As we get older, it becomes increasingly important for us to make choices that are good for our overall health. Things like our heart, joint, and brain function seem to take the center stage. Luckily, niacin benefits all three! Here, we share how more of this key nutrient can give your body the boost it needs to function optimally.
Niacin Benefits for the Aging Body
Niacin, also known as vitamin B3, is a key nutrient that’s involved in a number of important bodily processes. Most notably, like the other B vitamins, it helps convert food into energy. Niacin also plays a key role in DNA repair and cellular metabolism, and it has several protective effects for the aging body.
For one, niacin is an especially important nutrient for people with heart problems. In fact, it has long been used as a treatment for high cholesterol since the 1950s! More recent studies show that niacin can help significantly lower levels of LDL (that’s the bad one) cholesterol. Other research also suggests that it improves levels of HDL “good” cholesterol. As an antioxidant, niacin has demonstrated an ability to reduce oxidative stress and inflammation associated with arterial hardening — a major risk factor for heart disease. While niacin isn’t the first line of treatment for high cholesterol, it’s often used for those that can’t tolerate statins.
Niacin can also help protect your brain. The brain uses niacin for energy, and it requires the vitamin in order to function. Interestingly, certain psychiatric symptoms like memory loss, brain fog, and even depression have been linked to a deficiency of niacin. Some preliminary research even suggests that it may help keep the brain healthy in those struggling with Alzheimer’s.
Getting more niacin may not only protect your brain — it could also protect your joints! In one study, niacin treatment reduced symptoms in those with osteoarthritis. Subjects experienced improved joint mobility and reported a reduced need for anti-inflammatory drugs. Other research also suggests that niacin could reduce inflammation in those with arthritis.
You may have also heard about using niacin to protect your skin, and for good reason. Whether it’s applied topically or taken orally, the vitamin has shown to reduce sun damage of skin cells. Not only that, but some research has also reported that niacin may reduce your risk of skin cancer!
All this being said, you’re probably wondering if you should start taking a niacin supplement. The truth is, too much of the vitamin can cause issues like stomach irritation and liver damage. To avoid those side effects, your best bet is to get more of it naturally from your food. The best food sources of niacin include chicken breast, beef, salmon (especially smoked salmon), canned tuna, lentils, and peanuts. Add more of these foods to your daily diet, and know that you’re doing great things for your body.