8 Unexpected Symptoms of Vitamin B3 (Niacin) Deficiency

niacin deficiency

Vitamin B3, also known as niacin or nicotinic acid, plays a role in converting the food you consume into energy.

It allows us to maintain proper digestion and a healthy diet. Niacin is primarily used to lower cholesterol levels in the body. It can be used to treat several respiratory or vascular disorders. Moreover, it is also considered as one of the most significant nutrients required in the cell development.

Minimal niacin deficiency can cause a number of digestive issues, whereas severe deficiency may lead to mental confusion and other acute problems. Pellagra is a disease which is essentially caused due to lack of vitamin B3 in your body. Without a well-balanced and nutrient-rich diet, you may deprive your body of several benefits of niacin. Let’s take a brief look at 8 key symptoms of niacin deficiency.


Pigmented Rash

Low niacin levels can result in a thick, pigmented rash on your skin called pellagra. It can cause abnormal changes in skin colour and texture. The way it appears on your body can vary from person to person. However, the rash caused by vitamin B3 deficiency usually shows where skin is frequently exposed to sunlight.

Dermatitis associated with pellagra causes a rash on the face, lips, feet, or hands. Some people might experience this rash around the neck. This is known as Casal collar or Casal necklace.

While recovering from primary or secondary pellagra, it is important to keep any rashes moisturized and protected with a sunblock. In such a situation, try to avoid as much sunlight exposure as you can.


Swollen Mouth and Bright Red Tongue

Niacin deficiency may cause swelling in or around your mouth. The affected areas include the roof of the mouth, tongue and lips. Your mouth is one of the most sensitive parts of your body and can easily get affected even with a slight deficiency of vitamin B3.

Common characteristics of a swollen mouth include a blistered appearance or a rounded lump anywhere inside the mouth. You might also have issues speaking, eating and swallowing food. Applying an ice pack wrapped in a towel can reduce the inflammation.

Niacin deficiency might give rise to a burning sensation in your mouth. Your tongue might also appear a bright red colour and might feel burnt.


Vomiting and Diarrhoea

Niacin deficiency symptoms include issues with your digestive system. Usually, vomiting is harmless, but it can be a sign of severe vitamin B3 deficiency. You may also experience loose, watery stools several times a day.

A prolonged bout of diarrhoea and vomiting can cause the body to lose more fluid than it can take in. This can result in dehydration.

signs of vitamin B3 deficiency

To prevent this, you should take in as much fluid as you can to minimise the effects. If vomiting or diarrhoea lasts for more than 2 days, seek medical advice from your GP as soon as possible.

READ ALSO: 10 Important Vitamin B3 Health Benefits



headache niacin deficiency

If your body doesn’t receive adequate levels of vitamin B3, it can respond with painful headaches. This pain originates from the tissues and structures that surround the skull. This can cause nausea and vomiting. It can also lead to development of slight light sensitivity.

The most common remedies for treating headaches caused by niacin deficiency include resting and taking over-the-counter medications. Headaches can be much more complicated than you think. Fortunately, those resulting from vitamin B3 deficiency are classified as primary headaches and don’t pose any major health risks.



One of the most prominent niacin deficiency symptoms in your body is an overall feeling of tiredness. You will find it difficult to have the required energy and motivation for running day-to-day errands. The level of fatigue experienced by your body will vary depending upon the severity of Niacin deficiency.

You may feel weakness in muscles all over your body. In order to check if you have developed any instance of physical or mental fatigue, you can take a strength test. Over extended deficiency of vitamin B3, you will face problems when trying to concentrate on simple things and stay focused.


Depression and Apathy

Depression is a common medical illness, but it is more prevalent in people suffering from vitamin B3 deficiency. It can influence how you feel and behave in your daily life. Low levels of niacin are also associated with apathy which can cause lack of interest in daily activities and interaction with people around you.

symptoms of niacin deficiency

This can lead to a number of emotional and physical problems and decrease your ability to function properly. It is natural to feel down and out sometimes, but if that feeling lasts for long periods then you should consider speaking with a professional.



Vitamin B3 deficiency can lead you to having an altered state of mind. You will find yourself confused and unable to think like you usually do. In its extreme state, disorientation is referred to as delirium. It is indicated by an abrupt change in brain functioning that causes mental and emotional disruption.

However, disorientation caused by deficiency of niacin is usually temporary and can be treated effectively.


Memory Loss

Low levels of niacin in your body can affect your memory and increase your risk of dementia. Nutrients help your brain to function properly. A scientific study published in PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America) found that supplementing with a form of niacin might reverse memory loss in mice.

When your intake of B3 is insufficient, your brain can struggle to remember things that occurred in the recent past.


Keep an Eye Out for Niacin Deficiency

Having adequate levels of vitamin B3 in your body is crucial for maintaining good health. Niacin is a water-soluble vitamin that can travel through your bloodstream. It’s known to regulate digestion, improve skin health, minimize the risk of heart disease and enhance mental health.

It is pivotal to know what the symptoms of vitamin B3 deficiency are. Extreme niacin deficiency, if left untreated, can have a serious impact on your health. Thus, it is important to have sufficient amount of vitamin B3 in your diet.

Niacin deficiency should be promptly addressed with niacin supplementation as prescribed by your GP. It’s best to take a supplement that provides all B vitamins to avoid an imbalance. Moreover, high doses of niacin can cause side effects such as liver damage, so make sure you talk to your GP before taking nicotinic acid supplements.

READ ALSO: 16 Top Niacin Rich Foods You Add to Your Diet

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