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Isamaya Ffrench tries out NAD+, the anti-ageing miracle molecule


TextIsamaya Ffrench

NAD+ is a naturally occurring molecular compound that plays a vital role in how quickly our cells age; can injecting it into your veins turn back the effects of time on the body?

“I’m inserting the needle now. ”

“Ok.”

“How do you feel?”

My eyes roll back. “I’m going to faint...”

“Let’s reduce the dose rate.”

My head feels so heavy I have to support it with my hand. “I feel uncontrollably dizzy.”

“Don’t worry, it comes in waves. Just tell me if you’re going to be sick.”

I’ve been sleep deprived most of my adult life. At university I was a total insomniac and only managed about two hours a night due to stress and loud, chaotic dorms. Then I lived above a nightclub, and this was followed by a boyfriend who snored so loudly that I averaged four hours per night while we were together. When my career took off and I found myself on a long haul flight every single week for three and a half years, I was continually jetlagged and often working 48-hour jobs between flights and different countries. The watershed came when I started having neurological dysfunctions and eventually almost collapsed on set. 

Being relatively young, I didn’t think this lifestyle was too dangerous for someone like me. However, one day, I had a conversation with a DJ friend who had also been depriving himself of sleep for almost 20 years, gigging across the globe and struggling with insane sleeping patterns. He began researching sleep deprivation and deduced that, ultimately, he may as well have been doing heroin – it has the same devastating impact on the body that long-term lack of sleep can have.

So this is why I was here, to ‘get clean’, so to speak. Not from drugs, but from the damage I had been incurring to my delicate cells over the past decade.

“If NAD+ stops, we stop”

John Gillen is the founder and managing director of the Bionad Clinic in London which offers NAD+ treatments. NAD+ (Nicotinamide Adenine Dinucleotide) is a naturally occurring molecular compound found in all living cells that plays a vital role in regulating how quickly your cells age: something scientists are constantly, and so far unsuccessfully, trying to reverse... until perhaps now.

NAD+ also contributes to the transfer of energy from fatty acids and glucose to the mitochondria, which converts them to cellular energy, essentially helping the body to more efficiently break down fat and use it as energy. So essentially, all that good healthy eating you are doing is a total waste if your NAD+ levels are low, as the molecule is absolutely crucial to the food/energy conversion and cell health. Basically, if NAD+ stops, we stop.

Ten years ago, John had been visiting addiction centres in Mexico where incredible results had been accounted for by recovering alcoholics and their intravenous application of NAD+. By the fifth day of receiving high doses of NAD+, the women were unrecognisable. They looked alive again. 

“NAD+ caused the cells in rats with an equivalent age of 60 human years to look like the cells of a 20-year-old”

John was transfixed by his findings and spent the next ten years researching the effects of NAD+ on animals and humans alike. In rats, they found that the treatment of NAD+ caused the cells in rats with an equivalent age of 60 human years to look like the cells of a 20-year-old. The numbers of positive and life-changing personal experiences with the molecule kept appearing, from Alzheimer’s patients to athletes. It seemed like the molecule was about to transform the way we age.

Our bodies naturally produce NAD+; it’s part of their self-repair mechanism. Oxidative stress caused to cells by (literally) breathing and other things such as ageing, alcohol consumption, drugs, sleep deprivation, stress, pollution, bad eating habits etc. need to be repaired, and in order to do so, the body produces the NAD+ molecule. It’s basically a very powerful antioxidant. Sadly, when we reach middle age, our NAD+ levels begin to decline, which it is now thought brings about rapid ageing.

This is relevant to skin health too. With the onset of age, the lack of elasticity, the body’s inability to produce collagen and repair the epidermal layer, are all linked to our relationship to NAD+. NAD+ and NADH protect you from damaging your skin in the sun and skin cancer. NAD+ absorbs mainly the UVB spectrum and NADH absorbs mainly UVA spectrum. But for me, and many of us, the ageing brain is the more terrifying prospect. Research has been specifically directed to the neurological benefits of NAD+, such as dementia, Alzheimer’s disease and other neurological conditions associated with ageing – a frightening epidemic amongst our ageing population.

“Not only physical health on a cellular level is improved, but emotional mood also”

It appears that NAD+ helps to repair and protect telomeres, stretches of DNA that protect the end of our chromosomes (they are a bit like the plastic bits on the end of your shoelaces) which, if damaged, cause the double-stranded molecules of DNA to unravel, and ultimately stop working.

Another wonderful benefit of NAD+ is that it increases your body’s levels of serotonin – a neurotransmitter associated with mood regulation – and can improve symptoms of depression and anxiety. So not only physical health on a cellular level is improved, but emotional mood also.

NAD+ isn’t just hailed by recovering addicts and post-chemotherapy cancer patients, it’s praised by oligarchs, celebrities and elite businesspeople across the globe as being key to their ability to stay sharp and conquer the awful effects of jetlag, sleep deprivation and oxidation. Personal testimonies of improved vision, muscle strength and first-hand improvements in patients with diabetes have also been widely reported. The Bionad Clinic in West London offers a number of services, depending on the individual’s situation and needs, and also a number of different application systems.

“There hasn’t yet been enough time for clinical trials to determine the future of this interesting molecule and its distribution”

I am battling my way through the intravenous method, which I thought to be the most effective when John produces a nasal spray that delivers the NAD+ straight into my bloodstream via my nasal capillaries. There are pill forms of NAD+, but research has shown these to be less effective since our digestive systems can destroy the NAD+ before it is absorbed by our intestines.

NAD+ isn’t cheap, but it seems like it’s certainly worth keeping an eye on. So far, there has been no negative research in conjunction with NAD+ treatments, perhaps as it is a naturally occurring chemical in the body. The FDA regulations are not as severe as they are with other synthetically derived chemicals, but we are only at the beginning of the NAD+ journey and there hasn’t yet been enough time for clinical trials to determine the future of this interesting molecule and its distribution.

There are also natural ways of boosting your NAD+ levels. Intermittent fasting is a well-known way of boosting its production. Salmon, turkey and other foods that are high in Niacin (B3) act as a precursor to NAD+, and the importance of this vitamin is becoming widely acknowledged, as is its ability to help the body’s repair programme.

The dizziness abruptly stops and I exclaim that I’m not feeling unwell anymore. John looks over at the empty drip. “Yep, that’ll be the signal you’ve finished your session.” 

I ask why it produced such bizarre and nauseating effects during infusion and John smiles. “Strangely, that’s the one thing about NAD+ that we still don’t understand. But I’m sure you’ll sleep well tonight.” And hopefully, I think to myself, look ten years younger in the morning.

Isamaya Ffrench is the creative director of Dazed Beauty. Bionad is a clinic in London W1

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