Health Benefits of NADH

Can the supplement treat chronic fatigue and Parkinson's?

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NADH, or reduced nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide, is made in your body from niacin, a type of B vitamin. NADH plays a role in generating energy in the body and is sometimes taken 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.

Health Benefits

Proponents 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 or based on rational 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 also shows that NADH can stimulate brain function, which may help alleviate the cognitive dysfunction associated with ME/CFS.
  • NADH may reduce the 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 published Antioxidants and Redox Signalling 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 co-administration of supplements increased the concentration of ATP in the bloodstream.

Similar results were seen in a 2016 study from Spain in which NADH and CoQ-10 reduced post-exertional malaise, a defining symptom of ME/CFS.

A 2011 review of studies published in BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine named NADH and magnesium as the only two supplements shown to improve ME/CFS symptoms.

Parkinson's Disease

The theory that NADH could influence Parkinson's disease (PD) was fueled by a 1996 study in which the intravenous administration of NADH for eight days translated to a transient improvement of PD symptoms. NADH also appeared to increase the concentration of levodopa (a primary drug used in PD therapy) in the bloodstream.

Subsequent studies have not replicated these results. In some cases, the effects were seen to be so transient as to not be practical. In others, no tangible effect on PD symptoms was found.

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, it 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, pregnant women, or nursing mothers.

Dosage and Preparation

NADH supplements are available without a prescription as either a capsule or enteric-coated tablet. They are easily sourced online or at nutritional supplements stores and larger retail pharmacies.

A safe, effective dosage 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.

When used for Parkinson's disease, the most effective dose is between 25 mg and 50 mg per day. 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 intravenous (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 doctor 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 voluntarily submitted for testing by the U.S. Pharmacopeia, ConsumerLab, or other independent certifying bodies. The certification verifies that the supplement contains the amount of active ingredient listed on the product label and is produced in accordance with federal regulations.

Other Questions

Can you boost your NADH levels with food?

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.

As opposed to the essential nutrients that we obtain from diet, NADH is synthesized in the body from freely circulating amino acid. As such, the only way to boost levels is by supplementing the body with additional NADH.

By contrast, the NADH consumed in food doesn't inherently get redistributed into the body. Most of it gets broken down into amino acids which the body uses for multiple purposes. Ultimately, 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.

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