Dear Dr. V, I am confused about the difference between niacin and niacinamide. Can you explain?
Dear WE, Niacin, one of the B vitamins, is converted in the body to niacinamide, a close chemical relative with similar vitamin activity. Many vitamin formulations use niacinamide instead of niacin (this is the case with DNAble and BioEnhance with DNAble), and that’s fine. When this is done, the FDA requires that the product label list the amount of niacin in terms of its niacinamide equivalent—which is essential in order to know how much niacin you’re actually getting. To make things a bit confusing, however, the term nicotinamide—a synonym for niacinamide—is more commonly used.
In our bodies, some niacin is converted to nicotinamide, and some nicotinamide is converted to an extremely important and versatile compound called NAD. One study has shown that the amount of NAD produced from a given amount of ingested nicotinamide is twice the amount produced from an equivalent amount of ingested niacin.1 NAD is important in part because it is the “de-enabler” molecule that helps prevent a certain DNA-based aging mechanism (see Nicotinamide: Golden Thread in the Tapestry of Life – Sept. 2000).
Nicotinamide helps prevent the development of diabetes in mice by helping to preserve normal pancreatic function.2 This appears to be likely in humans as well.