Niacinamide, also known as nicotinamide and nicotinic acid amide, is a water-soluble vitamin made from niacin in the body. When niacin exists in greater amounts than needed, it is converted into niacinamide. Both niacin and niacinamide are part of the B complex vitamins, making up vitamin B3. This vitamin is needed to keep cells healthy and to produce fatty acids.
Niacinamide is a component of the coenzymes called nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate (NADP) and nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD). It combines with them to convert glycogen into glucose and to release energy from body tissues. Other functions include helping to heal broken DNA strands and keeping the central nervous system functioning well.
Vitamin B3 is found in a large variety of foods, including yeast, milk, fish, eggs, meat, beans, green vegetables, and cereals. Often it is combined with the other B vitamins as a supplement. Proper amounts can usually be obtained by eating a healthy, varied diet.
Deficiency can cause a condition called pellagra. Symptoms of this disease include diarrhea, skin irritations, and dementia. This is not frequently seen today because many foods are vitamin fortified. It was very common in the early 20th century, however.
Niacinamide is also used to treat many other conditions. In large amounts, it has been shown to help prevent heart disease and hardening of the arteries. This is because it reduces the levels of triglycerides in the blood. Studies have also shown that it may reduce the risk of a second heart attack. However, this only applies to men who have a history of heart or circulatory problems. It has also been found to lower blood pressure levels. A variety of age-related illnesses, including macular degeneration and Alzheimer’s disease, are also sometimes treated with niacinamide.
Many topical preparations also contain niacinamide. Applied directly to the skin, it may aid conditions such as rosacea and inflammatory acne vulgaris. While it is a frequent ingredient in shampoos and moisturizers, it’s benefits in these products are not proven.
The use of niacinamide is often preferred over niacin because it does not produce flushing of the skin, which is the most common side effect of niacin use. It does have it’s own side effects, however, including itching, skin dryness and mild stomach upset. These occur mostly when the supplement is taken in large doses. They tend to lessen or go away entirely after a few weeks of treatment.