By Rob Winwood
Nicotinamide (vitamin B3) is a precursor of nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD) and thus has an important role in providing the necessary supply of energy for metabolic processes throughout the human body. As such, it is a basic requirement for the growth of infants and children. Deficiency can cause skin problems, digestive problems, insomnia, fatigue and loss of appetite. Nicotinamide can be found in a variety of foods, including meats, fish, cereals, pulses, fruits and nuts. The bacteria of the microbiome are also able to make nicotinamide from the amino acid, tryptophan. Nicotinamide is also a precursor for serotonin and melatonin.
A previous, randomized controlled trial (2) has demonstrated that a topical preparation containing two percent nicotinamide, applied to the skin of atopic eczema sufferers twice a day for up to eight weeks, reduced moisture loss and increased hydration of the stratum corneum (the outer layer of the epidermis).
Atopic eczema causes redness of the skin and is due to inflammation (often as an allergic response). In the UK, it is common in children, affecting approximately 20 percent of the population (3). The condition can be treated, but not cured. Nicotinamide supplement is believed to be beneficial to skin health by improving its moisture, elasticity and overall structure. It is believed to do this through the synthesis of collagen and proteins that play an important role in the formation of keratin and filaggrin (a protein that binds keratin fibers) (4).
A new study (1) has used data from 497 mother–offspring pairs of the UK Southampton Women’s Survey (SWS) where the infants were assessed as having atopic eczema at 6 or 12 months of age. The nicotinamide levels in the maternal blood samples were determined. The results showed that maternal nicotinamide blood plasma levels during late pregnancy were associated with a lower prevalence of atopic eczema at 12 months, but not at 6 months. The authors say this discrepancy “may reflect heterogeneity in the etiology and pathogenesis of atopic eczema in early childhood.” To date, there have been no randomized controlled trials of supplementing women with nicotinamide in the later stages of pregnancy with the aim of decreasing the risk of atopic eczema in their infants – but this study appears to give a firm basis for such a study. The study does support the proposal that atopic eczema in infants originates in utero.