The historical overview
Nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NADH) has been on the scientific radar since the early 20th century. The discovery of NAD+ (the oxidized form of NADH) dates back to 1906 when British biochemists Arthur Harden and William John Young noted a certain "coferment" that enhanced the fermentation of sugar in yeast. By the 1930s, Hans von Euler-Chelpin and his team had managed to isolate and identify the coferment as NAD+, a pivotal moment in biochemistry.
The subsequent decades have seen a surge of research into this critical molecule, uncovering the vital roles NADH plays in cellular respiration and energy production. Today, NADH is a prominent subject in the field of biochemistry, cellular biology, and the growing industry of nutritional supplementation through NADH+ supplements.
The biology and chemistry of NADH
NADH is a coenzyme, a non-protein compound that helps an enzyme catalyze a chemical reaction. It is found in all living cells and may play a role in energy metabolism.* In its oxidized state (NAD+), it accepts electrons from other molecules during metabolic reactions, becoming reduced to NADH.
This process occurs within the mitochondria—the powerhouses of our cells—during the Krebs cycle (also known as the citric acid cycle). NADH then shuttles these electrons to the electron transport chain, where they are used to generate ATP, the cell's primary energy currency.
On the chemical front, NADH is composed of two nucleotides, one containing an adenine base and the other a nicotinamide. These nucleotides are joined together by their phosphate groups, forming a structure that enables NADH to carry out its biological functions.
The NADH supplement revolution
In the wake of modern biochemistry and the surge of interest in health and wellness, NADH has found its way into the world of dietary supplements. The rationale behind this is simple: as we age, our bodies' natural NADH levels tend to decline. This decrease might also be linked to various conditions.
NADH supplements, usually derived from fermented yeast, might potentially support the body's NADH levels, thereby promoting energy metabolism and potentially healthy aging. Some studies suggest that NADH supplementation may support cognitive function and reduce fatigue for some individuals.* However, more comprehensive research is needed to fully understand the various roles of NADH and determine optimal dosing and usage.
Interesting facts about NADH
Versatility: Besides its fundamental role in energy metabolism, NADH may be involved in other biological processes, such as DNA repair and cell signaling, making it a versatile molecule.
Longevity connection: Research in the last decade has linked NAD+ levels to longevity and aging. Some studies suggest that boosting NAD+ levels could potentially slow the aging process.* Additional research is warranted.
Link to sleep: NADH may play a role in regulating the body's internal clock, or circadian rhythm. This biological clock controls many aspects of human health, including sleep patterns.
Therapeutic potential: Due to its role in energy production and cell health, NADH has been investigated for its potential in treating various diseases and disorders.
Food sources: NADH can't be directly obtained from food, but its precursor, niacin (vitamin B3), can be. Foods rich in niacin include poultry, fish, lean meats, legumes, nuts, and grains.
Dependency on magnesium: The production and utilization of NADH in the body might depend on the presence of sufficient magnesium. This essential mineral serves as a cofactor for the enzymes involved in NADH metabolism. You can also read about the role of D-ribose and the history of magnesium.