In 2013, David Sinclair, PhD, professor of genetics at Harvard Medical School, scored a big news splash when he took a group of old mice and restored the mitochondria in their muscles to a youthful state after injecting them with a molecule that boosted levels of nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD+). His findings sparked interest in NAD+ as a possible anti-aging molecule.
Lost in the hype was the fact that a handful of physicians had been working with NAD+ dating all the way back to the 1950s when Abram Hoffer, MD used mega-doses of niacin, a precursor of NAD+, to treat schizophrenics.
In 2001, after her daughter overcame drug addiction with an NAD+ therapy, Paula Norris-Mestayer MEd, LPC, FAPA opened a clinic to treat addicts using an intravenous NAD+ solution. Her husband, Richard Mestayer, MD, joined her and since then Springfield Wellness has treated close to 1300 patients.
From the earliest days of the clinic, Richard Mestayer noticed just how effective their treatment was. "After completing our protocol, we would refer our patients to a state-supported rehab center for outpatient follow-up. The director of that program sent us a letter saying that the patients we sent were six to nine months cognitively ahead of the patients who walked in off the street."
While the majority of Springfield Wellness patients are treated for chemical dependencies ranging from alcohol to heroin, the clinic has also helped patients suffering from PTSD, depression, chronic pain, Parkinson's, and Alzheimer's.
Addison Thompson, a retired New Orleans police officer, came to Springfield Wellness with Parkinson's. "11 years after my diagnosis with Parkinson's, I was taking a lot of medicines with little to no affect," he says. "I was unsteady on my feet. I had constant tremors causing me to have to eat with a spoon. I went to Springfield and they put me on an IV of 1000 milligrams of NAD+. Within an hour, I looked at my hands and realized I didn't have tremors any more.
"My tremors stopped almost immediately. I quit stumbling. I quit drooling at night. I feel wonderful. I'm almost 80 years old and I feel like I'm 60."
So what is NAD+ and what does it do?
NAD+, a molecule found in every cell of the body, is essential for life. It enables the conversion of the food we eat into the energy and chemical products the body needs. Researchers have recently found that NAD+ is also required as a substrate by enzymes that regulate the expression of genes involved in cell viability and in repair of damaged DNA. Through these reactions, NAD+ influences a variety of processes involved in cell health, including improving mitochondrial efficiency, enhancing cell viability, down-regulating inflammation, increasing the antioxidant capacity of cells and tissues, and activating the 'longevity' enzyme SIRT1.
Given the role NAD+ plays in such a wide range of critical functions, it is easy to understand why it might have a profound effect on health and aging.
With DNA damage linked to deteriorating health, NAD+'s function in DNA repair, through its relationship with poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase, is of vital importance. NAD+ also plays a part in the immune function. CD38, an enzyme that influences the ability of antigen presenting cells to stimulate antigen specific T-cells, uses NAD+ to do its work.
CD38 activity also influences behavior through the regulation of oxytocin production, an important hormone influencing social engagement, so it's possible that NAD+ might help with disorders like autism.
If NAD+ proves to have some sort of anti-aging function, its connection to the sirtuins could be significant. The sirtuins are a class of proteins that influence a wide range of cellular processes like aging, transcription, apoptosis, inflammation and stress resistance, as well as energy efficiency and alertness during low-calorie situations. SIRT1 activity is dependent on NAD+ availability.
With the understanding of NAD+'s significance in health along with the fact that NAD+ levels in the body decline with age, it is possible that increasing levels of NAD+ may have positive effects on longevity similar to what was seen in David Sinclair's mice.
With that in mind, a number of organizations are searching for ways to boost NAD+ levels, with several experimenting with NAD+ precursors like nicotinamide riboside. Oral supplementation with NAD+ itself does not appear to raise serum NAD+ levels because NAD+ is metabolized in the gut. IV infusion seems to be the only effective way to increase NAD+ using this modality.
Richard Mestayer, who, as mentioned earlier, has been giving NAD+ IV therapy for years at Springfield Wellness, wants to research the full spectrum of NAD+ applications. "We just completed a Pharmacokinetic study where we measured changes in the metabolome in response to intravenous NAD+," he says. "We wanted to answer a number of questions. How much of the NAD+ changes to precursors and how much changes to NADH? How does it change? How long does it last?
"We're putting together a study to measure NAD+ and NADH levels in the brain before and after IV therapy using a sophisticated MRI. We want to find out if we can raise NAD+ levels in the brain.
"There is a lot we'd like to study in the future. We want to research the influence of NAD+ on reducing addictive cravings; to understand any effect it may have on neurodegenerative diseases. And because we have found intravenous NAD+ to raise nitric oxide levels, I'm curious about any potential effect on cardiovascular health.
"The problem is that we're a small clinic and research is expensive. Pharmaceutical companies will be motivated to find patentable drugs that can increase NAD+ levels, but because NAD+ itself can't be patented, they probably won't have much motivation to study it."
Nonetheless, there is growing interest in NAD+ as a potential anti-aging compound, and with each week an increase in evidence of its efficacy. In future years, NAD+ may become a key piece of a healthy regiment.
My NAD Experience
After reading a number of articles on the anti-aging potential of NAD+ over the course of a year, I decided to drive to Louisiana to give it a try. I hit the road, excited, but as I neared the Springfield Wellness Clinic, I began to feel a little uneasy, wondering if this was a goofy idea.
My doubts faded once I arrived at the clinic and met Dr. Mestayer. He clearly knew what he was doing and had had years of impressive results.
The next morning, Dr. Mestayer took my blood in order to test for before and after NAD+ levels, and then hooked me up to an IV of 1000 mg of NAD+. Within seconds, I felt light-headed. Apparently, this is a result of having the drip go too fast. When the nurse slowed the drip, the sensation subsided.
After my fourth and final day on the drip, I had the strangest experience. I had just finished dinner at a local restaurant. When I picked up the bill, I forgot to put my reading glasses on. To my surprise, I was able to read the small print perfectly.
When I returned to the hotel, I rushed to the sink and grabbed the little toiletry bottles: shampoo, body wash, and conditioner. I read them perfectly. Four days earlier, they had been a blur and I had needed to guess which was which in the shower.
Better eyesight was not the only outcome. Normally I don't dream, or at least, don't remember dreams. Now my dreams were vivid; living color, high-definition productions from my subconscious.
Most noticeable was my increase in energy. I am usually tired after a long drive and need to flop out on the couch for a while. However, after my six to seven hour drive home from Springfield (with no coffee, a first), I actually ran a few errands.
Over the next month, I didn't drink coffee. I somehow felt I it would be too stimulative. There were some additional less-than-positive effects: a bit of ringing in my ears and I felt a little spacey (I believe this is because I probably got more NAD+ than I needed). All this faded over time, along with the enhanced eyesight. And I eventually went back to drinking coffee.
A few months after my protocol at Springfield Wellness, I started taking an injectable solution of NAD+. I love this - I, without question, have more energy and it's not the jittery coffee-inspired kind. Rather, I just don't get tired. If I take it before I go to the gym, there is a big difference in my workout.
If you would like to look into NAD+, go to the Springfield Wellness website at www.springfieldwellnesscenter.com. And if you would like to speak with Dr. Mestayer, shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Steve Spencer owns the Birmingham Medical News.