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Vitamin B3 and NAD for energy boosting, the nervous system, and anti-ageing

Vitamin B3 and NAD for energy boosting, the nervous system, and anti-ageingVitamin B3 deserves a lot more attention because of its key role in cellular energy metabolism, the brain and nervous system, our mental health, and our circulatory system. In the cellular powerhouses, we find the derivate form of B3 called NAD, which gives an energy boost. According to a study published in StatPearls, studies suggest that vitamin B3 lowers the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and other neurological disorders, rheumatoid arthritis, muscle atrophy, and various cancer forms. Many people have an increased need for the nutrient due to factors such as ageing, genetic variations, and poor utilization of the vitamin.

If you feel tired and indisposed it may be due to a vitamin B3 deficiency, a nutrient which the cells need to produce energy. Vitamin B3 is also important for the central nervous system, which includes the development, function, and protection of nerve cells. Vitamin B3 helps to regulate the calcium signaling in nerve cells, which is a highly important function because if nerve cells are flooded with calcium ions it may overstimulate them and cause various neurological imbalances. Moreover, vitamin B3 is important for the repair of damaged DNA and various functions in the circulatory system, the blood sugar balance, and the skin.
The review article mentions that vitamin B3 supplements have been used alone or in combination with statins to regulate blood levels of cholesterol. Vitamin B3 supplementation also appears to lower the risk of diabetes-related cardiovascular disease. In their article, the authors refer to several studies that show that vitamin B3 lowers the risk of the following:

  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Huntington’s disease
  • Schizophrenia
  • ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis)
  • Muscle atrophy
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Skin cancer (basal cell carcinoma)
  • Glioblastoma (brain cancer)
  • Disrupted circadian rhythm and sleep problems

Pellagra is the classical vitamin B3 deficiency symptoms and is characterized by the three D’s: Diarrhea, dermatitis, and dementia. Other mental symptoms include tiredness, headaches, poor concentration, anxiety, aggressiveness, and sleep problems. These symptoms may also occur in connection with less severe vitamin B3 deficiencies where pellagra has not been detected.

Vitamin B3’s different forms and mechanisms

Vitamin B3 (niacin) is a shared term for both nicotinic acid and nicotinamide. These two forms of vitamin B3 together with coenzyme Q10 are vital for cellular energy production that takes place inside the mitochondria and also requires oxygen. Inside the inner membrane of the mitochondria different biochemical processes take place, in which niacin is converted into the active form NAD (nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide) in a multi-step process.
NAD is found in all living cells where the molecule functions by receiving and donating electrons. NAD is able to shift between two oxidative stages (NAD+ and NADH), an ability that is crucial for the cells and their ability to produce chemically concentrated energy in the form of ATP (adenosine triphosphate). NAD is also involved in hundreds of biochemical processes that are important for the body’s production of the neurotransmitter serotonin and for anabolic processes and DNA repair.

Vitamin B3 sources and the reason why deficiencies are so common and overlooked

The best natural sources of vitamin B3 are protein-rich foods like meat, fish, eggs, nuts, wholegrains, and legumes. The liver is able to synthesize vitamin B3 from vitamin B6 and the amino acid tryptofan (both of which we also need from our diet).
A vitamin B3 deficiency can be a result of unhealthy eating habits, excessive alcohol consumption, too much coffee, the use of diuretics, ageing, liver diseases, bowel disorders, oxidative stress, and chronic inflammation. The body’s ability to utilize vitamin B3 is also important. Some researchers believe that one of the practical causes of vitamin B3 deficiency can be variations in cellular DNA that make it difficult for them to bind and utilize the active form (NAD). In that case, people have an increased need for vitamin B3.

Requirements and supplementation

The official recommendation for vitamin B3 intake is 16 mg daily, a dose that effectively prevents pellagra. Some people, however, may need more for different reasons and may even need to take therapeutic doses and forms of the nutrient that are easier to utilize. Some studies have used daily doses of 500 – 3,000 mg in the form of nicotinamide or nicotinic acid.
Nicotinic acid reaches the blood faster than nicotinamide and normally has a better therapeutic effect. Nicotinic acid taken in larger quantities is also known to cause “niacin flush”, which is a harmless condition that involves reddening of the face, accompanied by a burning or itching sensation. It is therefore advisable to begin with lower doses of nicotinic acid and to gradually increase to higher therapeutic doses, preferably taken in smaller doses in the course of the day.
Another option is to take a vitamin B3 supplement that contains niacinamide and nicotinic acid in a special slow-release formula that guarantees a slower and more stable release over a longer period of time.
Pregnant women should refrain from taking large doses of niacin as it may harm the fetus. Patients suffering from liver diseases, stomach ulcers, and arterial bleeding should also avoid taking high doses of vitamin B3.

  • Vitamin B3 (niacin) is a common term for the two forms, nicotinamide and nicotinic acid
  • Niacin is converted into the coenzyme NAD (nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide)
  • NAD interchanges between two oxidative stages (NAD+ and NADH). Combined with Q10, they are essential for cellular energy turnover
  • NAD is involved in over 400 biochemical processes
  • Vitamin B3 lowers the risk of neurological diseases, cardiovascular diseases, and certain cancer forms (glioblastoma and basal cell carcinoma)
  • Vitamin B3 can also help treat sleep problems
  • Ageing, stimulant use, diuretics, and genetic variations may increase the need for vitamin B3


Soraya Djadjo, Tushar Bajaj. Niacin. StatPearls (Internet) 2023

Sasa Rediz, Vikas Gupta. Niacin Deficiency. StatPearls (internet) 2022

Ed Adamczyk. Study: Vitamin B3 variant could help Alzheimer´s patients. UPI 2018

Raymond Chong et al. Niacin Enhancement for Parkinson´s Disease: An Effectiveness Trial. Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience. 2021

Mawson A, Jacobs K. Corn consumption, tryptofan, and cross-national homicide rates. Orthomolecular Psychiatry 1978

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