This week on Lifespan News, Brent Nally discusses niacin supplementation and how this vitamin affects metabolic pathways related to aging and could benefit sufferers of Parkinson’s disease.
A clinical trial on the effectiveness of niacin supplementation in Parkinson’s disease patients has recently been published in Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience. Niacin is a form of vitamin B3 that is commonly manufactured as a dietary supplement.
Patients with Parkinson’s have considerably lower amounts of vitamin B3 compared to controls. Patients with Parkinson’s also present with multiple symptoms consistent with vitamin B3 deficiency, including fatigue, disrupted sleep, and mood changes. Several known mechanisms of Parkinson’s disease interfere with vitamin B3 production and metabolism.
Furthermore, niacin impacts anti-aging pathways, such as DNA repair, metabolism, and NAD+ levels. 32 men and 15 women with an average age of 62 years and a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease were enrolled in this double-blind study. They took daily supplements of either a placebo, 100 milligrams of niacin, or 250 milligrams of slow-release niacin.
Each patient was assessed before treatment and after three months of treatment. After the three-month follow-up, all of the participants were placed in the 250 milligrams experimental niacin group. The Unified Parkinson’s Disease Rating Scale is the study’s primary endpoint and it showed a high amount of variability at 3 months, but it improved from baseline at 12 months. Although there was no control group at the 12-month time point, scores improved by 3.5 points, while a decline of 5.5 points would have been expected over the same time period in a similar study population.
Many secondary measures also improved, including handwriting, perception of fatigue, mood, postural control, and frontal EEG rhythm. Several other measures, such as quality of sleep, did not change after 12 months of niacin treatment. These may or may not represent benefits, since decline might reasonably be expected based on disease progression.
The effects that niacin supplementation had on these Parkinson’s disease patients were interesting, clinically meaningful, and statistically significant. However, nearly all of these effects were seen at 12 months of supplementation, where there was no longer a blinded placebo group to compare to. It’s true that the effects of niacin were impressive, especially with a supplement with a very high safety profile, but the placebo effect is no joke. It’s difficult to interpret the results of this study without a proper control group, so, hopefully, future studies will account for this along with more participants for longer periods.
The larger, slow-release niacin variant of 250 milligrams appeared to be the most effective. I currently take 50 milligrams of niacin in the morning or afternoon when I break my fast and another 50 milligrams of niacin when I eat dinner and I believe my niacin supplementation is benefiting my health, but I obviously don’t know for sure and I’m certainly not recommending that you take niacin.
I split up my niacin dosage because taking 100 milligrams of niacin at once has given me the common side effects of flushing, tingling, skin reddening, and sensations of heat. These side effects are even more likely if niacin is taken on an empty stomach so I’m always sure to only take niacin with a meal. I get blood tests every few months to check all my vitamin levels, but I sure would like to know what my vitamin levels were on a more frequent basis like daily or even hourly so I can supplement more effectively.
At the current rate of technological progress, this personalized precision medicine reality may just be a few years away, and we’ll be sure to be at the forefront of reporting these innovations. If you want to learn more about this study, then check out Lifespan.io’s article by Greg Gillispie in the description and we’ll see ya in the next video!