New research finds a compound that prevents brain damage in mice. The substance is a form of vitamin B3, and the findings suggest a potential new therapy for Alzheimer’s disease in humans.
Vitamin B3 has previously been proposed as an alternative for treating Alzheimer’s disease. In an older study, large doses of nicotinamide – also referred to as B3 – reversed Alzheimer’s-related memory loss in mice.
A new study, however, focused on the effect of nicotinamide riboside (NR), which is a form of vitamin B3, on Alzheimer’s-related brain damage in mice. NR is “critical for mitochondrial health and biogenesis, stem cell self-renewal, and neuronal stress resistance,” said Dr. Vilhelm Bohr, chief of the National Institute of Aging’s Laboratory of Molecular Gerontology.
The team added NR to the drinking water of mice that had been genetically engineered to develop the hallmarks of the neurodegenerative disorder. The mice drank the water for 3 months, and their brains and cognitive health were compared with those of the control mice. The findings were published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Compared with the controls, the NR-treated mice had less of the protein tau in the brain, less DNA damage, and more neuroplasticity – that is, the brain’s ability to “rewire” itself when it leans new things, stores new memories, or becomes damaged. Additionally, the mice in the intervention group produced more neurons from neuronal stem cells.
Fewer neurons died or were damaged in these mice. Finally, the researchers say that in the hippocampi – a brain area involved in memory that often shrinks or is damaged in Alzheimer’s – of the mice that received the treatment, NR appeared to get rid of the existing DNA damage or stop it from spreading.
All the brain changes were backed up by results from cognition and behavioral tests. All the NR-treated mice performed better at maze tasks and object recognition tests, and they demonstrated stronger muscles and better gait.
Nicotinamide (niacin) is the food form of vitamin B3. Nicotinamide riboside (NR) is the intermediate form; and nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD) and nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate (NADP) are the bioavailable forms.
The most common side effect of niacin is the “flush’ associated with moderate doses. The other forms do not have this effect but all forms have a relaxing effect on the brain and heart. This can create fatigue in elite athletes or people who exercise vigorously.
I commonly use the food form (niacin) in low doses in the treatment of afib and tachycardia. Large doses can also lower the L(p)a, a genetic factor associated with high cholesterol and high LDL levels.
Although I have not used NP to try to prevent or treat Alzheimer’s disease, the possibilities are intriguing. Clinically, I have found patients taking calcium channel blockers for hypertension often test for vitamin B3 and these drugs have been known to cause symptoms of dementia.
The Bottom Line:
If you decide to take NP for memory issues, keep the dosage between 100-400mg daily. I also suggest a food quality B complex in support of the B3. Finally, watch for fatigue, low blood pressure (especially if taking hypertensive medication) or a low pulse rate.
Source: Medical News Today February 9, 2018
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