The ABCs Of The Vitamin B3s
It’s easy as 1, 2, 3 and 5, 6, 7, 9, 12.
You know you need your vitamin C to ward off colds and your vitamin D when you’re not getting enough sunshine. But when it comes to the ambiguous vitamin B, there are so many versions of one simple letter of the alphabet it’s difficult to know where to begin.
For starters, don’t worry about the numbers next to each B. They just refer to the discovery order of each B vitamin. Most people vaguely understand the importance of the B vitamins, but things can get downright exasperating when you dive into the science of the Bs. Because not only does each B vitamin serve an individual function and work with its fellow B vitamins, but each also has an optimal form that best aids in the body’s processes to maximum benefit.
First off, the B-basics. There are eight different kinds of B vitamins:
- Thiamin (B1)
- Riboflavin (B2)
- Niacin (B3)
- Pantothenic Acid (B5)
- Pyridoxine (B6)
- Biotin (B7)
- Folic Acid (B9)
- Cyanocobalamin/Methylcobalamin (B12)
At least a few of these should ring some bells—especially if you’ve ever been pregnant or on a mission to get healthy hair, skin, and nails. In general, the B vitamins are important for cellular regeneration and energy production. They are pretty crucial to overall health, and each is needed to aid in a healthy body.
One naturally consumes many of these B vitamins via a typical diet, but supplements pick up the slack where diets often lack. Whether as a treatment for a particular deficiency or overall health benefits.
When it comes to increasing energy at a cellular level (the best kind) none of the B vitamins delivers like B3. Of course, since understanding eight different B vitamins isn’t complicated enough, B3 itself comes in three separate forms—and they aren’t all created equal.
Breaking Down The B3s
There are numerous benefits to increased cellular energy production. Muscle maintenance and healthy cellular aging may both be supported by this one extraordinary vitamin. There are three different versions of B3 and understanding which is the best is key to getting the most out of B3’s many benefits.
Niacin (Nicotinic Acid) – Also known by its acronym, NA, this form of B3 is the most commonly recognized. It was first discovered in the late 1930s and was the first form of B3 scientists uncovered. NA was immediately a useful discovery as the Great Depression had led to food shortages that meant people in the US were eating far more corn than usual (the cheapest of all cheap foods). This lack of variety in their diet resulted in an outbreak of pellagra, an uncomfortable condition caused by a lack of B3. Niacin became the go-to treatment for pellagra and, later, as a treatment for high cholesterol.
Unfortunately, niacin is also known for an annoying side effect: the flush. This is a reddening and warming of the skin that can be somewhat uncomfortable. Like a sunburn from the inside. It’s relatively harmless and goes away with time once the body acclimates to regular doses of niacin.
Nicotinamide (NAM) – Called NAM by B3 insiders, this one is also known as niacinamide and was discovered not too long after niacin. Nicotinamide was a fortunate discovery as it could treat pellagra just as well as niacin, but doesn’t come with that nasty skin flushing side effect. In fact, when it comes to skin, nicotinamide is also a useful anti-inflammatory treatment for fighting acne.
In higher doses, nicotinamide has an adverse effect on sirtuins. What are sirtuins? Oh, just some key proteins related to life longevity and anti-aging. Nicotinamide tends to make them sluggish and inactive when ideally sirtuins should be working hard to keep the body sharp.
Nicotinamide Riboside (NR) – Abbreviated merely to NR, nicotinamide riboside first popped up on scientists’ radar in the 1940s. You can find NR in whey protein, brewer’s yeast, and trace amounts in cow’s milk.
What gives NR the edge over NAM, however, is that where NAM makes those useful anti-aging sirtuins go to sleep, NR wakes them up and sets them to doing their jobs regulating cellular aging and promoting healthy aging. This makes NR a key component in some especially beneficial cellular activities.
King Of The B3s
Each of these three versions of B3 is structurally unique. This means the body processes them differently and thus reaps a slightly different benefit from each. By far the top benefit of B3 vitamins is their unique job of boosting nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide or NAD. Looks like just another acronym, but NAD (pronounced en-aye-dee) may actually be the key to long-term health.
The NAD molecule enables cells to convert food into energy—the fundamental process that literally sustains every function happening inside our bodies. All the behind the scenes systems that keep you feeling alert, energized, relaxed, rested, and all-around youthful are supported by healthy NAD levels in the body. And, in fact, the natural decrease of NAD over time may account for what contributes to age-related declines in health. Further science is exploring this exciting area of health research.
So B3 and NAD go together like peanut butter and jelly, BUT these three different forms of B3 boost NAD differently—as in, at very different speeds. Nobody gets it done faster and more efficiently than nicotinamide riboside. Since NR already works so well with sirtuins on their mission to support healthy aging, this means NR puts in double time in the anti-aging process but uses less energy to do it. Whenever our bodies don’t have to work quite so hard at fighting aging, we reap enormous benefits.
NR stimulates far more efficient NAD production than its two brothers, NA and NAM. Thus why NR is the king of the B3s and the most worthwhile B3 vitamin to be used by anyone who seeks the sort of long-term, overall well-being that is found when a body’s cells are at their happiest.