by Nils Osmar. Updated July 28, 2023. Medical Disclaimer
In this article, I’ll be looking at a molecule called NAD+, a natural biological compound taken by a lot of people in the anti-aging community, and how we can raise the level of it inexpensively or for free.
Why raise NAD+?
NAD (short for nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide), has many beneficial effects in the body. We would not be alive without it.
- It helps convert the energy in food molecules into a “universal energy currency” that can be utilized by our cells.
- It helps repair damaged DNA.
- It protects cells from stress.
- According to David Sinclair, NAD+ supports our sirtuin genes, which Sinclair views as longevity genes, designed specifically to combat aging and help us live longer. Sirtuins are “NAD+-dependent”, meaning that they can’t do much without an ample supply of NAD+.
- When we’re young, we have lots of NAD+ in our cells. As we age, the levels decrease. Higher levels of are associated with better health. So supplements and treatments claiming to increase NAD+ levels are growing in popularity.
The best-known way to raise NAD+ is to take precursor supplements such as NMN or NR.
For those who want to try this, the good news is that one of them, NMN, has come down significantly in price in the past two years. NMN used to cost over $5 a gram, even when bought in bulk. The NMN I’m currently taking (bulk powdered NMN sold by DoNotAge), is around $1 a gram when purchased using the company’s discount code, PATHWAYS (in all caps). Most people who take NMN take a gram a day, so your cost will be around $1 a day when taking their product.
Note: When you’re buying NMN or other supplements, be sure to calculate the price per gram. Some “cheap” brands are inexpensive because they contain 100 mg or less per capsule; the cost of these products is often over $12 a gram, which no guarantee that you’re getting actual NMN.
To me, supplements are worth it. They’re a convenient way of restoring our NAD levels to approximate those found in young adults, and the evidence suggests they are effective. (See this article.) BTW, you can also extend the shelf life of NMN (if you choose to use it) by refrigerating it and keeping the containers tightly sealed to keep moisture out. (Extending its life is a way of getting better value for your money, if you make the decision to buy it.)
But for those who are on a tight budget, even $1 day can add up. So in this article I’ll be focusing on ways to raise your NAD levels at no cost.
How to raise NAD+ without supplements
- Doing HIIT exercise (high intensity interval training.) (The trick is to exercise vigorously enough to create a temporary oxygen deficit.) In plain English: There can be benefits to getting out of breath once in a while. See study. One example would be running as hard and fast as you can — then walking — then running as hard and fast as you can again — then walking. The shifts between walking and running, between pushing ourselves to the limit and giving ourselves 15 or 20 seconds to recover, are what make out body think we may be running from a predator, and kick it into survival mode.
- Doing resistance training has also been shown to raise NMN. In one study, a group of men in their sixties were able to raise their NAD to match those of young athletes after several weeks of weightlifting. Note: If there’s a medical reason that you should not be exercising, or should not be exerting yourself on this level, don’t do it. But if there’s not, doing HIIT exercise at least three days a week is a quick and easy way to start skyrocketing your NAD levels.
- Walking: For those who are unable to do HIIT, walking 10,000-15,000 steps a day also shows evidence of raising NAD.
- Doing Intermittent fasting, also known as time restricted eating (leaving a space of at least 12 hours, preferably 16 hours, between your last meal at night and first meal the next day), also raises NAD+ levels. If you do intermittent fasting, it’s recommended that you avoid eating in the last 3 or 4 hours before you go to bed, so that you’ll go to bed a little hungry. The absence of food in your digestive tract is what triggers your body to produce more NAD+) See article.
- Doing a prolonged water fast — or a fasting mimicking diet like the one developed by Dr. Valter Longo — also raises NAD+. Fasts and fasting mimicking diet make our NAD levels skyrocket, and they also promote a deep cleaning a cellular level called autophagy, and an even deeper cleaning called apoptosis, in which half-dead cells called senescent cells are cleaned out of the body. See article. As a bonus, if you do a five day fast or fasting mimicking diet, then start eating nutritious foods again, your body will replace the senescent cells it cannibalized, with thousands of new stem cells. See article.
- Hot and cold exposure. Take a cold shower, or fill the tub with cold water then throw in some ice, climb in, and spend a few minutes shivering. See study. Taking a sauna (heat exposure) works too. See study. Another alternative would be taking a contrast shower, i.e., alternating betweeen very hot and very cold stretches, in the same shower. I start most days with a contrast shower. I turn the water as hot as I can take it for about four minutes; then ice cold for a minute; then hot again, for another four; then cold for the final four minutes.
- Eating a ketogenic diet. See study: Nutritional Ketosis Increases NAD+/NADH Ratio in Healthy Human Brain: An in Vivo Study by 31P-MRS
- Eating fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir. See article
- Calorie restriction. According to this study, restricting calories raises NAD+ by lowering levels of NADH. This is consistent with previous studies showing that, in lab animals, restricting calories significantly lengthens the animals’ lifepans. (Note: Unless done carefully, restricting calories can result in nutrient deficiencies. And it’s not necessarily a pleasant life; animals kept on low calorie diets have depressed immune systems and tend to be angry and aggressive toward other animals.)
Not quite free, but low-cost approaches
Eating or drinking foods rich in apigenin, such as parsley and chamomile tea, will help maintain high levels. Parsley and chamomile are rich in a compound called apigenin, which lowers levels of an enzyme called CD38. (CD38 destroys NAD+ in the body; its levels rise as we age; this is thought to be the reason NAD+ levels drop.)
Apigenin can also be purchased as a supplement. To be clear, apigenin does not raise NAD+ levels exactly; it’s not a precursor. Its benefit is that it helps to keep NAD+ levels high once you’ve raised them.
The food additive malic acid, often used in cooking, also increases NAD+ levels indirectly. See study: NAD+ metabolism: pathophysiologic mechanisms and therapeutic potential
Buying bulk powders (as mentioned above) can save you up to 50% per gram on the cost of NMN. Why pay for the NMN to be put into capsules if there’s no need to?
Current evidence supports the idea that sirtuin activation matters too. This means that while raising NAD+ has some benefits, it won’t do us a lot of good unless we activate our sirtuin genes. For that, it seems useful to take sirtuin activators such as resveratrol, fucoidan or cyanidin. See study.
I take Gaia Herbs Black Elderberry Extract along with DoNotAge’s SIRT6 Activator and resveratrol along with my NAD Boosters for that reason. See study.
Is there proof that eating foods rich in fucoidan or taking elderberry elderberry products raises SIRT6 levels significantly in humans? Studies are ongoing, but are leaning in that direction. See article.
To my mind, it makes sense to eat highly nutritious foods and take supplements which “might” activate SIRT6. But I certainly understand those who decide to focus on supplements instead. You’ll have to decide for itself which course of action it makes sense to you.
What about niacin?
One inexpensive supplement which raises NAD by providing its precursor components is niacin. It raises NAD levels while reducing total cholesterol, LDL and triglycerides, and increasing HDL (“good”) cholesterol.
Niacin does have one problematic side effect from an anti-aging point of view, which is that it also raises blood glucose. When I take it, I usually add some berberine to counteract the blood sugar effect. Also, time release and extended release niacin, if taken in a large dose, have been implicated as a possible cause of liver damage. I do take niacin, but I take a small dose (500 mg) three times a week, not to raise NAD+; that amount would not raise it appreciably; but to control my lipids.
What I’m doing
I take several NMN, apigenin, malic acid, parsley powder, and several other NAD boosters and sirtuin activators in the mornings; and work out; and take hot/cold showers; and take saunas. I’m 70, At my age, NAD+ levels would normally be expected to drop precipitously. So I like raising NAD+ in all of the ways I can.
I buy about a third of my supplements, including NMN, resveratrol, SIRT6 Activator, hyaluronic acid, Ca-AKG and TMG, from DoNotAge. Their SIRT6 Activator is particularly interesting to me. I’m told that human studies are taking place now to clarify the results in humans, and will be published soon. I’ll share the results here when they are. Using their discount code (PATHWAYS in all caps) makes them more affordable
Other brands that I like anti-aging supplements are Jarrow, Gaia Herbs, Life Extension and BioGaia. Jarrow is an excellent source of CoQ10 (ubiquinol) and NAC. Gaia Herbs is my source for Black Elderberry Syrup. This isn’t to say they’re the only reputable companies, but they are ones that I trust.
Whichever company you buy from (if you decide to buy supplements), I would always recommend calculating the price per gram to get the best value. And make sure they’re selling the real thing. Some of the sellers on Amazon claiming to sell NMN were recently shown to be selling fraudulent products. One contained zero grams of NMN.
(If you’d like to learn more about the NAD boosters I take (or about NAD boosters in general), see this page.)
Want to support this website?
If you like the content of this website, you can support it in two ways:
- Donating through my Buymeacoffee account: buymeacoffee.com/nilsosmar
- Buying anti-aging supplements and products from DoNotAge.org using the discount code PATHWAYS. (DoNotAge is my channel’s sponsor; when you use the discount code, you’ll be buying high quality supplements developed to support healthy aging and life extension, and the channel will receive a small payment, enough to keep us going)
Not medical advice
This article is not intended as, and should not be taken as, medical advice. I’m not advising that people eat any particular diet or take any particular supplements, just reporting on what I’m doing. All supplements can have side effects; I would encourage people to research both possible benefits and side effects before starting on any supplementation regimen. See full Medical Disclaimer