Researchers add to existing evidence that vitamin B3 may help slow down the progression of Parkinson's.
A new phase 1 clinical trial, the NR-SAFE study, has published promising signs that taking a high dose of vitamin B3 is safe, and can reduce some symptoms for people with Parkinson’s.
Why vitamin B3?
There are 3 forms of vitamin B3: niacin (also known as nicotinic acid), nicotinamide, and nicotinamide riboside. All 3 are related and used by the body in the same way.
The body cannot store this vitamin, so having enough vitamin B3 is essential. Fortunately it is found in many different foods, including chicken, tuna, eggs, broccoli and peanuts. So keeping a healthy diet can usually provide us with enough.
Research carried out in fruit flies has shown that higher doses of nicotinamide riboside, one of the forms of vitamin B3, may boost energy in nerve cells in the brain. This could then protect them from being damaged. It does this by boosting levels of a compound called NAD that is used to generate energy inside cells in the body.
A previous study, published in 2022, found that nicotinamide riboside may be beneficial for people with Parkinson’s. The results showed that the vitamin could protect brain cells by improving energy production and reducing inflammation. However, the most effective dose of vitamin B3 was unclear, and taking a very high dose daily had not been explored at all.
Exploring a higher dose of vitamin B3 for Parkinson’s
The research team wanted to understand whether a high daily dose of nicotinamide riboside might benefit people with Parkinson’s.
20 people with Parkinson’s took part in the study. 10 received 3000 mg of nicotinamide riboside everyday for 4 weeks. This was triple the dose of the previous study. The other 10 received dummy pills, called a placebo. This study was double-blind, which means that neither the participants nor the researchers knew who was taking the supplement containing nicotinamide riboside.
In line with previous research, the results showed that those who had taken a high dose of nicotinamide riboside had much more NAD, used to produce energy, when compared to the group who took the placebo.
The results also showed that taking the vitamin could improve movement symptoms of Parkinson’s. This improvement was more obvious in those who took 3000 mg of nicotinamide riboside a day, compared to the previous study where participants took 1000 mg per day.
Importantly, the findings showed that taking a daily high dose of nicotinamide riboside had no negative effects and was deemed to be safe.
Emma Rodgers, Research Communications Officer at Parkinson’s UK, comments:
"This study builds on research that shows the important role vitamin B3 may play in keeping brain cells healthy and working properly.
"Although this is a small study, it’s great to see that the results suggest vitamin B3 was improving Parkinson’s symptoms without many side effects. However we now hope to see a larger, phase 2 study to explore the safety and other benefits of vitamin B3 supplements further.
"It is important to note that this study took place over just 4 weeks. So the long-term safety of taking a high dose of vitamin B3 is still unknown. During the clinical trial, safety and any side effects are closely monitored. It is not recommended to take this dose outside of a clinical trial.
"Current NHS guidelines advise that taking less than 500 mg of nicotinamide a day is not likely to cause any harm. We always recommend speaking to your healthcare professional before starting anything new."