Alzheimer’s disease causes the brain to malfunction and is therefore the leading cause of dementia. According to a new American study, a particular form of vitamin B3 may help prevent neurological damage and therefore has a positive impact on Alzheimer’s patients. As part of the prevention of this disease, it is also important to make sure to get plenty of all the other nutrients.
Alzheimer’s disease causes slow deterioration of the nerve cells in several parts of the brain. At the same time, there is lack of the signaling substance acetylcholine, which brain cells use to communicate. Scientists have also observed accumulation of amyloid plaques (protein) in the brain. There are also studies that point to insulin resistance in the brain, something that causes an energy shortage in brain cells. In fact, Alzheimer’s is also referred to as type 3 diabetes.
The risk of getting Alzheimer’s increases with age, but there are also other risk factors such as smoking, too much alcohol, overweight, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, traumatic brain damage, and recurrent, untreated depression.
Alzheimer’s disease is insidious in most cases, with forgetfulness, impaired memory, and difficulty with learning being some of the telltale signs. The disease also affects concentration, judgement, the ability to navigate, feelings, and personality. Alzheimer’s is a slowly progressive disease that often leads to death after seven to 10 years.
Alzheimer’s disease ruins the DNA of brain cells
All humans are exposed to free radicals and other substances that can destroy the genetic payload of cells, also known as DNA. Age, diet, and lifestyle also play a key role. Our only protection against free radicals are so-called antioxidants such as vitamins A, C, and E, plus zinc, selenium, and various plant compounds from the diet. Antioxidants neutralize the free radicals.
If, for some reason, the cellular DNA is damaged, cells should normally be able to deal with the problem. However, in Alzheimer’s disease, the brain cells lose their normal ability to repair damaged DNA. This causes dysfunctions in the energy-producing powerhouses (mitochondria) inside the cells. The lost ability to repair damaged DNA also causes other dysfunctions of and inflammation in the nerve cells.
A particular type of B3 vitamin can repair damaged brain cell DNA
According to a new study, a special type of B3 vitamin called nicotinamide riboside (or NR), has the ability to normalize levels of nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide. This specific compound is essential for cellular energy turnover, formation of new stem cells, resistance towards cellular stress, and repair of DNA damage.
The study showed that mice treated with NR had less DNA damage, a higher production of new nerve cells from neural stem cells, and lower levels of nerve damage, and lower mortality.
Patients suffering from dementia (which is also seen in Alzheimer’s disease) have shriveled and destroyed cells in the hippocampus, which is the part of the brain that is vital for memory and orientation. Apparently, NR is able to both repair existing DNA damage and prevent new damage from occurring.
Doctor Vilhelm Bohr, director of the National Institutes of Health in the United States, says that this study offers new hope for Alzheimer’s patients. According to Bohr, scientists will be investigating if NR or similar components have a therapeutic effect on people with dementia. The study is published in the science journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Scientists.
Vitamin B3 also has a positive effect on Parkinson’s disease
Another study has demonstrated that patients with early stages of Parkinson’s disease may benefit from increasing their intake of vitamin B3 from food or supplements. As mentioned earlier, this vitamin is involved in cellular energy turnover and in the repair of damaged nerve cell DNA. This knowledge also suggests that one should make sure to get enough of this vitamin to prevent the disease.
Vitamin B3 – also known as niacin – is found in several forms
Niacin is the common term for nicotinic acid and nicotine amide. In the body’s metabolism, niacin is made naturally from vitamin B6 and the amino acid tryptophan, which is primarily found in meat. As seen, vitamin B3 is also found as NR and nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide
How to get enough vitamin B3
Vitamin B3 is water-soluble, and because we are unable to store it in the body, we need regular supplies of the nutrient. Good vitamin B3 sources include protein-rich foods such as meat, fish, poultry, nuts, kernels, and seeds. Eggs, whole-grain products, vegetables, and fruit are also good sources.
Lack of vitamin B3 and poor utilization of the nutrient may be a result of ageing, unhealthy eating habits, overconsumption of alcohol, and prolonged use of diuretics. These factors therefore increase your need for vitamin B 3.
Vitamin B3 supplements should be taken together with other B vitamins in order to get the best absorption and utilization. Avoid taking B vitamins at the same time as taking antacids. Take them at different times of the day.
The link between ageing, Alzheimer’s disease, and lack of B vitamins
Ageing impairs the uptake of nutrients like vitamin B3 and vitamin B12, which are important for the brain and nervous system. Many older people also eat unvaried diets and take medicine that tends to inhibit increasingly the uptake and utilization of B vitamins.
Ed Adamczyk. Study: Vitamin B3 variant could help Alzheimer´s patients. UPI 2018
University of Leicester. People with forms of early-onset Parkinson’s disease may benefit from boosting niacin in diet, research suggest. ScienceDaily. 2017