Niacinamide: Benefits, Uses and Side Effects
Niacinamide and nicotinic acid both provide vitamin B3 activity, but they differ in chemical structure and how they affect your health.
This article explains what niacinamide is, its benefits, uses and potential side effects.
What Is Niacinamide?
Niacinamide is a form of vitamin B3 (niacin) â€” one of the eight B vitamins your body needs for good health.
Vitamin B3 plays a vital role in converting the food you eat into usable energy and helps your bodyâ€™s cells carry out important chemical reactions (1).
Since itâ€™s water-soluble, your body doesnâ€™t store this vitamin, which is why you need to eat nicotinic acid or niacinamide daily.
Vitamin B3 is generally found as niacinamide in animal-based products, such as meat and poultry, and as nicotinic acid in plant-based foods like nuts, seeds and green vegetables (2).
Many refined grain products, including cereals, are also fortified with niacinamide (2).
Your body can also make vitamin B3 from tryptophan, an amino acid present in most protein foods.
However, the conversion of tryptophan to vitamin B3 is inefficient, as it takes 60 mg of tryptophan to make just 1 mg of vitamin B3 (1).
Historically, vitamin B3 was called vitamin PP, an acronym for pellagra- preventive.
Thatâ€™s because a deficiency of vitamin B3 or tryptophan leads to a disease called pellagra, which is characterized by the four Dâ€™s â€” diarrhea, dermatitis, dementia and, if left untreated, death (3).
Pellagra is rare in developed countries like North America and Europe, but the disease is still frequent in some developing countries (4).
Nicotinic acid and niacinamide can both treat pellagra, but niacinamide is preferred since itâ€™s associated with fewer side effects, such as flushing of the skin.
Niacinamide is a form of vitamin B3, an essential nutrient that supports many cellular processes. Niacinamide is found primarily in animal-based products and is the preferred form of vitamin B3 for treating pellagra.
Benefits and Uses
Aside from being the preferred form of niacin for treating pellagra, niacinamide has several other health benefits and uses.
Helpful for Certain Skin Conditions
Niacinamide plays an important role in keeping your skin healthy.
For this reason, itâ€™s a popular additive in the cosmetic and skincare industry.
When applied topically or taken orally as a supplement, niacinamide has been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects on the skin (5).
It has been used to treat skin conditions like acne and rosacea, a facial skin disorder characterized by redness (5, 6).
This makes niacinamide a popular alternative to oral or topical antibiotics for treating acne or rosacea (7, 8).
May Help Prevent Melanoma
Melanoma is a serious type of skin cancer that develops in the cells that produce melanin, the pigment that gives your skin its color.
Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation, either from the sun or tanning beds, damages the DNA of your cells over time and is strongly correlated with melanoma.
Owing to its role in keeping your cells healthy, oral supplements of niacinamide have been shown to enhance DNA repair in UV damaged skin in humans (9, 10).
As such, niacinamide is a promising supplement that may protect against melanoma, especially in high-risk populations, such as those who have had previous nonmelanoma skin cancers (11, 12, 13, 14).
Useful for Chronic Kidney Disease
Chronic kidney disease is the progressive loss of kidney function that affects your bodyâ€™s ability to clean and filter blood and control blood pressure.
This can cause a harmful buildup of chemicals, such as phosphate, in your blood (15).
Research suggests that niacinamide may help decrease phosphate levels in people with kidney dysfunction by blocking its absorption (16, 17, 18, 19).
Phosphate levels are otherwise typically managed through diet, medications or dialysis, depending on the severity of the buildup (20).
May Slow the Progression of Type 1 Diabetes
Type 1 diabetes is a condition in which your body attacks and destroys the insulin-producing beta cells of the pancreas.
Itâ€™s been suggested that niacinamide protects and preserves the beta cells, thereby preventing or delaying the onset of type 1 diabetes in at-risk individuals (21, 22, 23).
However, research doesnâ€™t support the notion that niacinamide can prevent the onset of type 1 diabetes, although it may help delay its progression by preserving beta cell function (24, 25, 26, 27).
While promising, more research is needed before niacinamide supplements can be recommended as an intervention for type 1 diabetes.
Niacinamide may benefit those with certain skin conditions and reduce the risk of melanoma in high-risk individuals. It may also be useful for people with chronic kidney disease and, to a lesser extent, type 1 diabetes.
Supplement Types and Forms
Vitamin B3, in the form of nicotinic acid or niacinamide, is available as a supplement either by itself or alongside other vitamins and minerals in doses ranging from 14 to 1,000 mg per serving.
The vitamin is also included in B-complex supplements, which contain all eight B vitamins.
Some supplements that contain vitamin B3 only list niacin, but most supplements specify the form of niacin as either nicotinic acid or niacinamide.
Niacinamide may be included in pre-workout supplements, but nicotinic acid, the form that causes flushing of the skin, is preferred for the purpose of giving the consumer a sense that the pre-workout has kicked-in following the skin flushing.
For skin care, niacinamide is often included in facial moisturizing lotions or in products marketed for treating acne or rosacea.
Vitamin B3 as niacinamide is widely available as a dietary supplement. Itâ€™s also commonly included in many facial moisturizers and acne or rosacea treatment products.
Niacinamide is generally well-tolerated in appropriate doses, largely because excess amounts are excreted with your urine (28).
The tolerable upper limit of vitamin B3 is 35 mg per day. This is the amount least likely to cause flushing, redness, itching and tingling of your skin, a known side effect of nicotinic acid but not niacinamide (1, 29).
There have been reports of minor side effects associated with nicotinamide, such as stomach discomfort, nausea and headaches.
It has also been suggested that nicotinamide may increase insulin resistance, a hallmark of type 2 diabetes, but the evidence has been inconsistent (1, 28).
That said, itâ€™s best practice to consult with your healthcare provider before supplementing with niacinamide â€” or any supplement for that matter â€” to assess your individual risk.
There is a low risk of side effects with nicotinamide supplements. But despite a relatively strong safety profile, itâ€™s best to consult with your healthcare provider if you choose to supplement with nicotinamide.
The Bottom Line
Niacinamide is one form of vitamin B3 (niacin) that plays an important role in energy metabolism and cell health.
It may offer benefits related to skin care and skin cancer, as well as chronic kidney disease and type 1 diabetes.
Niacinamide is generally considered safe with few side effects at appropriate doses. Itâ€™s available as a dietary supplement and is a common ingredient in skin care products.
However, itâ€™s best to consult with your healthcare provider before trying niacinamide.
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