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If you suffer from insomnia or depression and mental fatigue in general, make sure you eat foods containing vitamin B3. The third component of the B complex is niacin or vitamin B3, which belongs to the water-soluble vitamins and is synonymous with nicotinic acid and is also known as PP agent.

In this article we are exploring the health benefits of Vitamin B3 or Niacin as well as food resources, deficiency symptoms and everything you need to know.

What is Vitamin B3 (Niacin)

Vitamin B3 or niacin belongs to the vitamin B complex and contributes to energy production, fatigue reduction, skin health, normal functioning of the nervous system and good mental health. It is found in foods such as meat and meat products, potatoes, rice, bread, cereals, etc.

Because the body cannot synthesize it, it must be obtained in sufficient quantity from food.

Niacin is water-soluble, which means that excess Niacin is excreted through the urine and is not stored in the body.

Vitamin B3 consists of 2 molecules nicotinamide and nicotinic acid, often referred to as niacin. Specifically, vitamin B3 together with the amino acid tryptophan is involved in the formation of two coenzymes NAD (Nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide) and NADP (Nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate), which take part in many biochemical reactions in the body.

Niacin History

Nicotinic acid was synthesized in 1867 by oxidation of nicotine and is widely used in photography [1]. It was long thought to have nothing to do with food or health issues, until German scientists proved that nicotinic acid occurs in yeast and rice [2].

There it was isolated by Polish-American biochemist Casimir Funk in 1912 while trying to find a cure for another disease known as beriberi (a nutritional disorder caused by thiamine deficiency).

Related: Vitamin B1 (Thiamine): Sources, Health Benefits, RDA, Deficiency, Side effects

Since nicotinic acid had no effect on beriberi, he abandoned his work; but even though he was wrong, he showed that this nicotinic acid probably had some nutritional value.

The chemical structure of this agent was subsequently discovered in 1937 by the American biochemist Conrad Arnold Elvehjem. He caused black tongue in dogs by feeding them the Goldberger diet and then curing the disease by supplementing their diet with nicotinic acid. He also isolated the P-P factor from active liver extracts, showing that this factor is actually nicotinic acid (then called niacin or nicotinic acid vitamin).

Following this discovery, cereal products (wheat, maize) were fortified with nicotinic acid or nicotinamide.

However, a large-scale social reform was needed to ensure the proper implementation of such dietary modifications.

The majority of sporadic cases in developed countries are now seen in alcoholics, although in rare cases other patients may also develop the disease (i.e., malabsorption or iatrogenic conditions).

Vitamin B3 Foods

Niacin-rich foods are mainly foods of animal origin, such as meat, fish and poultry. Plant-based foods include avocados, peanuts, whole grains, mushrooms, etc.

The recommended Vitamin B3 or Niacin Recommended Daily Allowance is 15 mg.

Food (100 gr)QuantityRDA %
Beer yeast35.6 mg236%
Peanuts24.2 mg160%
Liver12.2 mg81%
Tuna10.3 mg68%
Dried peaches8.2 mg55%
Salmon6.8 mg45%
Wholegrain cereals5.2 mg35%
Lamb steak5.1 mg34%
Almonds4.7 mg31%
Peas3.8 mg25%
Pork steak3.6 mg24%
Soya2.9 mg19%
Avocado1.9 mg13%

Vitamin B3 Health Benefits

Both nicotinic acid and nicotinamide are absorbed from the normal diet. Nicotinamide is the form of vitamin B3 commonly found in dietary supplements and is used to fortify foods.

  • Vitamin B3 plays a role in the release of energy from carbohydrates and fats. Due to the fact that niacin is involved in the digestion and metabolism mechanisms of food, supplementation leads to an increase in energy levels and a reduction in fatigue. In addition, it helps to reduce anxiety and nervousness, contributing to the proper functioning of the nervous system.
  • Niacin is involved in protein metabolism [3].
  • Niacin helps in the production of certain hormones and the formation of red blood cells [4]
  • Niacin prevents and treats diabetes
  • It improves blood circulation and relieves arthritis [5].
  • Niacin is also used to prevent and treat elevated blood lipids and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. Studies in humans have shown that niacin administration leads to a reduction in the risk of stroke in people not taking statins. In addition, it appears to have a protective effect against atherosclerotic plaque formation, reducing inflammation and endothelial destruction of blood vessels, and partially and briefly reduces blood pressure in people with hypertension or dyslipidemia [6].
  • Vitamin B3 has been used orally and intravenously in various pathological conditions such as high triglycerides, dysmenorrhea, hypothyroidism and multiple sclerosis.
  • Niacin appears to be involved in the body’s anti-inflammatory mechanisms. In particular, butyric acid produced by bacteria in the colon affects the niacin receptor and exerts local anti-inflammatory actions. In addition, it appears that the niacin receptor in the gut plays an important role in the communication between the gut microbiome and the immune system [7].
  • Nicotinamide supplements, (not nicotinic acid), were shown to be effective in reducing blood lipids. Specifically, it was observed that after supplementation, HDL cholesterol levels increased while LDL, vLDL cholesterol and other atherogenic lipoproteins decreased. Similar to cholesterol levels, pharmacological doses of niacin help reduce serum triglycerides in subjects with hypertriglyceridemia by 30-50%. The mode of action of niacin lies in that it reduces the production of triglycerides and lipoproteins in the liver.
– Avocado is a rich vegan good source of Vitamin B3 (Niacin).

Vitamin B3 Deficiency

Niacin deficiency may result from inadequate dietary intake of niacin and/or the amino acid tryptophan.

Tryptophan, obtained from the breakdown of dietary protein, can be converted to nicotinamide by liver enzymes that need vitamin B6, riboflavin and iron to act.

  • Deficiencies of these components can contribute to the development of niacin deficiency.
  • Hartnup disease, an inherited disorder that reduces tryptophan absorption, can lead to niacin deficiency.
  • Carcinoid syndrome diverts tryptophan to increase serotonin production and may thus reduce nicotinamide production. Prolonged treatment with isoniazid has also been associated with niacin deficiency [8].
  • Niacin deficiency may affect the skin, digestive system and nervous system.
  • Severe niacin deficiency, referred to as pellagra, results in dermatitis, diarrhea, dementia and eventually death. Pellagra dermatitis is characterized by a thick, dark-colored rash that develops symmetrically on areas exposed to sunlight. Symptoms from the gastrointestinal system include vomiting, constipation or diarrheas and a bright red tongue. Pellagra can also cause neurological symptoms such as fatigue, depression, headache, disorientation and memory loss.

Fan Fact: The name pellagra comes from Latin and Greek and means rough skin

Other Niacin deficiency symptoms may include,

Related: Vitamin C: Sources, Health Benefits, Deficiency, Side effects, RDA

Vitamin B3 Side Effects

Why Does The Face Get Red With Niacin?

Niacin supplementation can lead to a feeling of ”flushing” and redness on the face. Although it is a relatively unpleasant consequence of taking niacin (nicotinic acid), it is not something dangerous to health and the phenomenon is temporary.

Dietary supplements containing vitamin B3 in the form of nicotinamide do not have the above effect. Usually the nutrition label will state whether or not the formulation causes flushing (niacin flush).

Prolonged intake and high doses of niacin can lead to tissue resistance to insulin action and an increase in serum glucose levels. Large doses of niacin may lead to liver damage, myopathy, gout and dry skin

Alcoholics as well as people with diabetes, gout, stomach ulcers and liver disease should not take niacin supplements. Taking during pregnancy and breastfeeding is safe with medical supervision.

Vitamin B3 (Niacin) Daily Requirements

The recommended daily dose is 14mg for women and 16mg for men. A usual dose is defined as 15-30mg, however in pathological conditions the dosage can be increased significantly from 100-500mg per day.

High doses should be evenly distributed throughout the day, with each dose being increased gradually. The absorption and action of niacin is best when taken with pre-food, along with B complex supplements. Food supplements labeled “no flush” do not cause redness.

Vitamin B3 Supplements

🥇Nutricost500 mg240 caps
🥈MICROINGREDIENTS1000 mg400 caps
🥉Thorne Research500 mg180 caps
👍Biophix500 mg 100 caps
👍PURE500 mg 365 caps

👩‍⚕️ Do not take any type of niacin supplement if you are also taking medications for high blood pressure, if you have ulcers, diabetes, or gout, as it may worsen all of these conditions. Anyone who has liver disease should only take niacin under the supervision of a doctor.

Final Take

Vitamin B3 or Niacin is a water-soluble vitamin that does not store in our body so we have to take it from food. Although, Vitamin B3 deficiency is a rare condition, becoming deficient can cause alot of problem and even death.

If you enjoyed reading what is Vitamin B3, Vitamin B3 Health Benefits and Side Effects, feel free to share it with more health conscious people in your community.

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