A simple vitamin might slow or prevent memory loss associated with Alzheimer’s
By: Lisa Pacitto

Something as simple as an over-the-counter vitamin may help people with Alzheimer’s disease retain their memory. Researchers at the University of California-Irvine found that Nicotinamide, a form of vitamin B3, in high doses prevented memory loss in mice with Alzheimer's. Now the UC-Irvine scientists are conducting a clinical trial to determine the effect of higher doses of Nicotinamide in humans.
    In the mice trial, researchers Kim Green and his colleague, Frank LaFerla, dissolved nicotinamide in drinking water and fed it to rodents with Alzheimer's disease. They then tested the rodents' short-term and long-term memory over time using water-maze and object-recognition tasks and found that treated Alzheimer's mice performed at the same level as normal mice, while untreated Alzheimer's mice experienced memory loss.
    “Nicotinamide has a very robust effect on neurons," said Green, UCI scientist and lead author of the study. 
     Nicotinamide-treated animals had dramatically lower levels of a protein called phosphorylated tau.  Higher levels of this protein lead to the development of tangles, one of two brain lesions associated with Alzheimer's disease. The vitamin also strengthened scaffolding along which information travels in the brain cells, helping to keep neurons alive and further preventing symptoms in mice genetically wired to develop Alzheimer's. However, nicotinamide did not affect levels of the protein beta amyloid, the second type of Alzheimer's lesion which clumps in the brain to form plaques.
     Researchers also found that nicotinamide slightly enhanced the short-term memory of mice without Alzheimer's. "This suggests that not only is it good for Alzheimer's disease, but if normal people take it, some aspects of their memory might improve," said LaFerla, UCI neurobiology and behavior professor.
    Nicotinamide is a form of Vitamin B3, which is also called niacin. Vitamin B3 is one of eight water-soluble B vitamins that help the body convert carbohydrates into glucose (sugar), which is "burned" to produce energy. Although Nicotinamide is water-soluble and generally safe, it can be toxic in very high doses. Clinical trials have shown it benefits people with diabetes complications and has anti-inflammatory properties that may help people with skin conditions.
    Dietary sources of vitamin B3 are found in beets, brewer's yeast, beef liver, beef kidney, pork, turkey, chicken, veal, fish, salmon, swordfish, tuna, sunflower seeds, and peanuts.


Research Source: University of California –Irvine. “Vitamin B3 Reduces Alzheimer's Symptoms, Lesions: Clinical Trial On Nicotinamide Effect In Alzheimer's Patients.” Journal of Neuroscience, Nov. 5, 2008.