Niacin is a water-soluble vitamin important for almost all cellular processes in our body.
When reading up on B3 you will see these terms, niacin, nicotinic acid, niacinamide, nicotinamide and nicotinamide riboside. This gets confusing quickly so I will begin with a quick overview.
- Nicotinamide Riboside
Niacin is the same thing as nicotinic acid. Niacinamide and nicotinamide are synonymous, that is the same chemical. If you get niacin in your diet or as a supplement, it will be converted in to niacinamide (nicotinamide). We don’t recommend taking very much niacin as a supplement. You should look for niacinamide instead. Nicotinamide riboside will be explained a little later.
Nicotinamide is now recommended for a wide variety of conditions. My dermatologist recommends 500 mg 2x per day (Douglas Labs Niacinamide) for actinic keratosis as well as possible preventative for some skin cancers. This is a good guideline but in addition, we recommend 300 mg of nicotinamide riboside daily.
Nicotinamide is fairly cheap and will work for a variety of conditions. Nicotinamide riboside is better at helping preserve telomeres but we hesitate to recommend it in higher doses as it is several times more expensive than nicotinamide. (Thorne Research NiaCel 200)
The goal of this article is to highlight some facts about different sources of B3 including niacinamide and nicotinamide and nicotinamide riboside. Let’s take a shallow dive into the world of vitamin B3 AKA niacin.
Niacin is also known as nicotinic acid. B3 is an essential human nutrient meaning that the primary source will be diet. Some tryptophan can also be converted into niacin but it appears that pathway in not sufficient to keep up with the body’s needs.
Niacin is an oxidized form of nicotine. In order to keep confusion to a minimum about B3 and the addictive form of nicotine, the word niacin was created from the words NIcotinic ACid and vitamIN.
Niacin and nicotinamide can be converted into NAD, an essential, energy coenzyme found in all living cells. NAD is short for nicotinamide adenosine dinucleotide. Nicotinamide is more readily converted to NAD than from niacin so this is another reason to use nicotinamide (niacinamide) as a supplement form.
Increasing NAD has many benefits. One study completed and published in 2020 found that taking increasing doses of niacin in human test subjects up to 750 to 1000 mg per day increased the levels in skeletal muscle of about 2.3x over a 10-month period. NAD in the blood increased by a factor of about 8.
These increases in NAD also showed a measurably decreased hepatic fat and visceral fat, measurable body fat decrease and muscle mass increase. At these levels, niacin did cause minor changes in blood sugar. Other studies have reported increases in blood sugar and in the hemoglobin with niacin supplements so if you are susceptible to such effects, you will want to keep an on eye on these effects. That being said, we wonder why the researchers were still using niacin. We see little reason to use niacin as a supplement when niacinamide is readily available without the possibility of negative effects like you might see with niacin.
Nicotinamide and NAD
Niacin is converted in the body to niacinamide. Niacinamide and nicotinamide are used interchangeably. We won’t talk too much about niacin supplementation as in higher doses you will want to use niacinamide (nicotinamide) as it is more easily tolerated and as mentioned, nicotinamide is more readily converted into NAD than it is from niacin.
Nicotinamide riboside is similar to nicotinamide but has the addition of a ribose-like sugar molecule attached. This form can be used where you would use nicotinamide but is especially helpful in anti-aging and preservation of telomeres. Telomeres are the protective end caps of DNA. In general, the longer the telomeres, the more disease resistant and age resistant a person is.
The Difference Between Nicotinamide and Nicotinic Acid
Nicotinamide is identical to niacin (nicotinic acid) in its vitamin activity. That amide group helps this form of B3 to have reduced negative effects on lipids that niacin can cause like increase in blood sugar mentioned above.
The benefits of taking nicotinamide (niacinamide) supplements are many.
B3 helps with lipid processing, that is helps to lower LDL and increase HDL and help maintain healthy levels of triglycerides. These are all important factors in cardiovascular health. Some studies have reported decreases in heart disease from B3 therapy.
Niacin (B3) therapy can lower risk of autoimmune diabetes (Type 1) in children and adults. It can help lower cholesterol in type 2 diabetics.
Brain Health Should Not Be Overlooked
Brain function can increase with B3 supplementation. It has been used in brain fog, Alzheimer’s and even some types of schizophrenia.
Skin health can benefit. As mentioned earlier, some types of skin cancer seem to less prevalent with niacin support.
Severe niacin deficiency results in pellagra. Adding back niacin treats this effectively.
Niacin can be found in foods like avocados, chicken, turkey, mushrooms and brown rice. Eating a balanced healthy diet can help deliver the B3 your body needs!