Health Benefits of NADH

Can the supplement treat chronic fatigue and Parkinson's?

NADH, or reduced nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide, is a chemical made in your body from niacin, a type of B vitamin. NADH helps your body make energy. Some people take it in supplement form to treat chronic fatigue syndrome (also known as myalgic encephalomyelitis or ME/CFS).

Alternative practitioners believe that NADH can boost energy levels and improve mental clarity, alertness, concentration, and memory. Some athletes even take NADH to enhance performance and endurance. Although there are some promising findings, the evidence supporting NADH's use is often mixed or contradictory.

This article takes a closer look at the health benefits of NADH supplements along with the side effects that may come with taking them. It also discusses what you should look for when choosing a dietary supplement.

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Health Benefits

Those in favor of NADH supplements believe that they can boost the natural effects of NADH in the brain. Some even go so far as to suggest they can restore memory and cognitive function in people with Alzheimer's disease.

There are even ongoing investigations as to whether NADH, delivered by injection or intravenously (into a vein), can slow the progression of Parkinson's disease.

Here is what some of the current research says:

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

The bulk of the current research has been focused on NADH's use in treating ME/CFS. Much of the evidence is anecdotal (based on personal accounts), or based on hypotheses rather than clinical fact.

Among some of the theories as to why NADH may be beneficial:

  • NADH helps enzymes in your body convert food into energy in the form of adenosine triphosphate (ATP). Studies suggest that some people with ME/CFS have low levels of ATP.
  • Research shows that NADH can stimulate brain function, which may help alleviate the cognitive dysfunction associated with ME/CFS.
  • NADH may reduce fatigue by restoring the function of the mitochondria (tiny structures that power your cells). ME/CFS is believed to involve mitochondrial dysfunction.
  • NADH may help your brain create neurotransmitters, chemical messengers that influence mood and cognitive function (including serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine).

A few studies have looked at the combined use of NADH plus coenzyme Q10 (coQ-10) in people with ME/CFS.

A 2015 study reported that among 73 women with ME/CFS, the combined use NADH and CoQ-10 provided greater subjective increases in physical and cognitive function compared to a placebo.

Moreover, the combined use of NADH and CoQ-10 supplements increased ATP levels in the bloodstream.

Similar results were seen in a 2016 study from Spain in which NADH and CoQ-10 reduced post-exertional malaise (PEM), a defining symptom of ME/CFS. The CDC defines PEM as the worsening of symptoms following even minor physical or mental exertion.

A 2011 review of studies named NADH and magnesium as the only two supplements shown to improve ME/CFS symptoms.

Parkinson's Disease

The theory that NADH could slow Parkinson's disease (PD) was fueled by a study done in 1996. Over the course of eight days, researchers gave intravenous (IV) NADH to people with PD. At the end of the study, they noticed transient (short-lived) improvements in PD symptoms.

NADH also appeared to increase levels of levodopa (a drug used in PD therapy) in the bloodstream.

Although researchers have since tried to replicate these results, their attempts haven't been successful. In some cases, the effects were so transient that they could not be considered practical. In others, NADH did not appear to affect PD symptoms at all.

NADH's effect on depression and Alzheimer's disease also remains largely unproven.

Possible Side Effects

Side effects from NADH supplements are uncommon if taken in moderation. However, if used in excess, NADH can cause jitteriness, anxiety, and insomnia. If delivered by injection, NADH may cause injection site pain, swelling, and redness.

There has been little research investigating the long-term safety of NADH. While presumed to be safe, NADH supplements should not be used in children or people who are pregnant or nursing.

Dosage and Preparation

NADH supplements are available without a prescription as either a capsule or coated tablet. You can find them online, at nutritional supplements stores, or at larger retail pharmacies.

A safe, effective dosage of NADH for ME/CFS has not yet been established. Generally speaking, NADH is prescribed at dosages between 5 milligrams (mg) and 10 mg per day. The dose should be taken 30 minutes before a meal on an empty stomach.

There is no evidence that NADH supplements at any dose are useful in treating Parkinson's disease. NADH is not considered a stand-alone treatment for Parkinson's but rather a part of a holistic treatment plan. The dose would need to be administered by a health professional, either as an intramuscular injection or an IV infusion.

It is not known if NADH interacts with other drugs or supplements. To date, there has been little evidence of this in the medical literature. To be safe, always advise your healthcare provider about any supplement or over-the-counter remedy you may be taking in the event of an unexpected side effect or complication.

What to Look For

Dietary supplements do not need to undergo the rigorous testing and research that pharmaceutical drugs do. Because of this, you should always choose brands that have been submitted for testing by the U.S. Pharmacopeia, ConsumerLab, or other independent certifying bodies.

Certification verifies that the supplement contains the amount of active ingredient listed on the product label, and that it is in line with federal regulations.

Do Foods Contain NADH?

NADH is most certainly found in food, primarily in the muscle tissue of meat, poultry, and fish (as well as foods made with yeast). However, it is not known if your body can efficiently access NADH from the foods you eat.

Unlike the essential nutrients found in healthy foods, NADH is produced in the body from freely circulating amino acid. As such, the only way to boost NADH levels is by supplementing the body with additional NADH.

The NADH in food doesn't get redistributed into the body, either. Most of it gets broken down into amino acids which the body uses for multiple purposes.

The one element that the body needs to produce NADH is niacin, which is found in abundance in meat, poultry, oily fish, peanuts, avocados, asparagus, broccoli, potatoes, and liver.

Summary

NADH supplements are thought by many to have several health benefits—from boosting energy to keeping the brain sharp. Although theories in support of these benefits are strong, there is very little scientific proof in favor of NADH supplementation.

While NADH supplements are considered safe in moderation, it's always best to consult with your healthcare provider before starting any kind of dietary supplement.

A Word From Verywell

With tens of thousands available on the market, It can be tempting to take multiple supplements for shinier hair, more energy, or any other problem you think you may have.

Keep in mind that combining supplements, taking supplements with medicines, or taking too many supplements can all have harmful or even life-threatening consequences. Safety comes first; if your healthcare provider didn't recommend a supplement, make sure to inform them about any new supplements you decide to take.

11 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Adrienne Dellwo
Adrienne Dellwo is an experienced journalist who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and has written extensively on the topic.