Side effects of the popular supplement may include “aggressive” cancer and “brain metastases”.
Vitamin B3 (niacin), which is one of the eight essential B vitamins, is critical to good health. However, various data sources suggest that a person’s niacin status may influence cancer risk. In fact, a study published earlier this year links a single B3 supplement to the development and spread of deadly breast cancer. The findings suggest that, in extreme cases, the vitamin may contribute to the progression of brain cancer.
A study earlier this year by the University of Missouri (MU) found that nicotinamide ribosome (NR) supplements may actually increase the risk of triple negative breast cancer.
According to findings published in the journal Biosensors and Bioelectronics, supplements may be associated with increased expression of genes involved in cancer cell growth.
Commercially available vitamins were previously thought to have beneficial effects on the cardiovascular, metabolic, and neurological systems.
However, an international team of researchers from the University of Missouri challenged this widely held belief after finding that the pill can increase the risk of breast cancer when taken in high doses.
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The study also showed that triple-negative cancers can metastasize and spread to the brain.
Triple-negative breast cancer is considered “aggressive cancer” because it grows rapidly, according to the American Cancer Society.
This means that it is more likely to spread at the time of detection and more likely to return after treatment compared to other cancers.
Once the tumor has spread to the brain, the prognosis is poor because treatment options are currently limited, explains Elena Gown, assistant professor of chest at MU.
The study’s lead author said: “Some people take them because they automatically assume vitamins and supplements only provide health benefits, but very little is known about how they actually work.
“Because of this lack of knowledge, we were inspired to study the basic question of how vitamins and supplements work in the body.”
NR is widely regarded as an alternative to vitamin B3, which is well known for its ability to increase cellular energy levels.
Researchers have long believed that this could play an important role in protecting against the mechanisms of aging.
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However, cancer cells are also known to thrive on the energy they receive as this increases their metabolism.
This prompted researchers to investigate the role of supplements such as NR in the development and spread of cancer.
“Our work is particularly important given the wide commercial availability and large number of ongoing human clinical trials in which NR is being used to mitigate the side effects of cancer therapy in patients,” said Prof Gou.
“While NR is already widely used in humans and is being explored in many ongoing clinical trials for additional applications, much of how NR works remains a black box that is not understood.”
The study says the results highlight the importance of potential side effects for supplements investigated prior to administration to patients.
Gown added: “Not all cancers are the same in every person, especially in terms of metabolic signs.
“Often, cancer can even change their metabolism before or after chemotherapy.”
The alarming results highlight the need for further research into the role of NR in cancer development and treatment.
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