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Have you heard of natural glaucoma treatment with nicotinamide or vitamin B3? Before we discuss nicotinamide and vitamin B3, let's find out a bit more about glaucoma first.
What is glaucoma and why is it important?
Glaucoma is a condition where there is progressive damage to the optic nerve, usually related to high pressure in the eye. This causes visual field loss and if untreated, eventual blindness.
Glaucoma is the second commonest cause of blindness worldwide, and affects at least 2% of the population. More than 60 million people are affected globally. The scary thing is that most people do not notice any glaucoma symptoms until a lot of glaucoma damage has already occurred.
It is widely accepted
that the retinal ganglion cells of the optic nerve become permanently
and irreversibly damaged from glaucoma. It is this damage to the ganglion cells that eventually leads to blindness.
The conventional thinking is that any vision lost from the optic nerve damage cannot be recovered, hence the focus on monitoring and early glaucoma treatment. The idea to pick up early signs of glaucoma damage before any significant sight loss and glaucoma symptoms develop.
(Image adapted from the internet)
What is nicotinamide and is it different from vitamin B3?
Vitamin B3 is a
water-soluble vitamin (there are 7 other water-soluble vitamins). Being
water-soluble means that any excess vitamin is excreted through urine
rather than being stored in the body.
Nicotinamide is the active form of vitamin B3. Other names for vitamin B3 include niacin, niacinamide, nicotinic amide, and nicotinic acid.
Vitamin B3 plays an important role in supporting cell metabolism, mitochondrial health, and DNA repair. It is naturally found in lean meat, milk, fish and nuts, and is commonly added to cereals and other foods.
Vitamin B3 nicotinamide supplements are widely available for purchase over-the-counter and have been recommended for maintaining skin health.
Nicotinamide is generally well tolerated in doses under 3,000 mg per day. This is unlike the nicotinic acid form of Vitamin B3, which can cause flushing and gastrointestinal upset.
Although niacin and nicotinamide are both Vitamin B3 (and in fact niacin
can be turned into nicotinamide in the body), their effects are not the
same. This means that niacin and nicotinamide are not interchangeable
How does natural glaucoma treatment with nicotinamide (vitamin B3) work?
In 2020, a world-first clinical trial conducted by the Centre for Eye Research Australia reported results confirming that nicotinamide could have a positive impact in protecting against nerve damage in glaucoma.
The most exciting finding is that in some people suffering from glaucoma, high dose nicotinamide (3,000 mg daily) significantly improved the function of the optic nerve ganglion cells (measured using electroretinography).
The specific nicotinamide brand used in the trial is Insolar.
A separate trial
published in 2021 found that in treated moderate open angle glaucoma
patients, a combination of oral nicotinamide (1,000 to 3,000 mg) and
pyruvate (1,500 to 3,000 mg) was able to significantly improve visual function when taken over 2 months.
No serious adverse effects were reported with the nicotinamide-pyruvate combination. Insolar was not used in this trial.
Remember the conventional thinking that any damage to the optic nerve is permanent and irreversible?
We now have well-conducted clinical trials demonstrating that it is possible to improve optic nerve function despite damage from glaucoma.
More research to follow on natural glaucoma treatment with nicotinamide (vitamin B3) and its longer term benefits
The original trial followed 57 glaucoma patients over a period of 12 weeks.
The number of patients studies is relatively small. The trial duration is also quite short (only 12 weeks), considering that glaucoma is a lifelong disease.
CERA is now conducting a large, international, multi-center trial to determine if the benefits of nicotinamide can be sustained over the long term.
The TAMING (TArgeting Metabolic Insufficiency iN Glaucoma) trial plans to follow-up more than 150 patients over a 2-year period.
What about the other B vitamins? Are they beneficial for glaucoma too?
The other B vitamin that has shown some promise for glaucoma is vitamin B12 (methylcobalamin or mecobalamin). Vitamin B12 is important for DNA regulation, red blood cell production, and helps with the function of our nervous system.
Our body does not produce vitamin B12 naturally, and so we rely on food consumption for vitamin B12. Methylcobalamin is a naturally occurring vitamin B12 that is found in food sources such as eggs, milk, fish, and meat.
Vitamin B12 deficiency is associated with damage to the optic nerve (optic neuropathy), which can cause blindness if untreated. Glaucoma is of course a type of optic neuropathy, and naturally there is interest in whether methylcobalamin could potentially be beneficial for glaucoma.
The studies reporting on methylcobalamin and glaucoma have not been of particularly high quality. However, the most promising evidence comes from a Japanese study published in 2000.
In this trial, low pressure glaucoma patients who took 1,500 micrograms (or 1.5 mg) oral methylcobalamin daily had significantly less visual field deterioration after 4 years when compared to the control group.
I have glaucoma. Should I take nicotinamide vitamin B3 anyway?
In my clinical practice, I have been recommending natural glaucoma treatment with nicotinamide vitamin B3 to some, but not all, of my glaucoma patients.
I usually recommend it to patients who are at risk of their glaucoma deteriorating: 3,000 mg daily for moderate to severe glaucoma, and 1,500 mg daily for mild glaucoma. Stable glaucoma patients probably do not require natural glaucoma treatment with nicotinamide vitamin B3 supplements.
The specific brand used in the Australian trial was Insolar, which is manufactured by Blackmores. It is widely available in most health stores and through Amazon Australia.
If Insolar is not available for you, then any other nicotinamide vitamin B3 should be fine as long as you purchase from a reputable supplement manufacturer. Below are highly-rated and recommended vitamin B3 nicotinamide supplements that are available for you to purchase through Amazon:
What about pyruvate and methylcobalamin vitamin B12?
While the nicotinamide-pyruvate combination holds great promise, there have not been any clinical trials investigating the benefits of pyruvate alone for glaucoma. If you are keen on taking pyruvate, my recommendation is to take it in a natural glaucoma treatment combination with nicotinamide vitamin B3 for optimum results.
As for methylcobalamin vitamin B12, I am not particularly convinced by the current level of clinical evidence. I therefore only recommend it to patients who have low vitamin B12 levels or if their diet indicates that they may not be eating enough foods rich in vitamin B12.
If you are considering natural glaucoma treatment with nicotinamide vitamin B3, pyruvate, and/or methylcobalamine vitamin B12, please make sure to discuss with your eye specialist and family doctor first to avoid adverse drug interactions and unwanted side effects.
These two B vitamins and pyruvate must not replace the glaucoma treatment that has already been prescribed by your eye specialist. Rather, it should be taken in addition to and complementary to your existing treatment.
If you wish to supplement your glaucoma treatment with pyruvate and methylcobalamin to prevent and reduce your risk glaucoma blindness, below are highly-rated
and recommended supplements that
are available for you to purchase through Amazon:
Are there any other alternative natural remedies for glaucoma?
Yes! As a natural glaucoma treatment, nicotinamide vitamin B3 shows great promise, especially when combined with pyruvate. However, not everyone can tolerate nicotinamide, pyruvate, and methylcobalamine.
There are other widely available natural supplements that can be used to complement your existing glaucoma treatment.
It is worth repeating that if you are considering any of the natural glaucoma supplements and remedies, please make sure to discuss with your eye specialist and family doctor first to avoid adverse drug interactions and unwanted side effects.
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