A vitamin that stops brain cell death? It sounds too good to be true but scientists are telling us that the key to stopping the progression of brain diseases like Parkinson’s may be found in a readily-available and affordable vitamin.
That’s the conclusion of a new study published in the medical journal Cell Reports. According to the study, researchers found that a form of vitamin B3 called nicotinamide riboside preserved brain cells, which are also known as neurons, by improving the function of their energy centers—called mitochondria. Having strong and healthy cellular energy centers is critical for great health, so it’s no surprise that anything that can help ensure the health of the mitochondria in brain cells can help prevent the progression of brain diseases.
Parkinson’s disease is a disorder of the nervous system that affects movement. The condition develops gradually and usually starts with barely noticeable tremors in one hand. Tremors are the most known sign of the disease, but the condition also causes stiffness or slowing of movement, lack of expression and slurred speed. While there is no known cure for the disease, diet and lifestyle may help slow the condition and improve quality of life for suffers.
Well-known actor Michael J. Fox, the most notable sufferer of the condition, has used his celebrity status to help raise awareness of the disease and to start the Michael J. Fox Foundation which funds research to find a cure for the serious condition.
Niacin is the most common form of naturally-occurring vitamin B3 while niacinamide is the synthetic version of the same nutrient. The study used nicotinamide riboside, which is frequently referred to as the cellular regenerator in the nutritional world. According to the study’s author, Dr. Michela Deleidi, leader of brain research projects at the University of Tubingen and the Helmholtz Association, in Germany, nicotinamide riboside “stimulates the faulty energy metabolism in the affected nerve cells and protects them from dying off.”
Parkinson’s disease arises and worsens over time in large part due to the death of neurons, particularly those involved with dopamine production, movement, walking, coordination and balance. Dopamine is a feel-good brain chemical. Impaired production of this chemical is involved in brain diseases like Parkinson’s.
Other Benefits of Vitamin B3
Vitamin B3 is involved in many functions to help keep you healthy, some of which include maintaining the health of your skin, hair, liver, eyes and nervous system. It is involved in the production of hormones and in the metabolism of carbohydrates, fats and proteins.
Food Sources of Vitamin B3
Vitamin B3 is found in many foods. Some of the best food sources include: tuna, chicken, turkey, salmon, lamb, beef, sardines, peanuts, shrimp and brown rice. Other good sources include: passionfruit, yellow tomatoes, avocado, dates, potatoes, mushrooms, peas, edamame (green soybeans), rice bran and barley.
Supplementing with Vitamin B3
While there are many vitamin B3 supplements available, nicotinamide riboside was the form used to achieve the brain health benefits. A typical dose is between 2 and 17 grams daily, although more may be needed for those already experiencing Parkinson’s disease. Check with your doctor before using.
While this study specifically explored Parkinson’s disease, it is likely helpful to other brain diseases and overall brain health as well. Maintaining healthy brain cell energy centers is critical for brain health. While we won’t know for sure if the new research applies to other conditions until further research has been completed, eating more vitamin B3-rich foods and taking a B-complex supplement is supportive of our overall health that people will want to consider while they await additional research.