Vitamin B3, and its derivatives have a long history of use in medicine and they have recently drawn interest for their anti-aging properties and for use in the treatment of COVID-19.
A recent paper published in early March, COVID-19 Infection the Perspectives on Immune Responses1, stated “Since Vitamin B3 is highly lung protective, it should be used as soon as coughing begins”. There is considerable experimental evidence that this is indeed the case but like all therapeutic strategies in COVID-19 it will be some time until this is proven. For the time being there is absolutely no harm in taking a Vitamin B complex that contains Vitamin B3. Vitamin B3 is often referred to as Nicotinamide on labels
In the early 20th century Vitamin B3 deficiency was found to be the cause of the disease ‘Pellagra’. Pellagra was first identified in the southern USA and due to a poor diet based on refined corn. The skin rash caused by Pellagra is the derivation of the term “red neck”, and it was often treated using snake oil.
Between 1945 and 1961 several studies found Vitamin B3 to be useful in the treatment of TB of the lung, but it was superceded by modern antibiotics. More recently it has been investigated, and found to be promising, for the treatment of HIV. A recent paper stated “this small molecule could emerge at the beginning of the 21st century either as a therapeutic agent in itself or as the lead compound for a new class of agents with activity against both TB and HIV.”2
Vitamin B3 has been used effectively to treat high Cholesterol for 60 years, it can raise HDL, “good Cholesterol”, by 30%3. However since Statin drugs have been developed it has fallen out of use except in those individuals who cannot tolerate statins or still have high cholestrol levels despite statin use4.
Vitamin B3 is converted in the body to NAD, a compound that is currently being investigated for its anti-aging properties, notably by Prof John Sinclair at Harvard. According to a paper that he co-authored “NAD + levels steadily decline with age, resulting in altered metabolism and increased disease susceptibility. Restoration of NAD + levels in old or diseased animals can promote health and extend lifespan, prompting a search for safe and efficacious NAD-boosting molecules that hold the promise of increasing the body’s resilience, not just to one disease, but to many, thereby extending healthy human lifespan5”. NAD boosting supplements are now being actively marketed but there is no proof, as yet, that they have any beneficial effect for humans6.
Vitamin B3 has a long history of use in medicine which was superceded by modern drugs. However, it may be making a come back as a treatment for HIV, COVID-19 and possibly as an anti-aging supplement.
1. Shi, Y., Wang, Y., Shao, C., Huang, J., Gan, J., Huang, X., … Melino, G. (2020, March 23). COVID-19 infection: the perspectives on immune responses. Retrieved from https://www.nature.com/articles/s41418-020-0530-3
2. Murray, & F., M. (2003, February 15). Nicotinamide: An Oral Antimicrobial Agent with Activity against Both Mycobacterium tuberculosis and Human Immunodeficiency Virus. Retrieved from https://academic.oup.com/cid/article/36/4/453/439703
5. Rajman, L., Chwalek, K., & Sinclair, D. A. (2018, March 6). Therapeutic Potential of NAD-Boosting Molecules: The In Vivo Evidence. Retrieved from https://www.cell.com/cell-metabolism/comments/S1550-4131(18)30122-0?fbclid=IwAR0uL4qAaC6djsu6o1gi0hEh_D632At-c9MQuZC8fgA7KExSscneyb4VOFc
6. Taylor, M. (2019, April 22). A 'Fountain Of Youth' Pill? Sure, If You're A Mouse. Retrieved from https://khn.org/news/a-fountain-of-youth-pill-sure-if-youre-a-mouse/