Vitamin B3, or niacin, has some fascinating health benefits. Niacin is an essential nutrient that plays a role in making energy, or NAD, in the body. NAD supplements for health come in a variety of forms. Find out if you should consider adding NAD or niacin to your daily routine.
The potential for niacin compounds to heal the body is high, especially for certain forms of it.
This is true of any nutrient for that matter. The ability of various nutrients to do amazing things for our health may still yet to be discovered too.
When you read about many vitamins, in the news or in blogs, it is typically written or spoken from a very narrow lens. This can be problematic because our bodies work in very complex ways.
Niacin is complex too. The newly-researched areas of vitamin B3 and NAD are nothing short of amazing. It may help fight diseases of aging and even prolong life.
Here is the latest on the topic of vitamin B3 or NAD supplement compounds.
Forms of niacin and NAD increase lifespan, energy, and reduce skin aging in animal study. They also improve immune function and even eye function [R].
These forms of NAD include
- Nicotinamide Riboside (NR)
- Nicotinamide Mononucleotide (NMN)
The forms of niacin found in most supplements are nicotinamide, niacinamide, niacin, and nicotinic acid. In foods, niacin occurs in these same forms.
We have trace amounts of NR and NMN in foods as well.
How do NR and NMN Differ?
Niacin’s role in the body is to make nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD). NAD helps repair DNA and prevent premature aging by protecting our DNA and more. As we age, have poor diets, or get overweight, our ability to make energy from niacin appears to get impaired.
When using NR or NMN supplements, the process of making NAD and repairing DNA improves.
By mimicking the effects of calorie restriction, NR and NMN increase a substance called sirtuin [R]. This compound appears to increase longevity and health.
One might ask, is this another area of hype? Can’t we do well enough with our diet? Theoretically yes, but in practicality, this isn’t happening.
There are some very compelling reasons to do more.
Why Do We Need NAD?
Our calorie-rich, nutrient poor, diets in the West makes nutrients in short supply. This is probably the biggest reason we need more help with supplements.
We often can’t overcome the metabolic problems that are related to our foods. This is where NAD from NR and NMN may prove to be extra important.
The metabolism of niacin becomes altered when:
- We age
- We eat too many empty calories
- We have diabetes
We can’t efficiently make NAD from other forms of niacin when these conditions are true.
NR and NMN help overcome some of the altered metabolism in these conditions. The end result is more energy or NAD and even potentially less disease [R].
The results were so striking when NMN was given to animals. NMN completely normalized glucose use in the body and reversed diabetes symptoms [R].
NMN also worked in animals who had age-related diabetes with as strong of results. It completely restored the ability to use glucose.
In contrast, “regular” niacin may have some harmful effects on insulin levels, but leaves glucose levels unchanged
Both NMN and NR seem safe to use in both humans and animals, even at high doses [R].
Key Point: NAD helps repair DNA and prevent premature aging by protecting our DNA.
Absorption of Niacin from Food
Aside from this, little is known about niacin absorption to this day [R].
We do know that diets that are low in tryptophan can create a deficiency in niacin.
Niacin and Heart Benefits
Niacin is used to reduce cholesterol and triglycerides. It works quite well for this. Supplemental niacin is good for the heart.
Niacin supplements function to help [R]:
- Reduce risk of heart attacks
- Reduce requirements for further stent placements,
- Reduce stroke risk
- Reduce transient ischemic attacks
While niacin has been used in supplemental forms for many years to reduce cholesterol and triglycerides, the most exciting area of niacin research is from a relatively newly identified class of niacin or NAD compounds called NR and NMN.
NR protects both the heart and the kidney from stress in animal models [R]. It reduced heart muscle damage.
NR may improve circadian rhythm in the body. It helps balance the core circadian rhythm substance called CLOCK [R].
Sleep patterns are important for heart function.
NR and NMN Brain Benefits
NR increases a longevity chemical in the body called sirtuin and activates and energy-producing substance in the body called NAD [R].
Other substances activate this compound called sirtuin, include resveratrol and quercetin.
NR, when given to mice, reduced symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease by improving memory and stopped the spread of brain damage. Further, NR renewed stem cells and improved plasticity of synapses [R].
NMN May Increase Longevity and Energy
NMN supplements reduced signs of aging in mice, including [R]
- Improved insulin sensitivity
- Reduced body weight
- Increased energy metabolism
- Increased physical activity
- Reduced cholesterol
- Stabilized skeletal muscle
Niacin Deficiency Symptoms
The deficiency of niacin is called pellegra and over history, it is relatively common. It remains common in developing countries.
Although outright deficiency is not common in Western countries, disorders in NAD production do appear common.
The characteristic 4 Ds of pellagra are Diarrhea, Dementia, Dermatitis, and Death. Other signs of niacin deficiency can include:
- Sensitivity to sunlight
- Hair loss
- Smooth, beefy red tongue
- Trouble sleeping
- Mental confusion or aggression
- Llack of coordination
- Paralysis of extremities
- Nerve damage
- Enlarged, weakened heart
- Eventually dementia
Deficiency can be caused by a diet low in tryptophan (low protein diet). Some experts suggest it also may also be caused by calorie excess and diabetes [R].
Niacin deficiency can also be caused by [R]:
- Poor digestion
- Certain medications, like chemotherapy drugs, Sinemet, immunosuppressancs, and tuberculosis drugs.
- Elderly with poor appetites
- Restrictive eating patterns
Deficiency of niacin almost always is worsened by deficiencies of other vitamins and minerals. Deficiencies almost always occur together.
An example of a disease state that leads to niacin deficiency is Crohn’s disease. Four case reports of pellagra have been reported in Crohn’s disease patients [R].
Other conditions that may reduce the body’s ability to generate energy from niacin include use of immunosuppressants, Sinemet, and long-term kidney dialysis.
A disease called pellagra first appeared in the late 1700s in Spain and Italy. This was soon after the introduction of maize or corn to their diets. Corn became a big part of their diet and resulted in widespread pellagra.
In the 1900s pellagra was epidemic in the United States. The widespread deficiency was related to processing of grain.
The chemical structure of niacin was not discovered until 1937. An American biochemist Conrad Arnold Elvehjem at that time [R].
Food Sources of Vitamin B3
Niacin is the only vitamin that can be made from an amino acid; tryptophan. Niacin is widespread in whole foods, but is lost in processing and cooking.
We can make an educated guess that there are also probably trace amounts of NR in other foods that naturally have niacin.
Another anti-aging form of niacin is NMR.
It is purported to be found in vegetables like:
Supplementing NR and NMR
Supplements of NR or NMN run at least $1 a day, but I guess that’still cheaper than Starbucks. Probably healthier too, considering the massive amounts of sugar poured by the cupful across the country every day.
Personally, I prefer to take a balanced blend of whole food supplements that include vegetables, herbs and highly absorbable niacin.
Some NR and NMR should be added only when other nutrients are adequately added as well. Find a great supplement here.
The information on this website has not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration or any other medical body and is shared for educational purposes only. Consult your doctor or healthcare provider before making changes to your supplement regimen or lifestyle.
Heidi Moretti, MS, RD is The Healthy RD. A registered dietitian for 20 years, has a passion for functional nutrition and natural medicine. Has researched supplements and plants as medicine throughout her career. Loves helping people gain function and vitality by tackling root causes of illness.