What are NAD Precursors?

We know our cells need high levels of NAD+ to function at their best. When we are young our cells can make lots of NAD+ but as we get older our cells are unable to manufacture the same high levels of NAD+ they once did. Research has shown this decline in NAD+ as we age contributes to many age-related symptoms such as lethargy, decreased strength and stamina and increased recovery time. Your body no longer works as efficiently as it did when you were 20.

Consequently, you may be interested in taking a supplement to help restore your NAD levels. There are several types of NAD boosting products on the market usually referred to as “NAD+ precursors” But what are NAD+ precursors?

An NAD+ precursor is simply any raw material that can be used by the cell to make NAD+. There are several NAD production pathways inside the cell so there are several different precursors.

  1. Tryptophan
  2. Nicotinic acid (NA)
  3. Nicotinamide (NAM)
  4. Nicotinamide riboside (NR)
  5. Nicotinamide mononucleotide (NMN)

NAD+ is a large molecule and therefore struggles to get through the cell wall. To circumvent this there are several pathways inside cell to produce NAD+. They are:

  • The Preiss-Handler pathway – which uses tryptophan as its raw material to convert into NAD+.
  • The de novo pathway - which uses nicotinamide riboside (NR) and converts it to nicotinamide mononucleotide (NMN) both of which are NAD+ precursors to produce NAD+.
  • The salvage pathway - uses nicotinamide (NAM) another NAD+ precursor. When NAD+ is used by the cell and broken down it produces NAM. As the cell uses NAD+ for so many reactions the salvage pathway is very important to recycle this NAM back into fresh NAD+.
Despite having several options to make NAD, they are not all equal. The salvage pathway and therefore nicotinamide (NAM) is the preferred pathway of the cell. It is responsible for the majority of NAD+ production so ensuring it works efficiently should be a priority.