The connection between nutrition and mental wellness has been well-documented, yet we’re still working to understand how these two factors interact. Many vitamins have been linked to mental health improvements and continue to be studied as possible keys to unlock solutions to a variety of mental health struggles. Within this list of possible nutritional links, some research suggests a connection between niacin and mental health.
One of the components in vitamin B3, niacin has already shown it may offer a protective benefit against depression when levels are optimized. Learn more about niacin and the impact this supplement may have on your mental health.
The Connection Between Niacin and Mental Health
Before diving in, it’s important to note that niacin and niacinamide are often confused as being the same supplement, but there are some key differences to keep in mind. Both are forms of vitamin B3 and share many properties. However, niacin is considered an essential nutrient, while niacinamide is actually a niacin derivative created within the body. These nutrients display differing molecular structures, and their effects on the body when used as supplements also show inconsistencies.
Deficiencies in vitamin B3 have been shown to cause depression in some individuals, leading researchers to consider it as a potential treatment option. However, depression is complex and can be triggered by a variety of experiences and changes within the body. Those with deficiencies may notice improvement when the low levels of B3 are resolved. For other forms of depression, the potential impact is still unclear, and with a strong U.S. depression rate of 8.3%, clinicians are continuing to search for answers.
However, studies in the last few years have begun to reveal niacin’s important contribution to maintaining brain health. This opens the possibility that maintaining optimal levels of niacin could result in healthier overall function of the brain, allowing it to work more efficiently. Improved mental health and focus would be likely byproducts of a healthier brain.
Benefits of Niacin for Focus and Cognitive Function
The benefits of niacin for focus stem from its indirect relationship with improved brain health. When the body receives niacin, it’s converted to its active form, NAD. In this form, one of NAD’s functions is to extend the life span of brain cells. It also has the important job of increasing the conversion of energy to cellular energy. This conversion ensures your brain cells have the energy they need to function at peak performance levels.
Some recent studies have also shown that NAD may offer protective effects on specific forms of mitochondrial damage and neuroinflammation. Both effects assist in maintaining the overall health of the brain, showing promising results with improved cognitive function. Like all parts of the body, the brain can focus more energy on the task in front of it if it isn’t weighed down by managing an unhealthy foundation.
Exploring Niacin Supplements and Their Impact on Mental Well-Being
The connection between niacin and mental health is becoming clearer, as studies continue to identify the ways in which niacin impacts the brain. This has led to the nutrient often being included in supplements that claim to improve brain function. While many of these supplements include other ingredients that limit any opportunity to know niacin’s impact, those that only offer B3 in one of its various forms have a more established history.
Analysis of data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Study between 2007 and 2016 revealed moderate dietary intake of niacin led to a significant reduction in depression risk. The optimal amount of niacin was 36 milligrams daily. Higher and lower amounts didn’t achieve the same level of success. Most niacin-specific supplements seem to contain between 300 milligrams and 500 milligrams in each capsule, making them significantly higher than the dosage suggested. These dosages do happen to meet the amount set for treating pellagra, a condition that develops with severe niacin deficiency.
Niacin is also an integral part of the metabolizing process that creates serotonin from tryptophan. Niacin deficiency limits this process, potentially leaving the body low on serotonin, which can also contribute to depression. It seems much of the mental health benefits of niacin come from preventing depression by ensuring the body is still generating what it needs.
As a water-soluble nutrient, B3 supplements are easily absorbed by the body, avoiding the common disparity between dietary and supplemental absorption. Ingested niacin that goes above the body’s needs is converted into niacinamide, which eventually turns into NAD.
B3 is offered over the counter in a few different forms. Authentic niacin is less commonly available, as most individuals don’t care for the flushing side effect that frequently occurs. Niacinamide is more widely offered and is less likely to trigger flushing.
Whichever form you choose to take, the jury is still out regarding the effectiveness of taking niacin supplements for cognition. Vitamin B3 and mental well-being seem to be related in some ways, but we still lack the studies to confidently verify the connection between niacin and mental health. For now, our understanding of what niacin does for the body leads the way as justification for using the nutrient to boost mental health and focus.
Vitamin B3 (Niacinamide) and Its Contribution to Mental Focus
Niacinamide for mental focus seems to be in the same limbo as niacin supplements. Our knowledge of how niacinamide behaves in the body and the processes it supports can easily lead to the conclusion that these supplements would be helpful for improving focus. However, there are still no studies confirming that this is the case. Despite that, niacinamide is often the form offered in B3 supplements.
Like niacin, niacinamide is water-soluble and easily absorbed into the body. Once in the body, it’s demonstrated anti-inflammatory properties, and its antioxidant status makes it protective on a cellular level. As the broken-down form of niacin, niacinamide also converts into NAD, which contributes to so many brain improvements.
If you’re struggling with mental health or need help reestablishing focus in your life, Sun Health Center offers neuro therapy programs that can help you get your head into a healthier place and set your sights on your goals again. Contact us to speak with a mental health professional who can help guide you through the options you have available based on your goals.