NAD+ and the Hallmarks of the Aging Brain
Without thinking about it, we take for granted the importance of the brain’s functions. This includes its ability to help form thoughts, speech, memory, extremity movement and helps organs to function properly. We shouldn’t take our brains for granted. Internally the aging process has various struggles including in the brain.
Hallmarks (distinguishing characteristics) of the aging brain involve several problems (Mattson & Arumugam, 2018). The Hallmarks include the brain’s cellular environment showing signs of increased oxidative damage to the cells’ DNA, protein and lipids. Also there is mitochondrial dysfunction and energy metabolism problems. Energy is important to build, repair, and maintain cells and body tissues. NAD+ is needed to make cellular energy.
NAD+ (Nicotinamide Adenine Dinucleotide) is a compound found in all human cells. NAD+ is the booster to get DNA repaired and is necessary during the aging process
Emerging research has shown an association between the depletion of NAD+ and accelerated aging (Lautrup S et al, 2019). The metabolic energy needed to keep the brain healthy depends on the mitochondria and NAD+ to change glucose into energy for brain cells. Low levels of NAD+ cause problems with the conversion of glucose and reduced energy to the brain. It is interesting that there is a correlation between loss of NAD+ and mitophagy.
- Mitophagy is the breakdown of the mitochondria by autophagy.
Autophagy is when the body cleans out damaged cells to help regenerate new, healthy cells. Mitophagy can occur because of oxidative damage and stress.
When NAD+ levels are maintained it has been shown to have a positive effect on the brain (Fricker, 2018). It helps to protect neurons and helps to improve cognitive function, alertness and reduces oxidative stress (Massudi, 2012). It is oxidative damage that is involved during aging and effects biological and physiological functions (Masudi 2012).
NAD+ may promote ketone levels in the body to preserve brain health
The NAD+/NADH ratio provides the overall status of mitochondrial metabolism. NAD is involved in signaling ketones and research shows that it may increase the redox of the NAD+/NADH ratio in the brain of healthy young adults at rest.
Redox is when there is a cellular chemical reaction where the oxidation states of
atoms are changed.
Ketones are compounds that are produced when insulin levels are low and the body is unable to convert glucose into energy. The body then uses fat for energy by taking it and changing it into ketones. Therefore, ketones are an alternative fuel for the brain.
Healthy human tissue has a high ratio of free NAD+ to NADH in the cytoplasm to help promote oxidative reactions. By showing this effect in research provides a hint of the possible way nutritional ketosis might help to preserve brain health.
NAD+ can be increased by the following:
Foods like tuna, salmon and sardines are sources of NAD+ , but also there are NAD+ precursors. They help the manufacturing of NAD+ in the body and demonstrate that they have health benefits. These precursors include nicotinic acid (NA), Nicotinamide mononucleotide (NMN), Nicotinamide riboside (NR), and nicotinamide (NAM). Precursors show that they help maintain NAD+ levels during aging and when there are health problems (Braidy N, et al, 2018).
If one has a health condition and or taking medication, they should check with their health care provider prior to taking any type of supplement.
In summary, people take for granted the importance of the brain. With aging there are different problems that occur. The hallmarks of the aging brain include increased oxidative damage, mitochondrial dysfunction and energy metabolism problems. There is potential to increase the body’s NAD+ levels with diet and supplementation.
This article is for educational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.