NMN supplements are exploding in popularity among in-the-know members of the wellness community. Champions of the compound, like Harvard geneticist David Sinclair, have suggested it may be the secret ingredient to combat the aging process, but what exactly is NMN?
Often, when we see discussions of NMN, we see another compound called NAD+ mentioned as well. Are NMN and NAD+ the same thing? If not, is one better for you than the other? Keep reading to learn more about NMN and NAD+, how they’re different, and how they might increase your overall wellness.
What Is NAD+?
Let’s start with NAD+.
NAD+ stands for nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide. It’s an important coenzyme that impacts every cell in the human body.
The compound was first discovered back in 1906 when British biochemists Sir Arthur Harden and William John Young accidentally stumbled upon it while observing the fermentation process. Today, we know that NAD+ plays a critical role in several of our metabolic processes. As a coenzyme, NAD+ helps to transfer electrons between molecules and assists enzymes catalyze chemical reactions.
It’s one of the most abundant molecules in our bodies, and we would cease to function without it. Unfortunately, we have a finite amount of NAD+, and as we get older, our NAD+ levels begin to decline.
NAD+ plays a significant role in the way our bodies convert food into energy. Additionally, it helps maintain proper cell function and DNA integrity.
Because NAD+ plays such a crucial role in so many biochemical life-sustaining processes, the natural decline in NAD+ levels can be associated with myriad different health conditions. But on the other side of that coin, preliminary research suggests that replenishing and persevering NAD+ levels can have several health benefits. These include:
- Increased muscle function: Mitochondria, known as the powerhouse of the cell, produces the energy needed for exercise. Preliminary research suggests that boosting NAD+ levels can increase mitochondrial function and thus increase our exercise capacity.
- Improved heart health: Heart disease is one of the leading causes of death in the world. Studies on animals have found that increased levels of NAD+ may help boost cardiovascular health.
- Metabolic disorder prevention: In addition to being heart-healthy, other animal trials have found that boosting NAD+ levels can help treat metabolic disorders like diabetes in rodents.
- Anti-aging effects: While aging is an inevitability of life, new research suggests that boosting NAD+ levels may combat the aging process and extend lifespans.
Much of what we know about NAD+ health benefits come from animal-based research. While this doesn’t directly translate to human beings, the results are incredibly promising and point toward NAD+ as the key to reversing aging and living longer.
What Is NMN?
NAD+ levels decline with age but resupplying the body with this essential coenzyme isn’t as simple as just taking an NAD+ supplement. NAD+ has low levels of bioavailability when taken as a supplement, which means our bodies aren’t able to make use of it. So, instead of taking NAD+ directly, many people take a different supplement that encourages the natural production of NAD+ instead. That’s where NMN comes in.
NMN stands for nicotinamide mononucleotide. It’s an organic molecule composed of the simple sugar ribose and a form of vitamin B3 called nicotinamide. NMN is notable in the wellness context because it’s a direct precursor to NAD+ and is bioavailable enough to be taken in supplement form.
Earlier, we discussed the benefits of boosting NAD+ levels. However, because NAD+ can’t easily cross cell membranes, it’s not practical to simply administer NAD+ supplements to boost NAD+ levels. Therefore, the best way to boost NAD+ with supplements is by instead taking a precursor like NMN.
When we take NMN orally, our bodies naturally absorb the compound and quickly convert it to NAD+. A recent clinical trial from 2021 confirmed for the first time that NMN supplements can increase NAD+ levels in human blood cells. In mice, NMN supplements have been found to increase NAD+ levels as quickly as 15 minutes from the time of administration.
If it’s true that NAD+ is the key to healthy aging, then NMN supplements may be the best way to glean the coenzyme’s beneficial anti-aging effects effectively.