Breaking Down the Acronym: Understanding What NADH Stands For

March 27, 2024
A diagram of chemical structures

NAD+ and NADH may bring back unwanted memories of biochemistry classes in high school. NADH stands for nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD) + hydrogen (H). NAD+ is the form without hydrogen. NAD and NADH are essential for cellular respiration.

These two cofactors help enzymes produce ATP (adenine triphosphate). ATP is commonly referred to as the energy currency in your body. This is because it powers every process in every cell.  

Increasing NADH and, therefore, ATP helps ensure all body tissues have the energy they need to function optimally. This is why many people use NADH supplements when they feel tired or lack energy. Researchers are testing NADH as a supplement to treat chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia.

What does NADH stand for in cellular respiration?

NAD+ is a coenzyme that carries electrons from one reaction to another in metabolic and cellular respiration. NAD+ is an oxidizing agent. It accepts electrons from other molecules and becomes reduced with hydrogen. For this reason, NAD+ is often referred to as an electron carrier. Hydrogen, in this form, is a negatively charged hydrogen atom. Whenever electrons are transferred in your body, energy is generated. This energy can be used for movement, to repair cellular damage, and to produce compounds needed by the body.

When NAD+ accepts a negatively charged hydrogen, it forms NADH, which is a reducing agent that can donate electrons. This reaction is reversible and occurs repeatedly in your body cells.

A diagram of the conversion of NAD and NADH
This file by Muessig is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

What are NAD+ and NADH used for?

NAD+ is a dinucleotide made up of nicotinamide and adenine. Nicotinamide is found in many foods and can be consumed as vitamin B3 or niacin. Adenine is a nitrogenous base that is found in DNA and RNA, which make up your genetic code.

NAD+ can be produced from any of the following:

  • Tryptophan
  • Nicotinic acid
  • Nicotinamide
  • Nicotinamide riboside

NAD+ production occurs through three pathways: the de novo, Preiss–Handler, and salvage. The salvage pathway is the most commonly used. NAD+ production is continuous in your body; without it, your body cells would not be able to function. Aging and chronic disease deplete NAD+.

What does NADPH stand for?

NADP+ and NADPH are another pair of coenzymes that participate in chemical reactions. The structural difference between them is that NAD+ has an -OH group and NADP+ has a phosphate group. NADP+ and NADPH are important in maintaining oxidative-reduction balance like NAD+, but they are also involved in producing fatty acids and nucleic acids.

What does NADH stand for in medical terms?

NAD+ deficiency is the underlying cause of many inherited and acquired diseases. Though scientists have known about NAD for over a century, it has only been in the last 20 years that researchers have investigated its role in health and disease.1

A family of NAD+-dependent deacetylases called sirtuins uses NAD+ as a substrate to regulate mitochondrial function and energy metabolism. 2

In addition to sirtuins, the poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase (PARP) protein family, the cyclic ADP-ribose (cADPr) synthases, and CD157 also consume NAD+.2 Sirtuins protect against oxidative stress and can switch off genes that are linked to accelerated aging, cell death, inflammation, and degeneration.

Researchers have identified a lack of NAD+ as a cause of disease and found that supplementing with NAD+ reversed many of the disease symptoms. Most of this research has been done in animal studies.1

A complex diagram of cellular energy metabolism
This file by Darekk2 is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

What is NADH used for in the body?

NADH, along with NAD+, has many roles in the body, including the following:

  • Glutathione synthesis, an important antioxidant
  • Energy metabolism
  • DNA repair
  • Cell signaling
  • Gene expression
  • Cellular homeostasis
  • Modulating chemical reactions

Aging is associated with a decline in NAD+; researchers are examining the possibility of reversing some of the signs and symptoms of aging by supplementing with NAD+ or NAD+ precursors. In one study, middle-aged adults were given nicotinamide mononucleotide (NMN), a precursor for NAD+.

NMN supplementation resulted in an 11% increase in NAD+ and NADH after 30 days of supplementation and a 38% increase at 60 days. Other health markers did not change, except for an improvement in insulin sensitivity, and the increase in NAD+ was not statistically significant compared to the increase in the placebo group. There were no adverse events reported. Trial results need to be interpreted with caution because of potential conflicts of interest. 4

NAD+ and NADH depletion are associated with many metabolic and neurodegenerative diseases. Supplementing with NAD+ can help improve energy metabolism and insulin sensitivity. It may also help protect against changes in cognitive function.5,6 Research on the benefits of NAD+ is relatively new but promising. Currently, over 1,000 clinical trials are registered on investigating the potential health benefits of NAD+.

Breaking Down the Acronym: Understanding What NADH Stands For


Diving into the nuances between NAD+ and NADH illuminates their essential roles in energy metabolism and overall wellness. For those looking to optimize their health regime, considering to buy NAD+ might be a beneficial next step. Invigor Medical offers a trusted platform to procure high-quality NAD+ supplements, supporting your journey towards improved cellular health and vitality. Explore their offerings to buy NAD+ and harness the potential benefits of this critical coenzyme for your well-being .

Frequently Asked Questions

What does the abbreviation NADH stand for?

NADH stands for Nicotinamide Adenine Dinucleotide (NAD) + Hydrogen (H), representing the reduced form of NAD, a coenzyme involved in cellular metabolism.

What is the NADH used for?

NADH is primarily used as a coenzyme in various metabolic reactions, particularly in the electron transport chain during cellular respiration, where it helps generate ATP, the body’s main energy currency.

What is the full chemical name for NADH?

The full chemical name is β-Nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide, reduced. It consists of two nucleotides: adenine and nicotinamide riboside connected by two phosphate groups.

What is the meaning of Nadph and NADH?

NADPH (Nicotinamide Adenine Dinucleotide Phosphate) and NADH serve different roles in cellular metabolism. NADH functions primarily in energy production during cellular respiration, while NADPH participates in anabolic reactions, such as fatty acid synthesis and the pentose phosphate pathway, as well as in antioxidant defense mechanisms.

Author: Leann Poston, M.D.
Fill out the form below, and one of our treatment specialists will contact you.


  • Zapata-Pérez R, Wanders RJA, van Karnebeek CDM, Houtkooper RH. NAD+ homeostasis in human health and disease.
  • Houtkooper RH, Pirinen E, Auwerx J. Sirtuins as regulators of metabolism and healthspan. Nat Rev Mol Cell Biol. Mar 7 2012;13(4):225-238. doi:10.1038/nrm3293
  • Xiao W, Wang RS, Handy DE, Loscalzo J. NAD(H) and NADP(H) Redox Couples and Cellular Energy Metabolism. Antioxid Redox Signal. 2018 Jan 20;28(3):251-272. doi: 10.1089/ars.2017.7216. Epub 2017 Jul 28. PMID: 28648096; PMCID: PMC5737637.
  • Huang H. A Multicentre, Randomised, Double Blind, Parallel Design, Placebo Controlled Study to Evaluate the Efficacy and Safety of Uthever (NMN Supplement), an Orally Administered Supplementation in Middle Aged and Older Adults. Front Aging. 2022 May 5;3:851698. doi: 10.3389/fragi.2022.851698. PMID: 35821806; PMCID: PMC9261366.
  • Braidy N, Liu Y. Can nicotinamide riboside protect against cognitive impairment? Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. Nov 2020;23(6):413-420. doi:10.1097/mco.0000000000000691
  • Yoshino M, Yoshino J, Kayser BD, et al. Nicotinamide mononucleotide increases muscle insulin sensitivity in prediabetic women. Science. 2021;372(6547):1224-1229. doi:10.1126/science.abe9985
  • 3180 W Clearwater Ave G, Kennewick, WA 99336
    © 2024 Invigor Medical