New research from the University of Missouri in the US has found that common vitamin B3 dietary supplements can increase the risk of serious disease, including developing cancer.
While previous studies have linked commercial dietary supplements like nicotinamide riboside (NR), a form of vitamin B3, to benefits related to cardiovascular, metabolic, and neurological health, new research has warned against its arbitrary use.
The researchers made the discovery while using bioluminescent imaging technology to study how NR supplements work inside the body.
The international team of researchers led by Elena Goun, an associate professor of chemistry at the University of Missouri, discovered high levels of NR could not only increase someone’s risk of developing triple-negative breast cancer, but also could cause cancer to metastasise or spread to the brain.
Once cancer reaches the brain, the results are deadly because no viable treatment options exist at present, said Goun, who is the corresponding author on the study published in the journal Biosensors and Bioelectronics.
“Some people take them (vitamins and supplements) because they automatically assume that vitamins and supplements only have positive health benefits, but very little is known about how they actually work,” Goun said.
Since NR is a known supplement for helping increase levels of cellular energy, and cancer cells feed off of that energy with their increased metabolism, Goun wanted to investigate NR’s role in the development and spread of cancer.
“Our work is especially important given the wide commercial availability and a large number of ongoing human clinical trials where NR is used to mitigate the side effects of cancer therapy in patients,” Goun said.
The researchers used this technology to compare and examine how much NR levels were present in cancer cells, T cells and healthy tissues.
The findings emphasise the importance of having careful investigations of potential side effects for supplements like NR prior to their use in people who may have different types of health conditions.
In the future, Goun would like to provide information that could potentially lead to the development of certain inhibitors to help make cancer therapies like chemotherapy more effective in treating cancer.
“Not all cancers are the same in every person, especially from the standpoint of metabolic signatures,” Goun said. “Oftentimes, cancers can even change their metabolism before or after chemotherapy.”