When it comes to niacin vs niacinamide, understanding the differences and benefits of each is important to choosing the right supplement.
Niacin (vitamin B3), also known as nicotinic acid, is a water-soluble vitamin. It is important for keeping the skin and the nervous system healthy. Along with the other B vitamins, vitamin B3 is involved in metabolism and energy production.
Vitamin B3 deficiency can lead to pellagra, which is a skin disorder that causes pigmentation and a sunburnt appearance.
There are two forms of niacin: niacin (nicotinic acid) and niacinamide. While they’re both forms of vitamin B3, they have a different chemical structure. Here we’re discussing niacin vs niacinamide.
Niacin vs niacinamide difference
Your body can convert niacin into niacinamide. Niacinamide is nearly identical to niacin in its composition. The only difference lies in the extra carbonyl group linked to a nitrogen atom in its structure. This small difference changes how niacinamide works in your body compared to niacin.
Should I take niacin or niacinamide? The answer depends on what you’re trying to treat or achieve in the long term.
Niacin vs niacinamide for high blood pressure and high cholesterol
Niacin can expand the capillaries, which makes it useful in treating high blood pressure. This also means that it can be useful in treating high cholesterol.
Niacin treats high cholesterol by reducing “bad” (LDL) cholesterol levels, increasing “good” (HDL) cholesterol levels, and lowering triglyceride levels.
To treat high cholesterol, you need to take high doses of niacin, which can lead to adverse effects. Because of how it expands the capillaries, this can lead to a side effect known as niacin flush. With niacin flush, you can experience prickly heat in the face and neck area, redness of the skin, itching and tingling. Niacin flush is uncomfortable but not dangerous.
To reduce the risk of niacin flush, try to increase the vitamin B3 dose gradually over time.
Niacinamide doesn’t expand the capillaries in the same way that niacin does. This means that it isn’t effective for treating high blood pressure or high cholesterol.
Niacin vs niacinamide for high blood pressure and cholesterol: niacin wins.
Niacin vs niacinamide for skin
Niacinamide may not help with your high blood pressure or cholesterol, but it’s much more effective for maintaining healthy skin. Niacinamide’s benefits for various skin conditions have extensive scientific backing.
Niacinamide has been found to:
- have antioxidant effects
- improve the functioning of the epidermal barrier, which increases the skin’s ability to protect itself from harmful agents
- reduce yellowing of the skin through its antioxidant effects
- reduce skin redness
- reduce blotchiness
- decrease fine lines and wrinkles by increasing the collagen and protein production of the skin (e.g. keratin, fillagrin and involucrin)
- reduce hyperpigmentation
- inhibit photocarcinogenesis (the process that causes skin cancer)
- have anti inflammatory effects, which can help treat acne, rosacea, and nitrogen mustard-induced irritation.
Niacinamide for your skin can be taken in supplement form, but it’s most effective when applied directly to the skin. Many moisturising creams now contain niacinamide so finding an option for topical application is fairly easy.
Niacin vs niacinamide for skin: niacinamide is the winner here.
Niacin vs niacinamide for anxiety
Niacin may have some positive effects on mental health and anxiety by increasing cerebral blood flow. However, it’s niacinamide that appears to have the most powerful effects.
A common treatment for both depression and anxiety is the use of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). These have replaced sedatives as the most common treatment for anxiety. They work by preventing the reabsorption of serotonin after it has been used. In turn, this leads to an increased amount of serotonin in the brain.
Niacinamide modulates serotonin through its actions in the liver. Niacinamide inhibits an enzyme in the liver that breaks down tryptophan. This means that more tryptophan can enter the brain where it increases the production of serotonin.
It’s important to remember that increasing the level of serotonin in the brain can also cause a short-term increase in anxiety. This is a common side effect when first taking SSRIs to treat anxiety. You may experience some increase in anxiety symptoms when you first start taking niacinamide to help manage your anxiety.
Niacin vs niacinamide for anxiety: niacinamide wins, but niacin isn’t that far off.
Niacin vs niacinamide: how much should I take?
The recommended vitamin B3 dosage is 16mg for men and 14mg for women.
- Niacin for high blood pressure and high cholesterol: Very high dosages are usually prescribed. These are often upwards of 500mg per day.
- Niacinamide for anxiety: Very high dosages are prescribed. An average of 500mg four times a day is recommended.
- Niacinamide for the skin: this is best used in topical form by applying directly to the skin.
People with uncontrolled gout shouldn’t take niacin supplements. Similarly, people with underlying conditions should speak to their GP before taking niacin supplements.
If you don’t want to take niacin as a supplement, you can get plenty of niacin in your diet. However, please keep in mind that you won’t be able to enough vitamin B3 to treat high cholesterol or anxiety. Niacin food sources include tuna, chicken, pork, beef, mushrooms, brown rice, peanuts, avocados, green peas and sweet potatoes.
Niacin vs niacinamide: both are forms of vitamin B3, but they have different effects on the body. Niacin expands the capillaries so is effective at treating high blood pressure and high cholesterol. On the other hand, niacinamide is effective at maintaining healthy skin. It can strengthen the skin barrier, improve the skin’s appearance, reduce the signs of ageing, and help protect against skin cancer.
Niacin could help anxiety by increasing blood flow to the brain. However, niacinamide has the potential to treat anxiety directly by increasing the level of serotonin in the brain.
Always speak with your GP for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.