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Vitamin B3 to be examined as a treatment for Alzheimer’s

Vitamin B3, commonly known as niacin, has been found to protect animals from the memory loss associated with Alzheimer's, prompting researchers to design a study of humans affected with the disease. High doses of vitamin B3 (2g daily) will be given to 70 volunteers who have recently been diagnosed with the disease as part of a 6 month trial due to begin in the new year.


Nicotinamide, a form of vitamin B3, has been found to lower levels of a protein called phosphorylated tau that leads to the development of tangles, one of two brain lesions associated with Alzheimer's disease. The vitamin does not appear to affect levels of the protein beta amyloid, which clumps in the brain to form plaques, the second type of Alzheimer's lesion.


Research also suggests that nicotinamide increases proteins that strengthen microtubules, which act like a conveyor within brain cells along which information travels. When this conveyor belt breaks down, brain cells can die; neuronal death leads to dementia.


Additionally nicotinamide has been found to improve short term memory in healthy animals.

Susanne Sorensen, head of research at the Alzheimer's Society, said: "This research is interesting as it points towards new ways of treating Alzheimer's disease. The best evidence around reducing your risk of dementia is to eat a healthy balanced diet, take regular exercise, don't smoke and check your blood pressure and cholesterol."

Nicotinamide is the derivative of niacin and used by the body to form nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD) and nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate (NADP). These compounds are required for more than 200 chemical reactions that sustain life; the vitamin is crucial for the generation of energy. The fatty acid building blocks for fat-containing structures in the body (like cell membranes) typically require the presence of vitamin B3 for their synthesis, as do many fat-based hormones (called steroid hormones). Severe niacin deficiency can result in headache, apathy, fatigue, depression, disorientation and memory loss- in short the symptoms of dementia.  Good sources of niacin include yeast, meat, poultry, red fishes (e.g., tuna, salmon), cereals (especially fortified cereals), legumes, and seeds. Milk, eggs, green leafy vegetables, coffee, and tea also provide some niacin. Adult men need at least 17mg, women 13mg. 

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