Most of us are aware of steps we can take to support the health of our hearts, teeth, eyes and other vital organs. But when it comes to our brains, we’re often stumped. Here’s a clue: Experts say that providing the brain with more energy increases its resilience. Now two of these experts are explaining why energy is so essential, and how to boost your brain’s energy supply. It’s time we learn how to replenish supplies of a key energy-making molecule found naturally in our cells called nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD).
The relationship between cellular energy and Alzheimer’s disease
“Many believe that Alzheimer’s disease is an energy-deficiency disease,” comments Rudolph Tanzi, PhD, vice-chair of Neurology and director of the Genetics and Aging Research Unit at Massachusetts General Hospital. “When women go through menopause, the energy levels in their brain go down. Many experts think this is why two-thirds of Alzheimer’s disease patients are women.”
Dr. Tanzi co-discovered three of the first Alzheimer’s disease genes and has identified several others in the Alzheimer’s Genome Project, which he directs. He adds, “We know that if you can increase the cell’s energy, you can help it resist the tangles associated with Alzheimer’s Disease which cause inflammation and eventually cell death.”
Boosting our cellular energy
When you boost your energy at the cellular level, you won’t feel the immediate surge you may get with sugar or caffeine. It’s more like the steady background energy your smartphone uses to execute its many functions. Every cell in our body uses NAD to produce adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the molecular unit of energy your body uses to do absolutely everything in life.
“As we age, our NAD levels naturally decline. We need to encourage our bodies to make more NAD if we want to keep producing ATP and resisting cellular stress,” explains Charles Brenner, PhD, the Roy J. Carver Chair and Head of Biochemistry at the University of Iowa and Founding Co-Director of the University of Iowa Obesity Research and Education Initiative. “Many studies, including those in people, have shown that supplementing with a specialized form of vitamin B3 called NR efficiently boosts NAD production.” Brenner not only discovered NR but also identified the genes that account for how NR becomes NAD in people.
Will supplementing with NR improve how well our brains navigate the aging process? Research in model systems looks promising and has led to initiation of research in humans. Researchers hypothesize that if we can use NR to boost the NAD in our cells, then perhaps our cells – including those in our brain – may stay healthier and more resilient.