Are you using niacin or nicotinamide riboside? If so, watch this video! These supplements can help you age more gracefully and give you more energy, but they can also hurt your liver, mess with your neurotransmitters and your mood, and even sap your energy.
In this video I discuss using a powder for better control over the dose, and how to match your niacin dose to a corresponding dose of trimethylglycine (TMG).
The nicotinamide riboside powder can be found at hpnsupplements.com.
The TMG can be found at https://chrismasterjohnphd.com/tmg.
If you use my affiliate link for the TMG, I will get a small commission at no extra cost to you, which will help support the free work
This episode is brought to you by Testing Nutritional Status: The Ultimate Cheat Sheet. Everything you could ever need to know to optimize your nutrition, all in one place. Easier to find and use than ever before. Get your copy at https://chrismasterjohnphd.com/cheatsheet Use the code LITE5 to get $5 off.
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Read the Transcript
This is why you should be careful with niacin and nicotinamide riboside supplements and what you should do to protect yourself if you need to use them.
Hi. I’m Dr. Chris Masterjohn of chrismasterjohnphd.com, and this is Chris Masterjohn Lite, where the name of the game is “Details? Shmeetails. Just tell me what works!” And today we’re going to talk
So, niacin is vitamin B3. You need niacin for certain for your energy metabolism. The RDA for niacin or the Daily Value for niacin is around 16 milligrams a day. The upper limit is around 35 milligrams per day, which means don’t play with doses higher than that unless you really need to.
Now, niacin is used in medicine as a way to manage certain blood lipid conditions. And in those cases, you might have to just do what your doctor is telling you to do, but this video might still be relevant because you can use what I’m talking about here to manage an important side effect I want to talk about. But more popularly now, people are starting to use something called nicotinamide riboside, which is a form of niacin that is very easily converted into NAD, which is a derivative of niacin that we use throughout all of our energy metabolism.
And so it’s thought that part of what we experience in aging is a decline in NAD, especially as a result of cumulative DNA damage, and that’s because NAD is actually consumed in the DNA repair process. And it’s thought that we can restore youthful vitality by boosting NAD levels.
Now, the issue is all the nicotinamide riboside supplements out there are using doses that are not only way in excess of the RDA; they’re way in excess of even the upper limit of 35 milligrams. They’re usually 250 milligrams, and they might be even higher. You might be able to find a supplement as low as 125 milligrams. You’re not going to find anything that’s close to the RDA or even the upper limit.
So, one reason that’s problem is that niacin, it does not matter what form, niacin, niacinamide, nicotinamide, nicotinamide riboside, all forms of niacin in excess consume methyl groups in order to be properly excreted in the urine. In fact, even on a normal diet of no supplements, you are excreting methylated niacin metabolites into your urine. The absence of methylated niacin metabolites in your urine is considered a sign of niacin deficiency. So if you add on top of that even more niacin from supplements, you are going to methylate even more niacin metabolites and pee them out into the urine. That means you’re losing methyl groups.
Why is that important? Well, methyl groups are one-carbon units that are used to make things like creatine, which is important for your exercise performance and your muscular function. Methyl groups are used to synthesize choline, which is important to prevent fatty liver, something that an estimated 70 million Americans experience. Methyl groups are important to controlling your neurotransmitters to prevent anxiety and depression. Methyl groups are important to a lot of things, and when you start losing methyl groups, you might not feel as well, you might destabilize your mood, you might lose your energy, and these are things that you you don’t want to experience if you don’t have to.
So as an example, listen to the story provided on the screen now on Facebook from Anke. She says, “Thank you, Chris. I don’t know what to make of this, but I gave this supplement Niagen a try, and I mean I tried it for six weeks. The first two weeks I did three workouts per day with much more energy to spare, great recovery and feeling good.” Now, this is good. That means that she’s experiencing the benefits of higher NAD levels, which contribute to energy metabolism. “Week 3, it started to look different. I felt somewhat, not much, just mentally a little more clarity, but energy went back to baseline.” So, now she’s starting to lose the effects.
Well, maybe the effects of the NAD are wearing off. Or maybe she’s starting to have lower creatine levels, for example, or maybe she’s altering her neurotransmitters in a way, including choline. If her choline synthesis is going down, that’s not only going to affect her liver, but it could affect her acetylcholine levels, and acetylcholine is the neurotransmitter that causes you to contract your muscles. So maybe she has more NAD giving her more energy, but she’s got less acetylcholine now.
“From then on it started to feel just horrific. Emotionally I felt Nirvana, switching between feeling depressed to emotionally suppressed, angry, and good. I had the same energy, but really, I felt like shit.” So maybe now she’s losing methyl groups that are affecting her neurotransmitter balance. “I stopped taking that product for a few days, and my energy tanked so bad. I had zero energy, and I felt like I had zero serotonin and dopamine. So I started up the Niagen again just to feel better, and I got a bit more energy, but I felt immensely low emotionally speaking. In my humble opinion, 250 milligrams of nicotinamide riboside shut off my methylation to a point where I felt outright flat and toxic. My eyesight went worse as well, and I stopped the product. I got better again. At this point I’m so scared adding niacin in my supplement regimen to preserve tryptophan. I started—I stopped Niagen a week ago and now feel my own self again. I’m telling you this because I’m afraid that while it might work for some, it could make people with MTHFR worse. Have you ever encountered this?”
Well, I don’t believe that this is limited to a specific MTHFR polymorphism or anything like that. This is just a basic fact that when you take too much niacin, you start to lose methyl groups, and that can cause a problem. Yes, some people with some genetics will be more likely to experience that problem, but that problem could happen to anyone.
So here’s what I would do about this. First of all, this is one reason why it’s always better to get your nutrients from foods. Not only are you going to get them at levels that are more approximate to what’s reasonable from food that aren’t overwhelming your system, but you’re also going to get a better balance because you’re going to get other things in those foods that help you deal with the niacin that’s in them. If you need to take the supplement, it would be best if you could take a low dose that is around 30 milligrams or so, 25, 30 milligrams or so. And unfortunately there—I don’t know of any Niagen or nicotinamide riboside supplement—Niagen is the brand name, product name. I don’t know of any Niagen or nicotinamide riboside supplements out there that are that low-dose. However, I want to direct your attention to one that I’m showing on the screen. This is a website hpnsupplements.com, High Performance Nutrition. If you go to this website, and you go to “Products” and the “Niagen
Collection,” you will see that on the bottom left there is a Niagen powder.
Now, this powder, if you look at the nutrition facts, you can see that there is some fiber in it that’s used as a bulking agent, and then there’s the nicotinamide riboside,125 milligrams for every scoop. The scoop is 1.5 grams. Now, because it is a bulk powder, you can take a smaller dose. If you have a scale at home that can measure 0.3 milligrams, that’s what I would start out with. That’s 25—excuse me, 0.3 grams of this powder is 25 milligrams of nicotinamide riboside.
If you have a scale that can measure 0.3 grams, then I would use that. My food scale at my home only goes to the gram, and so I wouldn’t be able to do that, but you could eyeball a fifth of a scoop, and yeah, it might not be exactly a fifth of the scoop, but it should be somewhere around 25 milligrams give or take, and that’s a lot better than hitting 125 milligrams as your basic dose. So use a powder like this, or if you have a 250-milligram capsule, you could do—you’re going to do the same thing by opening up the capsule, emptying out the powder, and dividing it up. You just want to make sure that you have a means of keeping it fresh.
You’re not leaving it out exposed to the light, et cetera. So keep it in a dark, cool place and as close to airtight as you can. And start with a dose that is this low and see if you get the benefits of the niacin without the side effects of having to methylate all of the extra. Now, if you have to take a larger dose because you’re just getting some benefit that is so compelling to you from taking 125, or 250, or more milligrams, then I would recommend as a precaution that you take a one-to-one ratio of trimethylglycine. In this particular case, I would recommend Jarrow TMG shown on the screen. This comes in 500 milligrams. This is actually more than what you need to handle 125 or 250 milligrams of nicotinamide riboside.
This would be enough to balance up to 500 milligrams of nicotinamide riboside, and I would take—just follow the label, but take one of these for every dose of anything up to 500 milligrams of nicotinamide riboside that you might have to take. Again, this is not the firstchoice. This is the last choice when you find that, yes, you need the nicotinamide riboside, yes, you need the higher dose.
Similarly, if you’re taking niacin for medical reasons, then you have to follow the dose that your doctor is telling you to take, but you can do the same thing by balancing a milligram of TMG for every milligram of niacin. What this is doing is it’s supplying the extra methyl groups that would be needed to metabolize the extra niacin that spill out into your urine, making sure that what’s left over is the methyl groups that you would have had anyway, thereby presumably preventing the risk of these undermethylation-related side effects.
I’m going to put two links in the description of this video. The other is to the Jarrow TMG. The first link is not an affiliate link. The second one is. If you’d like to support my work at no extra cost to you, and you are going to buy that supplement anyway, using my affiliate link will kick back a little bit of funding to support the free content that I produce. The Niagen powder, you can find at hpnnutrition.com, and the TMG, you can find at chrismasterjohnphd.com/TMG.