Niacin version of Vitamin B3 may be a fountain of youth

October 02, 2013

Niacin is a water soluble B-Complex vitamin. You may have heard of it because very high dosages, what are referred to as pharmacological doses, are used to boost HDL cholesterol quite successfully; this is actually using a vitamin as a drug. Niacin is absolutely required at small doses to create all of our energy out of the food we eat in a pathway known as the Krebs cycle.

Interestingly many powerful drugs such as PPARS that affect blood sugar, cholesterol, and fat burning all use niacin related functions coming out of niacin pathways. The Niacin related enzymes NAD and NADH are related to about 400 enzymes active in many metabolic pathways. The Sirtuin enzymes studied at Harvard and MIT that are thought to impact how long we live and how long we remain healthy, and how well the brain functions and interacts with our body all come out of niacin pathways.

Niacin is also a known cancer preventing agent at the lower doses where Niacin functions as a vitamin. Niacin stabilizes our genes via various activities. Loss of genomic stability characterized by a high rate of damage to our DNA and chromosomes is a hallmark of cancer. Niacin creates NAD and NADP both of which allow us to use calories for energy. A lack of NAD leads to a drop in p53 activity in many tissues including skin, lung and breast tissue. This is unfortunate because p53 is an important tumor suppressing gene; its activity stops the formation of tumors.

In a recent study adding niacin to the diet of roundworms extended their lifespan by 10%. Niacin achieved this effect by mimicking the effects of exercise; Niacin is an exercise mimetic that tricks the body into thinking it is exercising. Out of this Niacin activity, very specific free radicals actually improve health (these are vastly different free radicals than those free radicals generated by smoking or inhaling auto-fumes); these particular free radicals are associated with post-exercise muscle remodeling and improved muscle health and this helps restore balanced metabolism. Resveratrol is another exercise mimetic; it lowers the amount of fat in a muscle and improves the amount of leanness; Resveratrol also affects Sirtuin enzymes. In the former case Sirtuins convert niacin into niacinamide and this may be one of the reasons why Sirtuins and Niacin roll back the clock on aging. The current life extending research is published in Nature Chemical Biology.