At the beginning of the 20th century, English biochemists Arthur Harden and William John Young noticed that the addition of boiled and filtered yeast extract to unboiled extracts significantly enhanced alcoholic fermentation in the latter. The factor responsible for this phenomenon, scientists called coenzymes. Later, Hans von Euler-Chelpin identified this factor as NAD – nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide, coenzymes existing in all living cells. In metabolism, NAD participates in redox chains, transferring electrons between reactions.
What role does NAD play in human bodies? How does coenzyme contribute to extending life and why is a full healthy sleep essential? Do physical activities really slow down aging? Siim Land, an anthropologist and partner of the Eternity Life Clinics project, answered these questions during the Eternity Life Forum, an international online conference on life extension.
NAD: its functions and relationship with aging
NAD acts as a fuel for many key biological processes and participates in increasing life expectancy and improving well-being. First of all, NAD participates in energy production and conversion of calories into energy, transferring electrons from one reaction to another. DNA repair, energy release, anti–inflammatory chains, antioxidant effect, genome stability and exercise efficiency – NAD plays a key role in all these processes. Studies show that a low level of NAD in the body contributes to the appearance of signs of aging: metabolism slows down, which leads to an increase in body weight, weakening of blood sugar control, fatigue, deterioration of blood vessels, decreased muscle mass, and deterioration of cognitive abilities.
“By the age of 40, a person has less than half of the NAD that was contained in the body in adolescence. When you are young, you may not stick to a diet, and do not sleep at night, you already have a high level of NAD, which helps to eliminate damage and maintain the necessary level of energy. But over time, these energy levels weaken for a number of reasons, for example, because of lifestyle. If you lead an unhealthy lifestyle, you deplete natural NAD levels faster,” notes Siim Land.
It’s no secret that people who lead an active lifestyle retain a good level of cognitive and physical abilities longer. Sports contribute to the synthesis of neurotrophic protein that stimulates the growth of neurons and the formation of new neural connections. The results of the relevant studies were published in the journal Cell Metabolism in 2013.
According to Siim Land, about 80-90% of NAD is produced daily in the process of metabolism and depends on the amount of energy processed. There are several ways to produce NAD in the body. The Preiss-Handler pathway converts niacin from animal protein to NAD. Another pathway, De Novo biosynthesis, converts tryptophan and other amino acids into a coenzyme. In addition, NAD production can be stimulated by taking nicotinamide mononucleotide (NMN) or nicotinamide riboside (NR).
The most important role in the formation of NAD is played by the NAMPT enzyme, directly depending on circadian rhythms – cyclic fluctuations in the intensity of various biological mechanisms connected with day and night shifts.
“NAMPT is a crucial link in the development of NAD. NAMPT depends on SIRT 1, which is a circadian gene. This means that if your circadian rhythms are shifted and do not function correctly, then you won’t produce NAMPT enzymes either. As a result, the energy level will decrease and NAD will not be produced in the required amount. For the body to produce NAD “on autopilot”, it is necessary to ensure circadian rhythms, sleep and wake cycles, are aligned and synchronized,” emphasizes partner of Eternity Life Clinic.
Circadian rhythms function in daily-cycles. They run almost everything in our bodies. Man is a diurnal being. Our body has evolved its own cycles to adapt to the world around us.
Melatonin, cortisol and circadian alignment
In anterior hypothalamus region is suprachiasmatic nucleus – main circadian rhythms generator in mammals, controlling melatonin. Main factor affecting circadian rhythms is light. If they’re disrupted, aging mechanisms are activated, and the accompanying inflammatory processes, DNA damage, the risk of cardiovascular diseases and diabetes increases, and body weight may increase. At the same time, the NAD level is also decreased.
“By adhering to circadian rhythms, you keep your organism in a state of slow-aging. SIRT 1 is activated, which allows NAPMT to recycle NAD through the disposal pathway. As a result, the epigenetics of longevity grows,” says Siim Land.
The alignment of the circadian rhythm is based on three components: cortisol (“stress hormone”), melatonin and the day-night rhythm. Cortisol levels are highest in morning, around 9 o’clock, – the task of this hormone is to get up. Then it gradually decreases and remains low at night. Melatonin is low in day-light but rises before bedtime and its production is maximum during sleep. Thanks to this hormone, recovery processes are started in the body. Siim Land calls melatonin “the No. 1 anti-aging hormone”. According to the partner of Eternity Life Clinics, there’re two main principles of circadian rhythm support. First is influence of morning light, which stimulates suprachiasmatic nucleus of cerebrum. This contributes to cortisol release; it’s so important in morning and improves metabolism and digestion. The second is blocking blue and green lights at night.
“The blue and green light has a wavelength of 550 to 40 nanometers – this greatly suppresses melatonin. 90% of melatonin is suppressed by artificial light, for example, from a smartphone screen, TV, or lamp. The red or amber light coming from the sunset, candles, or bonfire does not limit the production of the hormone so much,” emphasizes Siim Land.
With age, a person produces less and less melatonin, which negatively affects many biological mechanisms. Aging slows down melatonin production at night and cortisol – in the morning, the quality of sleep and the level of antioxidant protection decreases, and circadian rhythms are lost. Processes can be countered and key to it, in accordance with the expert, may be NAD.
Factors that help maintain high levels of NAD are reducing bright artificial lights, cutting down calories and even discontinuous fasting. It is essential to get sunlight in morning and sleep in complete darkness. Another mandatory principle is physical activity. Almost all physical exercises will be useful for the production of NAD and increase energy levels. And, of course, a full sleep: a minimum is 6 hours is enough for an adult, and 8 is optimal. With intense physical exertion, you may need 9 hours of sleep. A shorter duration leads to impaired metabolism, decreased testosterone and aging of cells.
Simple rules for everyone
Siim Land recommends going out more often. Even in cloudy weather, it is important to go outside at least for a short period of time. In addition, during the day, artificial lighting should be as good as possible in the room. In the evening, on the contrary, it is necessary to exclude blue and green light, leaving only yellow and red. Before going to bed, it is recommended to dose screen time or give up gadgets altogether. In extreme cases, you can use glasses that block the blue spectrum. We should sleep at least 6-hours-period in total darkness. The next rule is sports. Almost any physical activities will benefit by helping to process and maintain the NAD coenzyme. Ideally, you need to work out 3 times a week. And finally, nutrition: 3-4 meals a day will be optimal. Remember the last meal should be 3-4 hours prior to bed-time: food in stomach during sleeping interferes with the recovery processes. You can practice discontinuous fasting.
Following these simple rules will help to resist aging and unlock the potential of the body.