Vitamin B3’s therapeutic potential in Parkinson’s disease
Parkinson’s patients have less vitamin B3 in their blood due to interactions with medicine and certain other factors. Vitamin B3 is important for our energy turnover and some of the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease may be caused by lack of B3. On the other hand, vitamin B3 supplements can help by reducing fatigue, improving handwriting, and improving your mood, according to a study that is published in Frontiers of Aging Neuroscience. The scientists assume that giving supplements of vitamin B3 to patients with Parkinson’s disease has the potential to improve quality of life and delay the progression of their disease.
Parkinson’s disease is one of the most common chronic neurological disorders and causes loss of nerve cells. It is an insidious disease that typically starts around the age of 50-70 years. The symptoms are caused by a lack of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that the brain needs to control movements. In patients with Parkinson’s disease, the dopamine synthesis is lowered due to nerve cell damage. Symptoms typically include uncontrollable tremor and muscle stiffness, slow movements, poor balance and coordination, fatigue, and hypomimia that affects facial expression, making it difficult to express emotions or use the facial muscles normally.
Deficiency and poor utilization of vitamin B3 (niacin) are typically a result of
Vitamin B3 and its role in energy turnover and other metabolic processes
Parkinson’s patients have lower levels of vitamin B3 (niacin) in their blood compared with healthy controls. This may be a result of interactions between B3 and medical drugs such as Levodopa and Carpidopa, a disrupted tryptophane metabolism, and sleep disturbances. It turns out that lack of vitamin B3 can make Parkinson’s symptoms worse because vitamin B3 is vital for cellular energy metabolism and other metabolic processes. The energy turnover takes place inside the mitochondria, the cellular powerhouses. Here, vitamin B3 plays an important role because it is converted into a coenzyme called NAD+ (nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide). NAD+ is important for the production of concentrated energy in the form of ATP inside the mitochondria. In addition, NAD+ is important for anabolic processes, repair of DNA damage, and a number of other biochemical processes. Some of the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease may therefore be related to low vitamin B3 levels, for example fatigue, poor sleep, and mood swings.
Vitamin B3’s therapeutic potential in Parkinson’s disease
There is growing evidence that Parkinson’s patients have an increased need for vitamin B3 because it is difficult to get enough of the nutrient from the diet alone. The new study was carried out at Augusta University, Georgia, USA, and included 47 patients, all of whom had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and had had their disease for an average of five years. The mean age of the participants was 62 years. In the course of the study, the patients continued taking their own medication. The severity of their disease was observed and rated using a scale.
The patients were divided in three groups. One group got 100 mg of niacin (slow-release), another group got 250 mg of niacin (slow-release), and a third group got placebo.
The study lasted three months. At the start and the end of the study, each participant was asked to complete a battery of clinical tests that included tests of muscle function and handwriting. Other tests related to quality of life and looked at fatigue, depression, and sleep quality.
Also, EEG tests were done and blood samples drawn to measure levels of vitamin B3 and inflammation markers. Forty-six patients completed the three-month study, and 42 of the participants continued a 12-month follow-up phase.
Supplementation with vitamin B3 turned out to have several positive effects with regard to:
- Postural control (the ability to stand up straight with a stable posture)
- Frontal midline theta rhythm
- Increase in anti-inflammatory cytokines
Based on their findings, the scientists conclude that vitamin B3 supplements have a therapeutic potential in Parkinson’s disease by several accounts. It also appears that vitamin B3 supplements can help patients by improving the outcome of their regular medical therapy. The study is published in Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience.
Vitamin B3 sources and supplements
Vitamin B3 is water-soluble and is not stored in the body so we need a continuous dietary supply of the nutrient. Good sources include protein-rich foods such as meat, fish, poultry, nuts, kernels, and seeds. Other good sources are eggs, wholegrains, vegetables, and fruit.
Vitamin B3 in supplements is found in two forms: nicotinic acid and nicotinamide. Nicotinic acid reaches the blood faster and has the greatest therapeutic effect. However, it is also the form of vitamin B3 that can cause “niacin flush” (warm, red and itchy skin) when ingested in large quantities. This is an unpleasant but completely harmless side effect. A way to avoid niacin flush is to take nicotinamide instead.
Vitamin B3 should normally be taken in combination with the other B vitamins and preferably with a meal. Moreover, make sure to take vitamin B3 at a different time of the day than antacids in order to get the best absorption and utilization of the nutrient.
If you have Parkinson’s disease, you may want to consider B12 and Q10 also
Vitamin B12 is essential for the nervous system. Studies show that Parkinson’s disease progresses at a faster rate in patients if they lack vitamin B12. Q10 is a coenzyme that supports mitochondrial energy turnover, but it is also a powerful antioxidant that protects mitochondria against free radical attacks. Scientists have found defect mitochondria in the brains of Parkinson’s patients and that is why there is scientific focus on Q10. According to a Japanese study, supplements of Q10 can mitigate symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.
Raymond Chong et al. Niacin Enhancement for Parkinson´s Disease: An Effectiveness Trial. Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience. 2021
University of Leicester. People with forms of early-onset Parkinsons disease may benefit from boosting niacin in diet, research suggest. ScienceDaily. 2017
Lehmann S. et al. Enhancing NAD salvage metabolism is neuroprotective in a Pink1 model of Parkinson´s disease. Biology Open 2016
Vitamin B12 supplementation could postpone disease progression in Parkinson´s patients. News Medical Life Sciences, March 19, 2018
Yoritaka A et al. Randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled pilot trial of reduces coenzyme Q10 for Parkinson´s disease. PubMed 2015
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