Vitamin B3 (Niacin)

Facts about Vitamin B3 (Niacin)

Niacin and Niacinamide prevent the deficiency disease Pellagra. They are both forms of Vitamin B3. Our body can produce Niacin from tryptophan, which is an essential amino acid, but needs Vitamin B1, B2, and B6 to do so. However, this process is highly inefficient. Niacinamide also acts as an antioxidant.

The water-soluble Vitamin B3 is involved in the production of hormones such as estrogens, progesterone, testosterone, and insulin. Vitamin B3 helps with the transfer of hydrogen between our cells and is important for energy production. Vitamin B3 has positive effects on mood and brain function.

Benefits of Vitamin B3 (Niacin)

Vitamin B3 is important for energy production. It is necessary for the metabolism of carbohydrates, protein, and fat. Vitamin B3 supports healthy skin, and maintains a healthy nervous and digestive system. It is also important for the detoxification of alcohol.

Niacin and Niacinamide requirements are higher in people with diabetes mellitus. So far only the Niacin form of Vitamin B3 is known to lower cholesterol levels.

Possible uses include:

  • acne
  • alcohol detoxification
  • anxiety
  • atherosclerosis
  • burns
  • dermatitis
  • diabetes mellitus
  • diseases of the small intestine
  • HIV
  • migraines
  • multiple sclerosis
  • osteoarthritis
  • pancreatic insufficiency
  • schizophrenia
  • skin cancer

Vitamin B3 (Niacin) Deficiency

A deficiency in Vitamin B3 can lead to a disease called Pellagra which may result in insanity if left untreated. Although our body can produce Niacin from tryptophan, which is an essential amino acid, deficiencies still occur because this process is highly inefficient and requires Vitamin B1, B2, and B6 as well. A Niacin deficiency is often caused by a restricted diet or alcoholism.

Medications such as antibiotics and steroids can reduce the absorption of Vitamin B3 and should not be taken with the Vitamin at the same time. Also the consumption of alcohol, coffee, and sugar can reduce the absorption of Niacin.

People with diabetes mellitus have a higher risk of developing a Vitamin B3 deficiency because of their increased requirements for Niacin and Niacinamide.

Deficiency symptoms include:

  • dementia
  • depression
  • dermatitis
  • diarrhoea
  • fatigue
  • headaches
  • indigestion
  • loss of appetite
  • mental confusion
  • skin lesions
  • sleeplessness
  • sore and inflamed mouth
  • vomiting
  • weight loss

Vitamin B3 (Niacin) Toxicity

Niacin can cause a body-wide flushing or tingling sensation which is not serious and usually subsides over time. Niacin from food sources however, is not linked to adverse effects. Niacinamide, on the other hand, needs to be studied in more detail but appears to be less likely to show these side effects.

Vitamin B3 should be used with caution by people with certain underlying medical conditions such as diabetes or liver disease.

Side effects may include:

  • agitation
  • anxiety
  • blurred vision
  • breathing difficulty
  • diarrhoea
  • dizziness
  • headache
  • heart palpitations
  • jaundice
  • liver damage
  • nausea
  • panic attacks
  • vomiting

Foods high in Vitamin B3 (Niacin)

Although Niacin is not easily destroyed by heat, light, or oxidation, most flours, breads, and cereals are enriched to ensure a reasonable supply of Niacin.

Medications as well as alcohol, coffee, and sugar can reduce the absorption of Niacin. Higher intakes of Niacin might also be required with high calorie consumption.

Dietary sources include:

  • brewer's yeast
  • eggs
  • fish
  • green leafy vegetables
  • legumes
  • liver
  • mushrooms
  • peanuts
  • poultry
  • red meats
  • rice bran
  • rice polishing
  • sunflower seeds
  • wheat bran
  • wheat germ

The Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs) for Niacin, developed by the Food and Nutrition Board (FNB) at the Institute of Medicine of The National Academies, currently state 16mg for adult men and 14mg for adult women. They allow for a maximum intake of up to 35mg. Australia and New Zealand adapted the same values as their Nutrient Reference Values (NRVs).

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