Bypassing the Digestive Tract to Optimize Health and Longevity
Let’s be real; the market is flooded with hundreds of “longevity” supplements with zero scientific backing.
But NAD (nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide) is a different story. It’s a science-backed anti-aging nutrient that’s a hit among biohackers and health enthusiasts for its role in energy production and cellular repair. That’s why NMN (a precursor to NAD) supplements have been so popular, as we discus in this article on the best NMN supplements.
However, oral NAD has poor bioavailability and isn’t particularly effective. It’s a conundrum researchers and manufacturers have been working on for a while.
We’ve written about the Best NAD+ Face Creams, Capsules, Nose Sprays, and Serums before, focusing on the most bioavailable products. However, something we didn’t include in that article is NAD patches – a new alternative to oral supplements that may offer a non-invasive and accessible solution to poor bioavailability.
In this article, I delve into NAD+ therapy and explore how transdermal patches could make it easier than ever to top up on this anti-aging compound.
NAD is an essential coenzyme produced in the body, present in all human cells.
Derived from vitamin B3 and the amino acid tryptophan, NAD binds to over 500 enzymes needed for cellular function, DNA repair, and gene expression. But it’s most well-known for its role in energy metabolism. Without sufficient NAD, you cannot produce energy.
NAD molecules act as electron carriers, helping mitochondria to make adenosine triphosphate (ATP) – the body’s energy currency. The mitochondria in your cells are energy-generating powerhouses. They rely on NAD (with nutrients from your food and oxygen) to do their job.
In short, NAD is like the “spark of life” your cells need for optimal health and vitality.
But – there is always a but – NAD levels decline due to aging, contributing to fatigue, inflammation, cognitive decline, DNA damage, immune system dysfunction, and more. Plus, factors like excessive alcohol consumption, nutrient deficiencies, and acute illness further deplete NAD.
The good news is, elevating cellular NAD with supplements may slow signs of aging and improve overall well-being. NAD precursors are also making waves amongst longevity science nerds – namely Nicotinamide Riboside (NR) and Nicotinamide Mononucleotide (NMN). But we’re not focusing on those today.
NAD comes in different forms depending on the chemical processes at play. In the mitochondria, NADH donates its electrons to become NAD+.
Put overly simply, NAD+ is the active form, while NADH is the inactive form. Most supplements deliver active NAD+.
While oral NAD+ supplements struggle to survive the digestive tract, cutting-edge researchers and manufacturers are working to improve bioavailability. However, unless you’re using liposomal NAD+, oral supplements might be a waste of time.
Now, the focus has moved to transdermal NAD+ products like nasal sprays, creams, IV infusions, injections, and patches. They skip the hassle of the digestive system and deliver the compound directly to your bloodstream.
IV therapy may be the gold standard for reliable absorption — but it’s expensive, invasive, and comes with risks and poor accessibility. In contrast, NAD+ patches may be easier and safer.
Transdermal patches deliver drugs, hormones, vitamins, and other substances via the skin’s semi-permeable barrier into the bloodstream.
Unfortunately, there isn’t much research on transdermal NAD+ patches yet; they’re a new development. That said, they may offer a reliable and steady dose of active NAD+.
No, it doesn’t magically travel through your skin using fairy dust.
The mechanisms depend on the specific formulation. But most use low-level electrical current – called iontophoresis – to bypass the digestive tract and facilitate NAD+ absorption through the skin barrier to the bloodstream.
Iontophoresis patches aren’t new. But they are newish in the supplement space.
Here’s how it works:
When you apply the NAD+ patch to your skin and switch it on, a tiny battery increases the permeability of a small skin area by creating a voltage gradient.
Basically, the positively charged side of the patch repels the positively charged molecule (in this case, NAD+) through the skin barrier to the bloodstream. It acts kind of like a magnet.
Don’t worry; the electric current is minuscule and won’t shock you. It’s just enough to give the NAD+ a nudge.
You can get a high dose of NAD+ through transdermal patches as it allows the supplement to bypass the digestive tract and reach your cells intact This is particularly useful for people with digestive issues and malabsorption problems, such as acid reflux, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
However, it’s still early days, and we don’t know everything about the correct dosage, side effects, and long-term effectiveness of NAD patches.
NAD is in the spotlight for its possible role in life extension. And this is due to proteins called Sirtuins.
Sirtuins are like remote controls – they turn metabolism-regulating proteins, enzymes, and genes on and off in your body. When sirtuins are functioning optimally, your cells are in excellent condition.
SIRT1, which relies on NAD+, is known for its role in longevity.
However, aging = poor mitochondrial function = reduced NAD+ production = less SIRT1 activity = increased risk of age-related illness.
Upping your NAD+ levels (either directly or indirectly via cofactors like NMN) may stimulate SIRT1 activity and support healthy aging (1). Another way to do this is via calorie restriction, a well-known life extension strategy.
Although much remains unknown about the effects of NAD+ treatment on longevity, ongoing research is fueling innovation in the anti-aging space.
NAD+ is essential for energy production, so many people with chronic fatigue and low mental energy take it as a supplement. By providing your mitochondria with more raw materials to make ATP, you may experience more consistent energy levels.
Age-related mitochondrial dysfunction is a hallmark of neurodegenerative disease.
Early research suggests supporting NAD+ levels may slow cognitive deterioration in Alzheimer’s disease. That said, this isn’t enough to draw firm conclusions just yet.
Muscle tissue is rich in mitochondria, which pump out tons of ATP to support strength and endurance. Well, it’s what should happen when your mitochondria are firing on all cylinders.
Declining NAD+ levels may contribute to muscle loss and general weakness associated with aging. Research on animals shows that using nicotinamide riboside (NR) to support NAD+ production may protect aging mice from muscle degeneration.
By supporting your NAD+ levels, you may notice your workouts are easier. As a bonus, it may encourage healthy weight loss (and all the benefits that come with it).
Advancing age is a risk factor for heart disease (surprise, surprise). Your blood vessels lose elasticity, oxidative stress increases, arteries stiffen, and blood pressure rises. Overall, it sounds pretty bleak.
However, this animal study found that taking NMN, an NAD+ precursor, may reduce oxidative stress and reverse age-related arterial dysfunction.
There is also an ongoing study exploring the effect of NAD+ on arterial stiffness and blood vessel health in older adults.
The future looks brighter, after all.
Overall, NAD is a naturally occurring compound, so the risk is relatively low when used correctly.
While there’s still much to learn about NAD+ patches, they may offer an advantage over oral supplements by eliminating common side effects like indigestion and nausea.
However, more research is needed on the patches specifically.
The upper arm, abdomen, inner arms, and thigh are common places for transdermal patches. Some patches, like those using iontophoresis, should be placed on hairless skin.
NAD patches are still new, and there isn’t enough research for a firm dosage recommendation.
Some emerging brands offer 400–1000 mg of NAD+ per patch, slowly delivered over several hours. But the ideal dosage and frequency depend on your age and specific health needs, so consult your healthcare provider for advice.
Most iontophoresis patches are designed for single use. You can remove the patch with soap and water when you’re done.
While natural health supplements aren’t FDA-regulated, some iontophoresis patches may have received FDA clearance as medical devices.
While NAD+ is completely legal, iontophoresis patches are medical devices and require a prescription.
Since NAD patches are still an emerging field, there isn’t a definitive list of the best products yet. We plan to change that as more research comes to the fore (so keep an eye out and bookmark RFS for future reference).
For now, discuss transdermal patches with your healthcare team.
However, if your doctor looks at you like an alien when you mention NAD, consult a certified integrative medical doctor familiar with holistic and preventive medicine.
Note: Be aware of “NAD booster” patches. Some companies are taking advantage of the emerging interest in transdermal products and making patches containing nutrients that may or may not support NAD+ production. But they claim they’re NAD+ patches. There’s nothing wrong with taking NAD+ precursors, but if you’re looking for a patch, make sure it contains the real deal.
NMN is a natural NAD+ precursor, with research showing it may slow age-related degeneration. NMN may be even more effective for boosting your NAD+ levels. You can find out more in our article on the Health Benefits of NMN.
However, the foundation of any anti-aging “protocol” should always include regular exercise, a nutrient-dense diet rich in high-quality protein, restorative sleep, social connection, and a sense of purpose. Consider these factors before any supplement routine.
If got more questions about NAD+ supplementation, explore our comprehensive article on the Best NAD+ Face Creams, Capsules, Nose Sprays, and Serums.