Niacin Supplementation in Neurological Diseases

Niacin is a B vitamin that’s made and used by your body to turn food into energy. It helps keep your nervous system, digestive system, and skin healthy.

Niacin (vitamin B-3) is often part of a daily multivitamin, but most people get enough niacin from the food they eat. Foods rich in niacin include yeast, milk, meat, tortillas, and cereal grains.

The recommended daily amount of niacin for adult males is 16 milligrams (mg) a day and for adult women who aren’t pregnant, 14 mg a day.

It is commonly used as a treatment in patients with low high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, the good cholesterol, to increase its levels, while also decreasing the levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. 

In a study published in the journal Acta Neurophatologica, researchers evaluated the use of niacin and its properties for remyelination in aging patients. 

Aging Central Nervous System Remyelination

Remyelination following CNS demyelination (loss of myelin) restores rapid signal propagation and protects axons; however, this effect declines with increasing age. 

The immune system is critical for successful remyelination, mainly microglia and monocyte-derived macrophages work by releasing growth factors and clearing inhibitory myelin debris. 

For the study researchers found that decreased expression of the receptor CD36 in aging mice microglia and human microglia in culture caused their reduced phagocytic activity. They also found that by using niacin, CD36 expression was upregulated and enhanced myelin phagocytosis by microglia. 

The previous finding was also accompanied by enhancement of oligodendrocyte cell numbers and improved remyelination.

The researchers concluded that the use of niacin represents a safe and amenable regenerative therapy for chronic demyelinating diseases such as MS. According to Yong and colleagues treatment with niacin could rejuvenate microglia and lead to improving myelin repair. 


Rawji, K.S., Young, A., Ghosh, T. et al. Niacin-mediated rejuvenation of macrophage/microglia enhances remyelination of the aging central nervous system. Acta Neuropathol 139, 893–909 (2020).

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