized NR. BASIC presents itself as the only supplement which you will need, as it contains other substances used to promote good health and the restoration of energy and youthfulness. NADOVIM bill’s itself as not only a NAD enhancing substance, but one that will enhance your cognitive skills, aiming at enhancing your brain as well as your energy. Not a bad combo. These supplements, and many other, are available over the counter. All you need look for on the label is a promise to increase NAD, or that the product contains NR. These supplements may, indeed, be the anti-aging medicine of the future, available today. It’s up to you whether you’re willing to go for it.