What the *@#! is NADH?
July 12, 2006 8:45 PM   Subscribe

What is NADH, does it work, is it safe to use?

I'm working a job where I sit in front of a computer all day. I'm supposed to be doing work all day, but I'm almost always lured into clicking through random crap on the internet. I came across this post on boingboing today (http://makezine.com/pub/tool/NADH) but couldn't find a lot of information about NADH on wikipedia, and my google searches bring up mostly online health store/pharmacy type sites. Anybody have any experience with this stuff or can tell me how it works?
posted by youthenrage to Health & Fitness (19 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
holy shit, i was literally about to ask this same question, from boingboing as well...

while not totally unbiased, i found this article, which seems to go more into the specifics...wikipedia talks about how it apparantly raises dopamine and noradrenalin levels in the brain, and has a secondary effect on seratonin. This seems a little to good to be true, but any testimony ive read so far seems positive. Seeing how essential it is to respiration, i dont see any reason for not trying it. I think ill buy some tomorrow.
posted by Kifer85 at 9:15 PM on July 12, 2006

Not respiration as in breathing, but respiration as in cellular respiration. I doubt it'll do any good.
posted by spaceman_spiff at 9:24 PM on July 12, 2006

"Nicotinamide Adenine Dinucleotide" -- chemically and pharmacologically related to nicotine? I wouldn't be surprised.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 9:26 PM on July 12, 2006

It's an enzymatic cofactor (a coenzyme, in fact, since it's organic.) It doesn't sound like you want too much detail on that aspect of what it does, but it helps shuttle around hydrogens {in the form of hydride ions} and facilitates the oxidation and reduction of various things. Which more or less means that it helps certain sorts of chemical and enzymatic reactions happen. It's involved in quite a few of the reactions that go on in your body [many of which have nothing to do with brain-functions], and it's already present in your body.

Does it work? It's a great cofactor. But does it safely treat ADD or improve concentration or do any of the other things that the boingboing post suggests it does? Who knows?! A quick search on scholar.google.com isn't turning up any studies connecting NADH and ADD/ADHD, and most of the results in a normal google search seem to be people peddling the stuff, which isn't a particularly ringing endorsement. Kifer85's link goes to one of those sites, which makes a lot of claims but doesn't actually link to papers either {there's a single, somewhat dubious source - the Birkmayer institute - and the papers that the Birkmayers have published seem to make more modest claims, mostly relating to Parkinson's, and there seems to be some dispute over their conclusions}. Note that the fact that it occurs naturally in the body doesn't necessarily mean that more will be beneficial - it may even be harmful, since [in a healthy person] the concentrations of many chemicals are very carefully controlled.

To me, at least, it sounds about as reputable as unregulated herbal remedies - maybe it works, maybe it works but has dangerous side effects, maybe it does nothing, maybe it's just harmful, maybe the effects vary a lot with dosage, maybe a high dosage can have cumulative effects... [Judging by the MSDSes for the compound, there's not even much information available on short-term health hazards and LD50s, let alone long-term effects.] Unfortunately, without studies, there's no real way to know, and anecdotes, which are very subjective and don't control for stuff like the placebo effect, aren't really a great thing to base health-related decisions on.
posted by ubersturm at 9:37 PM on July 12, 2006

This paper claims that orally-administered NADH gets broken down in the stomach, and it would seem they're not sure if the end-product is metabolically active.
posted by greatgefilte at 9:43 PM on July 12, 2006

Now I'm intrigued as well after reading the make article... but am also somewhat confused. Can anyone shed light on this paragraph:
Of course, those spineless wingnuts at the FDA allowed 150 Darwinist case studies to ruin it for everyone, so now no one is getting anything done. Thanks a lot, stroke-disposed college freshmen!
posted by j at 9:43 PM on July 12, 2006

A good thing to remember about nutritional supplements is that, biochemically, it's long road from the human mouth to the brain. The digestive tract is very good about breaking down complex molecules, especially those that the body itself readily resynthesizes for basic metabolism. [NADH is not a simple molecule, and may not survive digestion.] It is also very selective about the molecules that it allows across the various cellular barriers of the gut, to be absorbed by the blood stream for transport. Even if a molecule makes it through to the blood stream, it can be readily removed or converted for storage or elimination by the liver or kidneys. And even if it survives all that, it still has to get across the notoriously highly selective blood/brain barrier, to have any effect on the brain's function.

Without convincing double-blind clinical trials to demonstrate its safety and efficacy for the treatment or improvement of some conditions, I wouldn't spend real money on it, and I certainly wouldn't take it in any large quantity.
posted by paulsc at 9:44 PM on July 12, 2006

(Caveat: paper dealt with mice, not humans.)
posted by greatgefilte at 9:44 PM on July 12, 2006

Broadly speaking, NAD is a molecule that aids in the extraction of energy from food. NADH can be used to convert ADP to ATP, and ATP is the basic unit of energy within the cell. I would guess that taking a NADH supplement might allow your body to directly use the supplemental NADH to create new ATPs. However, it's also likely that the NADH would be excreted, as I believe that all the NAD type molecules are recycled continuously and that the body only needs a certain amount of them.
posted by lemur at 9:46 PM on July 12, 2006

It is chemically related to nicotine in that the they both have a single aromatic that has a nitrogen substitution . It is, however, more closely related to the b vitamin niacin from which your body synthesizes it.

NADH functions as an electron receptor/donor in metabolic pathways (which is why you will see it change between NADH to NAD+) -- it is present in the reactions that the body uses to break down sugar, glycolysis, and the main energy production reaction, the citric acid cycle. What it does is serve as an intermediate that absorbs the energy generated in the breakdown of metabolites and delivers that energy to the electron transport chain that the mitochondria use to generate ATP, which is the "energy currency" that all living organisms utilize.

And gods, that MAKE post is crap. NADH is not a freaking enzyme as it is not an protein, it is a cofactor. You can think of NADH as being in the same class as a vitamin. As long as you are getting enough niacin of B6, you don't need to take any extra NADH as you body is quite capable of synthesizing it on its own.
posted by The Bishop of Turkey at 9:46 PM on July 12, 2006

oops... "enough niacin or B6"
posted by The Bishop of Turkey at 9:48 PM on July 12, 2006

j: that paragraph is a reference to ephedrine, which has stimulant effects, and has been forced off the market because its been implicated in causing heart problems.

I doubt taking NADH orally is harmful to anything besides your wallet.
posted by Good Brain at 9:59 PM on July 12, 2006

j: the make poster was referring to the fda's ban on the sale of products containing ephedra. the OP of the make article was self-medicating his self-diagnosed "ADD" with ephedrine and caffeine, and is sad that the FDA won't allow him to act the fool any longer.
posted by casconed at 10:05 PM on July 12, 2006

posted by casconed at 10:06 PM on July 12, 2006

Just to make a bad analogy, taking NADH orally and expecting it to get to the right place in the cells to actually make a difference in their function is kind of like eating a specific piece of animal flesh and expecting it to graft itself directly into a specific place on one of your muscles rather than being broken down to its amino acids and then build up into human muscle.

Anytime you eat animal cells, you're eating a relative shitload of NADH.
posted by 517 at 12:04 AM on July 13, 2006

The NADH believers appear to be taking it sublingually(sp?) (ie, under the tongue), so avoiding the digestive issues.

I have no idea whether the stuff has any actual effect.
posted by pharm at 1:21 AM on July 13, 2006

Actually the FDA's ephedra ban has been overturned.
posted by delmoi at 2:10 AM on July 13, 2006

The average human body (80 kg/176 lbs) already contains 16 - 26 grams of NADH.

So taking a pill that contain 0.0025 grams of NADH (the 2.5 milligram tablets shown in the Make zine picture) is a drop in the bucket.

If you eat a typical amount (maybe 700 grams of biomass) then you're already getting 0.150 - 0.250 grams of NADH every day.

For those playing at home, I'm ball-parking cellular NADH concentrations at 0.33 - 0.5 mmol/kg of cells
posted by Mercaptan at 6:22 AM on July 13, 2006

As people have covered, takig NADH is pretty much useless as long as you're getting B vitamins from another source.

Let me take the time to address some things that I have personally found to work, as well as seem to make some sense biochemically.

Piracetam, as well as Modafinil, both availble for import to the USA for personal use. T-Nation, a site I link to far more often that I probably should, but I think they make great stuff, and I have been into so-called "life extension and enhancement" for over a decade. Old enough to be embarrassed by some of the things I've posted to Usenet, let's put it that way....
posted by Mr. Gunn at 6:47 AM on July 13, 2006

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