Nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD+) is a coenzyme found in every living cell in your body. A coenzyme is a small non-protein molecule that works with an enzyme to speed up a specific chemical reaction. Coenzymes and enzymes are like two peas in a pod. You have thousands of enzymes in your body, each working as a catalyst for a different biological function. For example, amylase (saliva) breaks down carbohydrates into smaller molecules in order to be easily digested by your stomach and small intestine.
However, enzymes don’t just break down molecules. They help build molecules as well. You see one of the best examples of this in cellular energy production, where important enzymes work alongside NAD+ to help produce your body’s energy.
NAD’s primary function is in your cells’ mitochondria. Our mitochondria are often called ”the powerhouse of the cell.” They earn this nickname because of their ability to produce energy for all of your cellular functions. 90% of your body’s energy is made from your mitochondria. NAD+ is the ignition to these continuous power turbines, the mitochondria. They help kickstart your “cellular engines.” Without it, cellular energy production would come to an abrupt halt. You need NAD+ to keep you breathing air into your lungs and pumping blood into your heart.
There are several ways your cells and mitochondria produce energy. However, the most efficient way is a process called the electron transport chain. NAD+ loosely binds with the mitochondrial enzymes through covalent bonds. But this bond is temporary, breaking after NAD+ transfers electrons with the enzymes.
These electrons help catalyze a chemical reaction, triggering the production of cellular energy. It’s called a chain because multiple enzymes work together like an assembly line, passing the electrons down to the following enzyme. NAD+ participates in this process by acting as a delivery mechanism, donating and accepting negatively-charged electrons to and from several enzymes that sit patiently in the mitochondrial membrane. NAD+ essentially powers your mitochondria. Without it, the electron transport chain would not start. Like an abandoned factory, the enzymes in the mitochondrial membrane would remain unused and barren.
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