As a member of the family of eight B vitamins, vitamin B3, or niacin, has a wide range of uses in bodily functions. The different forms of niacin include nicotinic acid and niacinamide/nicotinamide, each of which provides health benefits supported by scientific studies. Like other B vitamins, B3 is water soluble and, as such, is not stored by the body and must be obtained daily from the diet or supplementation. Largely found in animal protein, as well as nuts, legumes and grains, individual niacin levels depend on the amount and quality of dietary intake. When the intake of protein is at a sufficiently high level, the body can biologically convert the amino acid tryptophan to nicotinic acid or nicotinamide, although the conversion rate will vary with each individual.
Essential to all forms of life, the nicotinamide coenzyme NAD+ is synthesized in the body from four precursors that are provided by an adequate healthful diet: nicotinic acid, nicotinamide, nicotinamide riboside, and tryptophan. As blood levels of niacin are not reliable indicators, niacin status is measured by the urinary excretion rates of its two major methylated metabolites, chemical compounds formed as part of the natural biochemical process of metabolism. More than 400 enzymes require niacin coenzymes for biological functions. These include:
- Energy production reactions involving the breakdown of carbohydrates, fats, proteins and alcohol
- The synthesis of fatty acids, cholesterol, bile acids and steroid hormones
- The building blocks of proteins, lipids, polysaccharides and nucleic acids
- The regeneration of components of detoxification and antioxidant systems
An attractive option for those with dyslipidemia, nicotinic acid has been utilized therapeutically for more than 50 years. Dyslipidemia is characterized as an elevation of blood levels of cholesterol and/or triglycerides and frequently a low level of HDL cholesterol. Dyslipidemia can lead to increased risk of stroke, atherosclerosis and coronary artery disease, as well as peripheral artery disease, a narrowing of the arteries that can limit blood flow to the limbs, the legs in particular. Treatment involves dietary improvements, weight loss, increased physical activity and often, lipid-lowering pharmaceuticals. Niacin (nicotinic acid) has been shown to safely and effectively address lipid abnormalities by increasing HDL cholesterol and lowering LDL cholesterol and triglycerides.
Niacin has a proven safety record and an ability to be safely combined with statin medication. Nicotinic acid therapy can result in short-lived, but bothersome non-allergenic, dermal flushing, characterized by redness and warmth and sometimes tingling or itching. However, tolerance to niacin-induced flushing often develops rapidly, and abates when a constant blood level of niacin is reached. As well, a higher rate of flushing, which generally lasts an hour or two, is associated with a higher rate of niacin absorption.
Nicotinamide and nicotinic acid are similarly effective as a vitamin, as they can be converted into each other within the body. Nicotinamide, or niacinamide, prevents deficiency and performs all of the essential functions of niacin. However, as a result of its slightly different chemical structure, niacinamide does not cause flushing nor provide cholesterol lowering benefits. Often overlooked for its skin care benefits, nicotinamide significantly reduces the incidence of nonmelanoma skin cancers in those with a history of basal cell carcinoma or squamous cell carcinoma.
In aging skin, topical application of niacinamide improves the surface structure, smooths out wrinkles and inhibits photocarcinogenesis, protecting the skin from damage caused by ultraviolet rays. This form of B3 helps to brighten the complexion, decreases hyperpigmentation, supports healthy collagen production, calms inflammatory conditions, such as acne or rosacea, and offers verifiable stabilizing effects on epidermal barrier function.
Additionally, anxiety is one of the manifestations of severe B3 deficiency. In clinical observations, niacinamide supplementation above a nutritional dose has been shown to relieve anxiety in some individuals. The anti-anxiety effect of niacinamide is presumed to be pharmacological, as it appears to have medicinal properties similar to benzodiazepines. These effects may be exerted through the modulation of brain neurotransmitters associated with anxiety. Although further studies are warranted to assess niacinamide’s actual therapeutic effects, this agent does appear to have a wide spectrum of beneficial influences upon anxiety disorders.
Professional Supplement Center offers these and other high quality supplements in support of overall good health:
Niatab™ 500 by Douglas Laboratories®: For maximum benefit and to reduce the effect of skin flushing or itching, Niatab™ delivers 500 mg of niacin over a two to three hour time period. The scored uncoated tablets may be halved for lower dosing. Soy free, vegan formulation.
Time Release Niacin by Professional Supplement Center®: Time Release Niacin provides 500 mg of niacin as nicotinic acid over a seven to eight hour time period, while reducing the flushing effect. Free of gluten, corn, yeast and artificial colors and flavors.
NiaCel-250® by Thorne®: (log-in) Each serving of NiaCel-250® provides 250 mg of nicotinamide riboside for nutritional support of energy production, healthy metabolic function, weight management and exercise endurance. Free of gluten, soy, lactose, eggs, aspartame, high fructose corn syrup, sucralose and stearates. Non-GMO vegetarian formulation.
Niacinamide 500 mg by Douglas Laboratories®: Each capsule provides 500 mg of niacin as niacinamide in support of healthy bodily functions and overall wellness. Gluten and soy free. Non-GMO formulation.
The mechanism and mitigation of niacin-induced flushing. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2779993/
Nicotinic acid/niacinamide and the skin. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17147561
Niacin: Nicotinic Acid, Nicotinamide, and Inositol Hexanicotinate. https://www.crnusa.org/sites/default/files/files/resources/13-CRNVMS3-NIACIN.pdf
Niacin and heart disease prevention: Engraving its tombstone is a mistake. https://www.lipidjournal.com/article/S1933-2874(17)30410-5/fulltext
Supplemental Niacinamide Mitigates Anxiety Symptoms: Three Case Reports. https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/0c55/ebbffdc0832e531976a6f665c60831d58202.pdf