Background: Nicotinamide (NAM) is a form of vitamin B3 that, when administered at near-gram doses, has been shown or suggested to be therapeutically effective against many diseases and conditions. The target conditions are incredibly diverse ranging from skin disorders such as bullous pemphigoid to schizophrenia and depression and even AIDS. Similar diversity is expected for the underlying mechanisms. In a large portion of the conditions, NAM conversion to nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD+) may be a major factor in its efficacy. The augmentation of cellular NAD+ level not only modulates mitochondrial production of ATP and superoxide, but also activates many enzymes. Activated sirtuin proteins, a family of NAD+-dependent deacetylases, play important roles in many of NAM’s effects such as an increase in mitochondrial quality and cell viability countering neuronal damages and metabolic diseases. Meanwhile, certain observed effects are mediated by NAM itself. However, our understanding on the mechanisms of NAM’s effects is limited to those involving certain key proteins and may even be inaccurate in some proposed cases. Aim of review: This review details the conditions that NAM has been shown to or is expected to effectively treat in humans and animals and evaluates the proposed underlying molecular mechanisms, with the intention of promoting wider, safe therapeutic application of NAM. Key scientific concepts of review: NAM, by itself or through altering metabolic balance of NAD+ and tryptophan, modulates mitochondrial function and activities of many molecules and thereby positively affects cell viability and metabolic functions. And, NAM administration appears to be quite safe with limited possibility of side effects which are related to NAM’s metabolites.
- Mitochondrial quality