Vitamin B3 Benefits for Skin and More

Graphic of skin bilayers in pink and white for the Vitamin B3 Benefits for Skin and More post by The Healthy RD
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Vitamin B3 benefits are widespread because most every cell in your body uses it. 

Importantly, Vitamin B3 is an essential nutrient that plays a role in making energy, or NAD.

Also, the potential for niacin to help heal the body, especially the skin, is high. This is true of any nutrient for that matter.

In this post, find out if you should consider adding niacin supplements to your daily routine for your skin health and beyond.

What is Niacin (Vitamin B3)?

Vitamin B3 (niacin) is a nutrient that helps convert food into energy. But it does so much more.

Forms of niacin such as NAD increases lifespan, and energy, and reduce skin aging in early research.

Vitamin B3 may improve immune function and eye function. Increasing vitamin B3 as NAD in the body has been studied for a wide range of health conditions.

Niacin even may reduce the damage of kidney injury, Alzheimer’s disease, chronic fatigue syndrome, dementia, hypertension, obesity, Parkinson’s disease, aging of the skin, psoriasis, skin cancers, type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes, and schizophrenia.

The beneficial forms of vitamin B3 include:

  • Nicotinamide Riboside (NR)
  • Nicotinamide Mononucleotide (NMN)
  • Nicotinamide
  • Niacin
  • Nicotinic acid

The forms of niacin found in most supplements are nicotinamide, niacinamide, niacin, and nicotinic acid. In foods, niacin occurs in these same forms.

Foods also do have trace amounts of NR and NMN as well.

Vitamin B3 Benefits for Skin

Image of a woman getting a hot stone massage with wording vitamin B3 benefits for skin by The Healthy RD

When it comes to your skin, niacin does a remarkable job at helping so many aspects of its health.

Vitamin B3 protects the skin from sun damage of ultraviolet radiation. In fact, using nicotinamide supplements at 500 mg twice daily reduces the chances of skin cancer recurrence.

It does so by helping enhance DNA repair and by reducing sun-induced immunity compromise.

By reducing DNA damage, niacin likely also helps reduce the risk of other types of cancer, although more research is needed.

Niacin reduces skin aging and also helps retain moisture in the skin according to research.

A pilot study even found that niacin supplements reduced acne and niacin worked better than nicotinamide while both helped. This was a small study, but very promising for acne sufferers. In this study, high doses of vitamin B3 were used.

By reducing DNA damage, niacin also helps reduce the skin’s appearance of aging. It helps reduce fine lines, wrinkles, and hyperpigmentation.

Vitamin B3 Benefits as NR and NMN

Niacin supplements in the body make the activated nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD).

An important benefit of NAD is that it 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 as NAD from niacin gets 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.  Sirtuin increases longevity and health in the body.

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 have more niacin in our bodies.

Why Do People Need Niacin Supplements?

Our calorie-rich, nutrient-poor, diets in the West make 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 due to:

  • age
  • eating too many empty calories
  • diabetes

Sadly, we can’t efficiently make NAD from other forms of niacin when these conditions are true.

NR and NMN may help us overcome some of the altered metabolism in these conditions.  The end result may be more energy as NAD and even potentially less disease.

For example, using NMN completely normalized glucose use in the body and reversed diabetes symptoms in an animal study.

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, but no one still knows the optimal doses for the best health.

Key Point: NAD helps repair DNA and prevent premature aging due to diabetes by protecting DNA.

Vitamin B3 Benefits for the Brain

Drawing of a head with the brain in pink with wording NAD Benefits for the Brain by The Healthy RD
NAD Benefits for the Brain

Using NAD as NR increases a longevity chemical in the brain called sirtuin and activates an energy-producing substance in the body called NAD in mice.

Other substances that activate this compound called sirtuin include resveratrol and quercetin.

Fascinatingly, NR reduces symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease by improving memory and stopping the spread of brain damage according to a study in mice.  Further, NR renewed stem cells and improved the plasticity of synapses in these studies.

It also reduces inflammation in the brain and reduces cellular aging according to more studies in mice.

Interestingly, using NAD supplements and IV NAD helped reduce symptoms of Parkinson’s disease in about 80% of people with this disorder, especially younger people and people with a shorter duration of the condition.

However, more research is needed to confirm if NR works the same in most people.

Vitamin B3 Heart Benefits

Supplements of NAD as niacin are used to reduce cholesterol and triglycerides. It works quite well for this. Supplemental niacin is generally good for the heart.

Niacin supplements help the heart by:

  • Reduce the risk of heart attacks
  • Decrease requirements for further heart stent placements,
  • Minimize stroke risk and 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 the heart and the kidney from stress in animal studies. It reduces heart muscle damage in these studies.

Niacin as NMN also protects the heart from oxidation and improves artery function in mice.

It also protects animals from heart failure, which isn’t surprising because it is involved in making energy for the heart.

Also, niacin as NR may improve the circadian rhythm in the body. It helps balance the core circadian rhythm substance called CLOCK. Sleep patterns are important for heart function.

However, very few studies have looked at the long-term health benefits of activated NAD in people so far. The research does suggest that NAD supplements may help improve blood pressure and reduce aortic stiffness, but more research is needed.

Niacin May Increase Longevity and Energy

Niacin, when given as NMN supplements, reduced signs of aging in mice, including:

  • Improved insulin sensitivity
  • Reduced body weight
  • Increased energy metabolism
  • Increased physical activity
  • Reduced cholesterol
  • Stabilized skeletal muscle

However, no research in humans has been conducted to prove that NAD supplements have the same effects.

Niacin Deficiency Symptoms

The deficiency of niacin is called pellagra and over history, it has been relatively common.  It remains common in developing countries.

Although the outright deficiency of niacin 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
  • Dermatitis
  • Hair loss
  • Swelling
  • Smooth, beefy red tongue
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Weakness
  • Mental confusion or aggression
  • Lack of coordination
  • Paralysis of extremities
  • Nerve damage
  • Diarrhea
  • Enlarged, weakened heart
  • Eventually dementia

Deficiency can be caused by a diet low in tryptophan (low protein diet).

Some experts suggest it may also be caused by calorie excess and diabetes.

Niacin deficiency can also be caused by:

  • Alcohol
  • Poor digestion
  • Diarrhea
  • Certain medications, like chemotherapy drugs, Sinemet, immunosuppressants, 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.

Other conditions that may reduce the body’s ability to generate energy from niacin include the use of immunosuppressants, Sinemet, and long-term kidney dialysis.

Niacin History

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 an epidemic in the United States. The widespread deficiency was related to the processing of grain.

The chemical structure of niacin was not discovered until 1937.   An American biochemist Conrad Arnold Elvehjem at that time.

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.

Not surprisingly, liver is the food highest in niacin, with 3 ounces of beef liver containing over 14 mg of niacin per serving.

Other great sources of niacin:

  • Chicken liver
  • Chicken breast
  • Tuna
  • Turkey
  • Pork
  • Sardines
  • Salmon
  • Ground beef

The newest discovered form of niacin is NR.  It is only found in trace amounts in foods.  The foods we know that have it are dairy and yeast.

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 thought to be found in vegetables like:

1. Broccoli
2. Cabbage
3. Cucumber
4. Edamame
5. Avocado
6. Tomato

For plant forms of niacin, it is best to ferment them. Let’s learn more.

Absorption of Niacin from Food

The plant form of niacin is only 30% absorbed but can be enhanced by adding lime (not the fruit, but the alkaline stone).

However, the fermentation of plant foods increases the absorption by up to 7 times.

Aside from this, little is known about niacin absorption to this day.

We do know that diets that are low in tryptophan can create a deficiency in niacin and that the risk factors for niacin deficiency are common.

Let’s learn more about that next.

How to Naturally Increase NAD Levels

NAD supplements and niacin are not the only way to increase NAD levels.  You may be able to increase your NAD levels in your body by strength training, and eating foods rich in apigenin such as celery, parsley, oregano, and chamomile.

Safety of Supplementing Vitamin B3

As you may recall, there are many forms of niacin supplements.

Nicotinamide is safe at relatively high doses without any significant risk of toxicity. For example, research has used doses of 1000 mg per day, with minor side effects such as diarrhea

A tolerable upper level of intake is 35 mg per day of nicotinic acid.

This doesn’t mean that higher doses have been safely used because they have. But if you want to use high dose niacin of any kind, it’s best to check with your healthcare provider.

Nicotinic acid supplements can cause flushing symptoms.

NAD supplements are safe in humans according to the research we have so far.

Varying doses, up to 1000 mg per day seemed safe in a small study.

However, some research suggests that higher doses of NAD may cause more harm than good.

If you do choose to supplement NAD, low doses are probably the way to go.

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.

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