Vitamin B3 supplement shows early promise for Parkinson's

Researchers in Norway have published results from an early stage clinical study looking at the potential of a dietary supplement for people with Parkinson's.

The NADPARK study, a phase 1 clinical trial in newly diagnosed people with Parkinson's, showed promising signs that vitamin B3 supplements may have protective effects on the brain.

Vitamin B3 and Parkinson's

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.

As the body cannot store this vitamin, having a healthy diet that contains adequate vitamin B3 is essential. Fortunately, it is found in many different foods, including turkey, tuna, cereal, mushrooms and peanuts. But now researchers think, for some people, taking larger doses of certain forms of this vitamin may have beneficial effects in Parkinson's.

Research carried out in the lab and in fruit flies has previously found that nicotinamide riboside may boost energy in nerve cells and help prevent them being lost in Parkinson's. It did this by boosting levels of a compound called NAD that is used to generate energy inside cells.

What the researchers did

The team in Norway have conducted the first small scale clinical trial of nicotinamide riboside for people with Parkinson’s. 

30 people took part in the study with 15 receiving 1000mg of nicotinamide riboside daily for 30 days. The other 15 people were given dummy pills known as a placebo. Importantly, neither the participants nor the researchers knew who was taking the supplement containing nicotinamide riboside.

What the researchers found

Results, published in the journal Cell Metabolism, showed that nicotinamide riboside supplements boosted levels of a compound called NAD in the brain compared to the group who took the dummy medication.

The supplement also showed promising signs that it may improve metabolism and reduce inflammation in the brain, which could have protective effects in the brain. And the participants who showed the greatest increase in NAD levels also showed some mild improvements in their Parkinson’s symptoms.

These early findings suggest that nicotinamide riboside may have beneficial properties for slowing down the progression of Parkinson's. The team are already taking these findings forward in a larger, phase 2, trial.

Dr Beckie Port, Head of Research Communications and Engagement at Parkinson's UK, comments:

"This study builds on previous research that shows the important role vitamin B3 may play in keeping brain cells healthy and working properly.

"While results are needed from larger, longer-term trials, it is exciting that the researchers may find that a relatively inexpensive dietary supplement could help manage some of the symptoms which impact the everyday lives of people with Parkinson’s. 

"Interestingly, the team found that the supplement may not benefit everyone. But for some, there are promising signs that nicotinamide riboside may have protective effects that could help slow the progression of Parkinson's. 

"Some vitamins can have side effects when taken in large doses, so it's vital that people consult a health professional for advice before deciding to take any form of dietary supplement."

Read the full research results on the Cell Metabolism website.