Niacinamide: Get to Know More About This Form of Vitamin B3

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  • Also known as vitamin B3, niacin is a water-soluble vitamin that’s essential for your health because it assists in converting carbohydrates to glucose and is necessary for the production of several sex and stress-related hormones
  • Aside from helping address vitamin B3 deficiency, one of the reasons why niacinamide is rising in popularity today is it’s been touted to be beneficial for skincare. This vitamin has been found to have anti-inflammatory properties that may be effective for conditions like acne and rosacea

Also known as vitamin B3, niacin is a water-soluble vitamin that’s essential for your health because it assists in converting carbohydrates to glucose and is necessary for the production of several sex and stress-related hormones.1 Getting sufficient levels of niacin is important to prevent vitamin B3 deficiency, which can lead to a dangerous condition known as pellagra.

However, you may have also heard about another type of vitamin B3 called niacinamide. But what exactly does it do and how does it stack up versus niacin and its other supplement forms? Keep reading to learn more about niacinamide in this article.

What Is Niacinamide?

The truth is that niacin, or nicotinic acid, and niacinamide, also known as nicotinamide or nicomide, are both classified as vitamin B3. The only difference is that niacinamide is the form that is combined with amino acids of another molecule, like tryptophan,2 which then leads to a chemical reaction.3 If comparing niacin versus niacinamide in terms of being a vitamin, they are similarly effective, as they can in fact be converted into each other within the body.4

However, the difference lies in their pharmacologic properties.5 This is because niacin, when taken in supplement form and in very high doses, can lead to a “niacin flush” – a side effect that occurs when niacin triggers the blood vessels near the skin to dilate, resulting in symptoms such as a burning or tingling sensation on the face, chest and neck, as well as skin that’s warm to the touch.6

On the other hand, niacinamide does not result in this flush, which is why it is an ideal replacement if you’re addressing vitamin B3 deficiency. However, it cannot be used for high cholesterol levels – another supplemental use of niacin. This is because when niacin takes on an amino acid, the cholesterol-lowering properties it possesses are inhibited.7

Therefore, if you’re supplementing with vitamin B3 to help address a certain health problem, make sure that you’re taking the correct form of vitamin that you need.

Niacin and Niacinamide Food Sources

You can get niacin and niacinamide from certain foods, and the good news is that, unlike supplemental niacin, they will not trigger the flushing effect. However, you need to consume them daily, as both forms of vitamin B3 are water-soluble, so they are not stored in the body and instead eliminated through the kidneys. Some of the best dietary sources of vitamin B3 include:8

Fish like wild-caught Alaskan salmon

Poultry like pasture raised turkey and chicken (especially their white meat)

Organ meats like beef kidney and liver

Raw milk

Pastured eggs

Legumes like lima beans and lentils and sunflower seeds

Beets and green vegetables

Brewer’s yeast

Niacinamide Benefits to Know About

Aside from helping address vitamin B3 deficiency, one of the reasons why niacinamide is rising in popularity today is it’s been touted to be beneficial for skincare. This vitamin has been found to have anti-inflammatory properties that may be effective for conditions like acne and rosacea. Niacinamide may also boost the natural collagen production of the skin, making it firmer and plumper.9

However, there are other health conditions that niacinamide may be beneficial for. These include:

  • Anxiety: Niacinamide, according to research, help influence the turnover of serotonin, noradrenaline, dopamine and GABA in the areas of the brain that are thought to have an imbalance in people dealing with anxiety. It’s said to exhibit muscle-relaxing and hypnotic effects.10
  • Type 1 diabetes: One study found that using high doses of niacinamide helped reduce the risk or delayed Type 1 diabetes in some animal models.11
  • Osteoarthritis: This vitamin has been found to potentially improve symptoms of arthritis by increasing joint mobility and reducing dependence on nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). However, more research is needed for this.12

Studies Conducted on Niacinamide

There have been several studies that support niacinamide’s potential benefits, although some may still be inconclusive. In 2008, a team of Japanese researchers published a study in the Journal of Dermatology about niacinamide’s effect on eye wrinkles. The female participants applied a 4 percent niacinamide cream on one side of the face and a placebo on the other.

After eight weeks, the researchers noted that 64 percent of the 30 subjects tested had reduction in eye wrinkles on the niacinamide-treated area. According to their findings:13

“Anti-wrinkle effects were evaluated with two methods: (i) doctors' observation and photographs based on the guideline of the Japan Cosmetic Industry Association; and (ii) average roughness of skin surface (Ra value) using skin replica.

This cosmetic showed marked and moderate improvement in 64% of the subjects with a significant difference as compared with the control site … Only one subject stopped the study with minimal irritation.

These results indicated that the tested lotion was well tolerated and may be an optional preparation for the treatment of wrinkles in the eye areas.”

Meanwhile, the Inflammation Research journal published a double-blind, placebo controlled study in 1996 about the potential effects of niacinamide for osteoarthritis pain. In a 12-week period, 72 patients were given either niacinamide or a placebo, and symptoms were observed.

The researchers found that those who took niacinamide had 29 percent improvement in their arthritis, while those in the placebo group worsened by 10 percent. And although their pain levels did not change, the niacinamide group also reduced their medications by 13 percent.14

What’s the Ideal Niacinamide Dosage?

Niacinamide supplements are usually taken once or twice a day. Because it doesn’t cause a flush unlike niacin, it may be generally safe for healthy people to take higher doses of this supplement. You can take up to 500 milligrams daily without any ill effects.15 Nevertheless, it is still a good idea to consult a health practitioner before ingesting niacinamide to ensure you’re getting the correct dose.

If you’re taking extended-release niacinamide tablets, be careful not to crush or chew them, otherwise all of the content may be expelled into your system, potentially leading to unwanted side effects. Do not split niacinamide tablets.

If you’re on medications that work by lowering blood fats, such as bile acid-binding resins, ingest niacinamide at least four to six hours before or after taking the drug. These products can bind to niacinamide, preventing it from being fully absorbed.16 People suffering from certain conditions like diabetes, heart disease, liver disease, kidney problems and gout should also consult their physician before taking niacinamide.17

As for topical use, niacinamide serums with concentrations of 5 percent are ideal. They can be added to other skincare products.18

Niacinamide’s Potential Side Effects

If you suffer from certain allergies, be cautious when taking niacinamide or niacin – they can cause allergy to become more severe, as they prompt the release of histamine, the chemical responsible for allergic symptoms.

Other minor side effects of taking either niacin or niacinamide include intestinal gas, stomach upset, pain in the mouth, dizziness and other problems.19 Should you experience these symptoms, stop taking the supplement and consult a physician immediately.

Address Vitamin B3 Deficiency Through Your Diet First

If you consume a variety of healthy foods, including the ones mentioned above, then there’s probably little need for you to take a niacin or niacinamide supplement. In fact, relying on these foods may be better, as they do not put you at risk of a niacin flush, plus they are loaded with other nutrients that can further boost your health.

Nevertheless, if you’re experiencing severe vitamin B3 deficiency, then niacinamide may be the better option, as it does not pose the risk of a niacin flush. However, always consult with your physician before supplementing with it, and make sure you do not go beyond the recommended dose.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Niacinamide

Q: What does niacinamide do?

A: Just like niacin, niacinamide is a water-soluble vitamin B3 that helps convert carbohydrates to glucose and may also be used to produce sex and stress-related hormones. Niacin may also be used for addressing vitamin B3 deficiency. When used topically, it may help alleviate certain skin problems.

Q: What does niacinamide do for skin?

A: This form of vitamin B3 has been found to help alleviate conditions like acne and rosacea, thanks to its anti-inflammatory properties. Niacinamide may also boost your skin’s natural collagen production, giving it a firmer and plumper appearance.

Q: How much niacinamide should I take?

A: Compared to niacin, niacinamide may be taken in slightly higher doses, up to 500 milligrams daily. However, consult with your physician first if this supplement is safe for you to take.

Q: Is niacinamide safe?

A: Niacinamide is generally safe for healthy individuals, and there’s no risk of getting a niacin flush from it. However, take note that it still comes with certain side effects, and this supplement may not be ideal for people with certain health problems.

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