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NAD vs NAC: What Are the Main Differences?

nad vs nac supplement comparison. What Are the Main Differences?

While it’s not possible to stop time, many factors can affect how people age. Diet, in particular, plays a huge role in promoting healthy aging. In fact, research suggests that some supplements can help maintain sharpness and vitality as you get older. However, with so many products on the market claiming to be effective, it is challenging to understand which ones actually work.

Among the most popular anti-aging supplements, you’ll often see NAD and NAC. But which of the two is better? And what should you know about taking them? We answer these and other questions in the article below.

What is NAC?

When you Google ‘the best anti-aging supplements,’ you’ll often come across amino acids. According to studies, these essential building blocks of proteins can potentially help with blood sugar and type 2 diabetes, as well as reduce cell aging and erectile dysfunction.

N-acetyl cysteine, or NAC, is a conditionally essential amino acid, which means your body can produce it from other amino acids. Still, having sufficient levels of NAC is critical for many reasons. Most importantly, cysteine and NAC (along with glutamine and glycine) help restore glutathione, which is considered among our bodies’ most essential antioxidants.

Moreover, NAC is also associated with other benefits. The amino acid plays a crucial role in processes related to your body’s detoxification.

What is NAC Used for?

NAC offers many benefits for the human body. That’s why it’s used both as a prescription drug (for treating paracetamol overdose and helping with lung diseases) and as a supplement.

As a supplement, NAC is most often recommended for people with liver issues. Studies also show that taking NAC can protect the human body from kidney and neurological damage after taking drugs.

When it comes to longevity, research suggests that NAC can improve age-related health abnormalities, for example, lowering measures of oxidative stress and blood pressure while simultaneously increasing muscle strength and gait speed.

However, more research is needed to fully understand the benefits of NAC. There are still mixed opinions on whether the supplement could help with other conditions.

What is NAD+, and Why is it Important?

If you’ve ever opened a biology book, you’ve likely heard about nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD). This coenzyme is critical for our bodies to work properly, as it ensures electrons are transferred from one molecule to another. What’s impressive is that NAD is located in all living cells and is essential for hundreds of different reactions.

NAD+ is the coenzyme’s oxidised and reduced form. Although NAD+ was first discovered in 1906, scientists have only begun to understand its true significance in the last 60 years. It is now known that many protein groups can only perform their functions with NAD+.

Related: What is NAD and why is important

What is the Function of NAD+?

There is a reason we’re talking about NAD+ in terms of longevity. One protein group that works only in the presence of NAD+ is sirtuins. These proteins ensure cells in our body are in balance and protected from age-related decay.

Furthermore, NAD+ also plays a huge role in DNA repair. As studies show, sirtuins protect cells against oxidative stress. Likewise, these proteins are also involved in maintaining a healthy circadian rhythm, which affects our well-being in many ways. As mentioned earlier, sirtuins can only perform their functions if NAD+ is present, which means, without the coenzyme, it’s nearly impossible to lead a healthy and happy life.

Related: What are sirtuins?

NAC vs. NAD Supplement

Now that you’ve learned why NAC and NAD are necessary for our bodily functions, you might be wondering – which of the two should you be taking? While both supplements have their perks, they also have their differences. Here’s a look at NAC vs NAD supplements.

NAC Supplementation

Although NAC can be found in several protein sources, such as eggs, meat, and dairy products, it can be challenging to get enough of it from food alone. Keep in mind that your body can’t produce cysteine directly, so it’s often easier to take supplements to meet your NAC needs.

The good news is that NAC supplements can be easily purchased over the counter or through a healthcare provider. If you’re looking for alternatives to NAC, you might consider using products that contain cysteine, the amino acid from which it is derived. Additionally, other antioxidants like vitamin C, alpha-lipoic acid, and glutathione supplements could provide similar benefits.

NAD Supplementation

As we get older, our natural levels of NAD+ decrease. Unfortunately, there are no foods that contain the coenzyme. This means your only option for increasing NAD+ levels is taking supplements. Luckily, nowadays, it’s possible to purchase NAD+ supplements in different forms, including sublingual powders, nasal sprays and capsules.

As for alternatives, supplements containing nicotinamide riboside (NR) or nicotinamide mononucleotide (NMN) are effective NAD+ precursors. These products can help boost NAD+ levels indirectly and are also available in Europe.

Related: What are foods high in NAD+?

Which is Better: NAD vs. NAC as an Anti-Aging Supplement

The battle between NAC and NAD depends on your specific health goals. Although both NAC and NAD promote healthy aging, they are quite different. If you’re looking to increase your energy levels and boost DNA repair, it’s a good idea to look into NAD+ supplements. Conversely, NAC is a better option for those who wish to support their respiratory health and liver function.

If you’re unsure whether NAD vs. NAC supplements are more beneficial for your specific concerns, we advise you to talk to your doctor.


It’s no secret the supplement world can be confusing. Unless you’re a healthcare professional, navigating all the letters, numbers, and symbols and figuring out which longevity product is the best fit for your needs can be quite the challenge.

If you’re deciding between NAC vs NAD, you should first think about why you want to take these supplements. Both have their pros and cons, so the real question is what is more important to you.

Keep in mind that there’s still much we don’t know about NAD+ and NAC. To make an informed decision, follow the latest studies and research on these supplements. This will help you understand which might be more beneficial for you.

Related: NMN vs NR the ultimate comparison


Who should avoid NAC?

Although NAC supplements are generally safe for most people, there are some risks associated with them. If you have asthma or bleeding problems, you should talk to a doctor before using the supplements. NAC may also interact with nitroglycerin, blood thinners and some blood pressure medicines, which is why your doctor may tell you to avoid the supplements.

Likewise, if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, you should check with a healthcare professional.

Are NAD and NAC the same?

Although both NAD and NAC promote healthy aging and are therefore often mixed up by most consumers, they have distinct mechanisms of action and application. NAD is primarily a coenzyme that works in energy production, cellular signalling, and DNA repair, while NAC is an antioxidant that’s involved in cell protection.

Are NAC and NMN the same?

NMN is considered a precursor to NAD+, which means the cellular molecule chemically transforms into NAD+ in your cells. Once NMN is absorbed into your bloodstream, it transforms into NAD+. So, technically, NMN has effects similar to NAD+.

As mentioned before, NAC and NAD+ have significant differences, and the same goes for NAC and NMN. In addition to the NAD+ benefits, NMN supplements can also support your body’s insulin production, as well as glucose tolerance.

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