All About Vitamin B3: The Definitive Guide to Niacin

vitamin B3

Also known as niacin, vitamin B3 is part of the eight B vitamins forming the vitamin B complex. Niacin supports the functions of over 200 enzymes.

Plants, animals and humans synthesise vitamin B3. A small part is synthesised by the intestinal microflora and the liver in the body. Its primary role is converting the food we eat into energy. It helps the body use protein and fats and it keeps the skin, hair and nervous system healthy and intact.

Other niacin benefits include lowering bad cholesterol levels, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

Vitamin B3 is a water-soluble vitamin, which means it’s soluble in water so the body cannot store it. Any excess is eliminated through urine, so you need to ensure that your diet provides enough niacin.

Vitamin B3 is one of the most stable vitamins. It is resistant to exposure to heat, light and air, and also to acid and alkaline environments.

benefits of vitamin B3
CC: Hanieh Sigari via Medium.

It’s also known as nicotinamide, nicotinic acid and vitamin PP because it prevents pellagra (a disease caused by low levels of niacin and that could be fatal). Pellegra is especially predominant in countries where rice and corn are the primary sources of nutrition.

A healthy diet can provide all the vitamin B3 that your body needs. Vitamin B3 plays a role in the regulation of metabolic processes, helping hydrogen transport in our body and in the process of cellular redox.

Niacin Food Sources

Among the most popular sources of vitamin B3 are:

  • Dry roasted peanuts
  • Beef liver
  • Turkey/chicken grilled breast
  • Sockeye salmon
  • Cooked brown rice
  • Enriched cereal
  • Tuna 
  • Cottage cheese
  • Gouda
  • Mozzarella brie
  • Milk
  • Avocado
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Soy milk

Niacin Deficiency 

Persons suffering from vitamin B3 deficiency can experience the following symptoms:

  • Memory loss
  • Circulatory problems
  • Pigmented skin rash (when exposed to the sun)
  • Depression 
  • Fatigue
  • Bright red tongue
  • Hallucinations (in severe cases)
  • Excessive urinary loss of nicotinic acid (secondary pellagra)

Certain groups of people are more predisposed to vitamin B3 deficiency. These include:

  • Low diet in tryptophan or a condition that reduces the body’s ability to convert tryptophan to niacin (Hartnup disease / Carcinoid disease).
  • Excessive alcohol abuse can lead to undernutrition
  • Low intake of iron and vitamins B2 and B6 can reduce the amount of tryptophan that gets converted into niacin.

At the same time, significant amounts of vitamin B3 are also lost when you urinate, especially in people who already have B12 deficiency. That’s why adequate intakes of vitamin B12 are necessary to ensure that your body can retain sufficient levels of vitamin B3.

Vitamin B3 Benefits

niacin benefits

As an essential vitamin, B3 has the following benefits:

  • It has the ability to lower cholesterol levels.
  • Niacin has the ability to regulate blood sugar levels, which in turn may be effective in reducing the risk of prediabetes or diabetes.
  • Vitamin B3 may contribute to cell multiplication and DNA regeneration. This is because vitamin B3 is involved in the process of muscle regeneration, nerve endings and skin health.
  • Niacin also has beneficial effects on the skin. When ingested or applied to the skin, vit B3 has the ability to improve dermatological conditions such as acne or rosacea.
  • It may help improve skin pigmentation and rebuild the skin’s protective barrier.
  • It also helps with fine wrinkles by increasing the elasticity and firmness of the skin.
  • Vitamin B3 may improve digestion by contributing to the metabolism of carbohydrates.
  • Increased intake of niacin has been linked to easing ulcer pain.
  • Vitamin B3 helps to retain calcium in bones for strong, healthy bones. Certain bone conditions may be improved by providing the necessary intake of niacin.
  • Niacin may help fight bad breath.

READ ALSO: 10 Important Vitamin B3 Health Benefits

Vitamin B3 Overdose

It’s unlikely to get any negative effects from the amount of B3 found in food. However, high doses of vitamin B3 as a supplement can have adverse effects such as:

  • Vomiting 
  • Nausea
  • Constipation
  • Headache
  • Rashes
  • Dizziness
  • Flushed or itchy skin

Taken in excess, it can also cause:

  • Trigger an attack in people with gout
  • Create eye problems
  • Lead to gastrointestinal problems
  • Increasing liver damage risk
  • Low blood pressure

Recommended Daily Intake of Niacin

  • Children: 2 – 16 mg/day depending on age and reason for administration.
  • Men – 16 mg/day 
  • Women – 14mg/day 
  • Pregnant Women – 18mg/day (however, pregnant women should take niacin only based on their doctor’s recommendation)
  • Breastfeeding women – 17 mg/day (also only on the doctor’s recommendation)
  • The maximum dose of niacin for an adult is 35mg/day.

A diet rich in whole foods is the best way to get the necessary daily dose of vitamin B3. But just in case you think that you suffer from vitamin B deficiency or just want to increase your intake of niacin, a vitamin B complex supplement may be the best way forward.

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