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My Roman Empire? There’s this retreat in Hawaii: You bring the healthiest person you know as your guest, and then over the next few days, your plus-one donates their number two to gift you a health-boosting fecal transplant. Surprisingly, this prospect isn’t what sends me into a spiral (it’s too gross for me to even consider). What keeps me up at night is thinking about whom I would take. An Olympian? A researcher at Google’s longevity center, Calico Labs? Gwyneth? But the glowy Amanda Chantal Bacon, founder and CEO of Moon Juice, usually tops my list.
So when Chantal Bacon told me she could barely get out of bed due to symptoms from long COVID, I was gobsmacked. How did a superhealthy superhuman recover? “It was exhaustion I’ve never felt before in my life,” she said. What she says ended up working: 500 milligrams of the peptide NAD+ (nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide), delivered by a medical professional directly to her bloodstream during an IV infusion lasting more than three hours.
Peptides like NAD+, small chains of amino acids that can help activate vital cellular functions in the body, are a wellness and beauty buzzword. You may have seen peptides in your skin serum, but increasingly, peptide therapy—delivered directly into the body via IV infusions, shots, or supplements—is catching on with America’s most optimized. (Technically, Ozempic is also a peptide.) NAD+ is one of the most popular forms of peptide therapy for Hollywood and fashion industry wellness obsessives, and not just for when they’re sick.
Its fans use “NAD” as a verb. “I’m going to NAD for the rest of my life, and I’m never going to age,” Hailey Bieber told Kendall Jenner while they were hooked up to NAD+ catalyzers during a 2022 episode of The Kardashians. In her husband Justin Bieber’s documentary Seasons, the singer filmed himself getting an NAD+ IV at his doctor’s office in order to, he claimed, “flush out some of the toxins.” Jennifer Aniston raved to the Wall Street Journal about the power of weekly peptide shots: “I do think that’s the future.” Podcaster Joe Rogan is so enthused that he and his producer have “NAD-ed” together.
You already have NAD+. A coenzyme in your body, it is key to powering energy metabolism, DNA repair, circadian rhythm regulation, and stem cell rejuvenation. Synthesized from three forms of vitamin B3, NAD+ stimulates more than 500 biochemical reactions, specifically targeting the enzymes that are essential for cellular health.
Good sleep, regular exercise, and vitamin B3–rich foods like meat, nuts, and dairy can naturally increase NAD+ levels. But age and stress can dramatically deplete our NAD+ levels faster than we can replenish them. “If you compare a cohort of people, let’s say in their sixties versus a cohort in their twenties, NAD+ is going down by roughly a factor of 50 percent,” explains Novartis Professor of Biology at MIT Leonard Guarente, PhD, who is also cofounder of the longevity-focused science company Elysium Health.
Today, you can get NAD+ in many luxurious places. At the Four Seasons Resort Maui, they’ll nestle you in fluffy blankets and set you up with an IV and a front-row view of paradise. In NYC’s Modern Age longevity care clinics, you’ll enjoy your drip coddled in cozy-cool rooms designed by architect Madelynn Ringo, the visionary behind some of the country’s most feel-good spaces. Most longevity- and wellness-focused clinics, such as Advitam at Shafer Clinic Fifth Avenue in New York City, offer both IVs and shots, as well as at-home supplements.
Even some of the top longevity experts don’t agree on the best NAD+ delivery vehicle. The infusions are intense and pricey (running on average anywhere from $300 to $2,000 for 500 mg), and can be painful if you try to do them too quickly. Tough-guy Rogan shared that he has sped up his IV and described it as feeling like “your guts are on fire.” NAD+ shots—either given by a medical provider or self-administered in the muscles—provide a lower dose that is faster, more comfortable, and slightly more affordable (starting at around $100). Some believe that NAD+ is too large to be properly imparted by IVs and injections, and that its effects can be short-lived. Guarente, whose company Elysium Health formulates NAD+ supplements, is skeptical of these delivery methods: “NAD doesn’t get into the cells. You have to have NAD precursors”—that is, five predominant chemicals that combine to make up the NAD+ molecule, including NR (nicotinamide riboside) and NMN (nicotinamide mononucleotide).
Because NAD+ is essential to every single cell in our body, its fans link the molecule to a hyperbolic list of benefits: It gives you tons of energy during the day and helps you sleep better at night; it transforms mood, clears brain fog, and improves memory; it builds muscle and melts away fat. Peer-reviewed human studies are lacking; however, in a number of independent clinical studies over the past 10 years, NAD+ did show positive health impacts, like slowing the progression of Alzheimer’s in mice. In 2016, a study published in Science reported elderly mice that spent six weeks taking a NAD+ precursor not only ended up living longer, but also could run further and faster, and their little paws had stronger grips.
Scientists are still trying to understand the full effects of NAD+ on the body and note that it may be best used for specific indications. One is to speed wound healing: Beverly Hills plastic surgeon Daniel Barrett, MD, offers patients NAD+ treatments post-op. David Younger, MD, a neurologist in New York City and author of The Autoimmune Brain, notes that NAD+ has long been used to treat alcoholics for withdrawal symptoms and liver disease. He’s seen an uptick in the number of his patients who have visited doctors for NAD+ and peptides for brain health, but says that a person should proceed with caution under the guidance of a licensed physician: “There can be negative side effects to the kidney. It’s a good idea to get a basic screen of your general health before starting any supplement.” At Modern Age, Chief Medical Officer Anant Vinjamoori, MD, says that IV infusions often appeal to “folks who are high performers—elite athletes, some celebrities, people who really need to be at the top of their game.”
Makeup artist Ash K Holm is one of them: She gets the treatment once a month. She has met up with beauty buds like hairstylist Andrew Fitzsimons and Kosas founder Sheena Zadeh-Daly for NAD+ infusions at the Santa Monica Dripology clinic, which Holm helped found with her husband, former ICU nurse Hamed Afshari. Holm credits NAD+ for giving her the focus and fine motor skills to create ultraprecise, 4K-perfect looks for clients like Ariana Grande and Camila Cabello. “To set myself up for success, I’ll get an NAD drip or shot the day before the music video, because I know I’ll be [putting in long hours] on set,” she says. “It’s my life hack, in a nutshell.”
Editor’s Note: This article does not constitute individual medical advice, and you should consult with your doctor before deciding if NAD+ or other peptide treatments are right for you.
A version of this story appears in the March 2024 issue of ELLE.
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