Vitamin B3 is a component of the group B vitamin complex , also called niacin . Like other members of the B group vitamin complex, vitamin B3 is needed to get energy from the food we eat.
All of the vitamins in the B Group Complex help metabolize carbohydrates to energy, utilize fat and protein properly, and maintain healthy skin, eyes and hair. They are also needed for healthy nervous system function and liver health. [#2]
All human cells need the right amount of vitamin B3 for it to function properly. Niacin is a cofactor of over 200 important enzymes that modulate cell metabolism. It also plays a role in DNA repair and protection of free radicals. [ 1 ]
Niacin is used for brain function, arthritis, cardiovascular health, mood boosting, skin health, headaches and more. Additional. In addition, clinical studies have shown that niacin can be beneficial in lowering cholesterol.
This article will discuss research on the use and health benefits of vitamin B3, as well as how the compound works in the body, deficiencies, dosages, additional information, safety and side effects.
How Does Vitamin B3 Work In The Human Body?
According to the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMM), there are two main forms of vitamin B3 – niacin (nicotinic acid) and niacinamide (nicotinamide). [ 2 ]
According to MedLine Plus , niacin and niacinamide have been studied mainly because they are precursors of two important enzymes called NAD (nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide) and NADP (nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate). [ 3 ]
Both NAD and NADP are important because they are essential for proper metabolic function. [ 4 ]
They are required for a variety of processes including ATP (adenosine triphosphate) synthesis, oxidation / reduction reactions and ADP (adenosine diphosphate) transfer reactions. [ 4 ]
According to UMM, niacin is also needed for the production of stress-resistant hormones and sex hormones. In this regard, vitamin B3 helps to stimulate the functioning of the adrenal glands, reduces systemic swelling and improves blood circulation.
Like all B vitamins, all forms of vitamin B3 are usually water soluble. They are easily absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract when used as oral supplements.
This nutrient is not stored in the human body and should be consumed regularly for optimal health. In comparison, fat-soluble vitamins can be stored in the body and do not need to be taken regularly in the diet to avoid deficiencies.
Individuals can increase their niacin levels by eating plant and animal foods containing this vitamin and / or taking nutritional supplements.
People can also produce vitamin B3 from the amino acid tryptophan, but this conversion is not very effective. It takes 60 mg of tryptophan to make 1 mg of niacin.
In Western countries, vitamin B3 deficiency is very rare among people who eat healthy and varied foods. Deficiency is most prevalent in places where people do not have access to a varied diet and most of the diet consists of cereals or corn.
Some of the most common symptoms of vitamin B3 deficiency are: headache, fatigue, depression, confusion, memory loss, skin problems and / or diarrhea. [ 1 ]
Severe cases of niacin deficiency can lead to pellagra , a condition characterized by mental disorders, diarrhea and poor skin health. These are sometimes called: dementia, diarrhea and dermatitis.
Many times pellagra has been associated with a diet that is too maize based. [ 4 ]
The Natural Medicinal Products Comprehensive Database (NMCD) has removed pellagra from Western practice. It usually occurs only in severely ill alcoholics on a low diet and in those with carcinoid tumors, or other conditions that reduce niacin production and / or inhibit intestinal tryptophan absorption. [ 4 ]
Research is underway into the potential effects of vitamin B3 on cognitive decline, eye / visual health, various dermatological conditions, migraine headaches, depression, motion sickness and alcoholism, ED (erectile dysfunction), kidney failure, high blood pressure (hypertension). for the aging process. [ 4 ]
More clinical trials are needed to determine the therapeutic efficacy of vitamin B3 for any of these and other purposes.
Some specific Niacin products have been approved by the FDA as prescription drugs commonly used for dyslipidemia. These products are typically used in a clinical setting with medical supervision.
Most niacin products are sold as dietary supplements and are not intended to prevent or cure medical conditions. Vitamin B3 supplements are not approved by the FDA as drugs to alleviate or improve health.
Sources of Vitamin B3 in Food
Vitamin B3 is found in a variety of foods that are widely consumed in the North American diet. Many foods contain a certain amount of this vitamin or its precursors. For most people, getting this vitamin from their diet is not difficult.
You can raise B3 levels by consuming animal meat, fortified bread and cereals, green leafy vegetables, poultry, fish and some energy drinks. The Linus Pauling Institute says other foods containing vitamin B3 include beans, legumes, wheat germ, peanuts, lentils and coffee.
Whenever possible, it is recommended that you get vitamin B3 and other nutrients mainly from organic, non-GMO vegetables and fruits. When eating animal products, the best sources are grass, organic meats and dairy products.
If you can’t take more diets, there are a variety of Niacin and B complex supplements
Vitamin B3 Supplements
Supplements provide much higher levels of vitamin B3 than many food sources. If you are deficient in this vitamin or have a medical condition that may be helped by higher doses of the vitamin, your doctor may advise you to take Group B Vitamin Complex .
The B-group vitamin complex works synergistically in the body and usually the B-group vitamins must be taken together. It is not usually recommended to take one group B vitamin without any other form.
The NMCD says there are nearly 7,000 dietary supplements containing vitamin B3. Always look for third-party verified cGMP compatible supplements from reputable manufacturers.
Always follow the dosing instructions for the products you have purchased, unless otherwise directed by your healthcare professional.
High doses of vitamin B3 can cause side effects. Always consult your doctor about dietary supplements such as niacin to determine if it is right for you.
The Linus Pauling Institute (STI) reports the following recommended levels of Niacin in food:
- 2 mg daily for infants 0 to 6 months
- 4 mg daily for infants 7 months to 12 months
- 6 mg / day for 1-3 year olds
- 8 mg daily for children 4 to 8 years old
- 12 mg / day for children 9 to 13 years old
- 16 mg daily for boys and men 14 years of age and older
- 14 mg daily for girls and women 14 years of age and older
- 18 mg daily for pregnant women
- 17 mg daily for breast-feeding women [ 6 ]
STIs argue that higher doses than recommended above should be discussed with your doctor and should only be taken under medical supervision.
Higher doses were used for studies. According to the NMCD: “The greatest increase in HDL and a reduction in triglyceride levels occur between 1200 and 1500 mg per day. The maximum effect of niacin on LDL occurs at 2000 to 3000 mg / day. ”
These high doses should only be taken under medical supervision. Excessive use of niacin may increase the risk of serious adverse reactions.
Vitamin B3 Supplement Side effects
The Natural Medicines Database considers vitamin B3 to be expected to be safe when used properly.
The STI states that there are no risks associated with consuming foods containing vitamin B3. However, dietary supplements, especially at high doses, can cause various adverse effects. Some of the possible adverse reactions are nausea, vomiting and liver toxicity.
High doses of vitamin B3 may cause liver damage. Because of this, some doctors are reluctant to prescribe this vitamin to combat high cholesterol in some patients.
There are concerns that doses of 3 to 9 grams of vitamin B3 a day may affect blood glucose levels. This has been observed in both short and long term use. For this reason, this supplement should not be used without the advice of endocrinologists in patients with diabetes or prediabetes.
UMM says high doses of niacin in supplementation can also cause headaches, dizziness, and / or blurred vision. Talk to your doctor about the possible side effects of Niacin before deciding to take this supplement.
- Kerri-Ann Jennings, MS, RD. 9 Science-Based Benefits of Niacin (Vitamin B3). Accessed Dec.19, 2016.
- University of Maryland Medical Center. Vitamin B3 (Niacin).
- MedLinePlus. Niacin and niacinamide (Vitamin B3). Accessed Dec. 19, 2016.
- Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database. Vitamin B3 (Niacin Monograph). Accessed Dec. 19, 2016.
- Julius U1,1. Niacin as antidyslipidemic drug. Can J Physiol Pharmacol. 2015 Dec;93(12):1043-54. doi: 10.1139/cjpp-2014-0478. Epub 2015 Apr 28./a>
- LINUS PAULING INSTITUTE. Micronutrient Information Center. Niacin. Accessed Dec. 21, 2016.
- Penn State Hershey Milton S. Hershey Medical Center. Vitamin B3 (Niacin).
- Jonas WB, Rapoza CP, Blair WF. The effect of niacinamide on osteoarthritis: a pilot study. Inflamm Res. 1996.