We all know that our bodies are supported by a range of different proteins, vitamins, minerals, nutrients, amino acids, and coenzymes. From how well our brain functions and how fast we think to how well our joints move and how quickly we heal, getting the right nutrients and making sure we have enough substances to go about our day-to-day lives is crucial to staying healthy.
One such substance that carries major importance is NAD or Nicotinamide Adenine Dinucleotide. NAD is a coenzyme found naturally in our bodies that is responsible for a number of processes, including the creation of energy and the rebuilding and repairing of cells throughout the body. NAD is found in every cell of the body and helps regulate our metabolism, which is largely responsible for how we process and digest food and whether we gain weight.
Knowing that its primary function is to create energy for our body, which is vital to everything else functioning properly, the next question is how exactly does it help the body create more energy, and what can we do to help it as we age?
NAD as a substance in the body
To understand how NAD works to help the body create more energy, you first have to understand exactly what it is. Along with other substances like niacin (vitamin B3), NAD is essentially a helper molecule that allows cells in the body to function.
A range of different NAD precursors or substances can eventually become NAD. Each one follows a different route to get there and functions differently in the body. Some substances that eventually become NAD bond to the proteins in the food we eat, while others are part of complex molecule chains that are designed to aid with a specific bodily function.
The one area where NAD and its precursors are most impactful is in the metabolic system. NAD acts as a regulator for metabolic function by controlling the transfer of energy from cells throughout the body thanks to the process of cellular synthesis.
Cellular synthesis is essentially the bonding of different substances together to create new ones that are critical to certain functions in the body. NAD as a coenzyme is able to facilitate cellular growth on a number of levels thanks to the many different pathways that can lead to its creation; in other words, because NAD is present in every cell of the body, and there are many ways to create NAD, it is possible for it to interact with, change and modify the state of various cells in the body through synthesis and other means.
NAD and cellular respiration
To understand how cells create energy and how NAD assists that process throughout the body, it is important to understand the process of cellular respiration, what it is and how it works.
Cellular respiration refers to the process by which cells take oxygen and combine it with key nutrients from food and use that to create chemical energy for the body and waste products in the form of carbon dioxide and water.
In short, the cells fuse together oxygen with important components from the things we eat, such as proteins, vitamins, and minerals, and the leftovers come out in the form of waste byproducts that the body then expels.
During the process of respiration, NAD acts as a carrier vessel to transport electrons to the cells, which is what the cells use to harvest energy to perform various functions. NAD is able to pick up spare electrons, becoming a new substance NADH, wherein it then takes the stored electrons to the various cells, the cells accept them and use them to create energy, and the process starts again.
To put it simply, NAD is the vehicle that drives energy production in the cells because, without NAD, the electrons necessary to create energy would not be present. This is why, as we age and the amount of NAD found naturally in our bodies is reduced, we have less energy.
Cellular energy at its most basic level is the energy needed by our cells to do work. The processing of waste, the creation of new brain and blood cells, sending pain signals, and any and everything you can think of that your body does on a cellular level are directly tied to cell respiration and the creation of energy.
NADH, glycolysis, and fermentation
Another factor that contributes to the lack of NAD in our bodies is that throughout the energy generation process, we lose natural NAD as it becomes NADH in order to transport electrons through the cells. This means that the more energy that our cells need, the less free-floating NAD we have in the body. This forces the body to find other ways to create new NAD in order to keep the energy creation process functioning.
The process of breaking down glucose (sugar) into energy is known as glycolysis. When this happens, large amounts of NADH are created, and the body has to figure out a way to restore NAD.
There are a number of ways that the body may create more NAD, such as through the synthesis of NAD precursors into new NAD enzymes. However, one of the primary ways that cells typically choose to restore NAD naturally is through the process of fermentation.
Fermentation is the process by which the body takes used electrons from the process of energy production and removes them from NADH, and gives them back to the substances they came from. This returns the NADH back to its base form of NAD.
If we look at it as a supply chain, NAD picks up full electrons and becomes NADH; it drops off those electrons with the cells to create energy and waits. When the cell is done using those electrons for energy, it takes them from the NADH and discards them. NADH is now unloaded of its electrons and becomes NAD again. This is the process of fermentation and allows glycolysis to continue while maintaining the supply of NAD.
NAD and metabolic rate
Now that we understand how the energy production process works, it allows us to tie in how NAD works with the body’s metabolism. The metabolism is the measure of how well your body converts food and drink into energy.
NAD plays a key role in the way that our body processes food and drink into energy because it acts as the carrier between cells. This means that the more NAD we have available, the faster we can convert food and drink to energy and the higher our metabolic rate.
In fact, low NAD has been shown to be directly linked to metabolic conditions like obesity. It is thought that as we age, the reason that weight gain is more difficult to control is due to the fact that NAD levels start to naturally decline.
Studies show that changes in diet and NAD supplementation can drastically affect energy level and weight gain and even reverse some of the effects of aging as the body is able to replicate cells and repair itself faster.
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