Nutrients that sound the same can be very confusing. Niacin, niacinamide, nitrates, and nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide can have differences in how they function, yet be similar in how they assist in healthy aging. So let’s start with niacin and niacinamide which are 2 forms of water soluble vitamin B3.
Niacin, also known as nicotinic acid is a vitamin essential for energy metabolism. It helps in the functioning of the digestive tract, skin and nervous system. It is also known for its benefits in reducing cholesterol, particularly people with elevated triglycerides and low HDL (good cholesterol). It is found in food sources such as fish, meat, eggs, milk, yeast, nuts, green vegetables, and beans. Niacin as a supplement can cause blood vessels to dilate which results in flushing for some people. If that’s the case, then I recommend using an extended release form that causes less flushing.
Niacinamide is the other form of B3 (Niacin) that was initially used to prevent a condition know as pellagra- a disease causing dermatitis and red lesions due to B3 deficiency. Today it is used in many skin care products to prevent acne, wrinkles and skin damage. Our body has the ability to convert niacin into niacinamide in large amounts. In high doses, niacinamide can cause skin irritation, burning, itching or redness. Topical niacinamide skin products can be as high as 10%, but studies show that there is no additional benefit compared to doses as low as 2%.
Let’s talk about nitrates. These are compounds found in beetroot and dark leafy greens like spinach and arugula. When you consume nitrates, your body converts it to nitric oxide, which allows blood vessels to dilate and lowers blood pressure. Nitric oxide is an important molecule in all aspects of aging. It increases blood perfusion and not only delivers nutrients and oxygen to tissues including the heart, but also removes waste products. It also suppresses coagulation and stops blood from getting “sticky”. Be careful because nitrates can come from processed foods, such as preservatives in bacon, cold cuts and hot dogs. You want to stay away from them due to their risk for cancer. But vegetable nitrates, such as celery, cress, lettuce, rugula and spinach are harmless and these along with other antioxidants help neutralize free radicals.
The other N-compound that assists in the aging process is Nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD+). The reduced form of NAD+ is NADH which is critical for mitochondrial production of ATP, which serves as fuel for the cells of the body. NAD+ levels decrease with age. Low levels make mitochondria more vulnerable to damage. Low NAD+ also occurs in many neurodegenerative diseases including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, cardiovascular disease and muscle atrophy. Sirtuins, which increase lifespan, need NAD+ to function properly. Sirtuins are a class of enzymes that influence aging and longevity through multiple pathways. These enzymes stop the decline in vascular endothelial function, metabolic syndrome, ischemic injury, obesity and cardiomyopathy. NAD+ can be activated with lean diets, exercise, intermittent fasting, and supplementing with NADH 5-10 mg daily. Resveratrol which is a polyphenolic compound produced in plants has been shown to activate Sirtuin. Sources are grapes and berries.
Nutrients that sound the same can be very confusing. By understanding and incorporating these nutrients in our life we can improve healthy blood flow and mitochondrial rejuvenation to help us feel healthier and more energetic as we age.
Reference: Van De Walle, G. Niacinamide: Benefits, Uses and Side effects. Healthline.com. Nov 16, 2018.
Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database: NADH. natural database.com
Meletis, C. Wilkes, K. The critical role of NAD+ and nitric oxide replenishment in anti-aging medicine. Townsendletter.com. Dec. 2021, Issue #461. p. 48-51.