Holistic Health – Nutrients A to Z: Vitamin B3 (Niacin/Niacinamide)

Niacin (nicotinic acid or vitamin B3) is one of eight B vitamins and is a water-soluble vitamin and plays an important role in our bodies converting the food we eat into energy.  Niacin also helps the body to use proteins and fats, and it helps keep your nervous system, digestive system, skin, hair and eyes healthy.

Niacinamide can be made from niacin in the body.  Niacin is converted to niacinamide when it is taken in amounts greater than what is needed by the body.  Niacinamide has no beneficial effects on fats and should not be used for treating high cholesterol or high fat levels in the blood.

It is often used to increase your HDL cholesterol or correct a vitamin deficiency.  Niacin can raise HDL cholesterol by more than 30 percent. HDL, the “good” cholesterol, picks up excess bad cholesterol in your blood and takes it back to your liver for disposal.  It is also effective in treating people with migraines and acne.

Niacin can cause certain flushing (warmth, itching, redness, or tingly feeling under your skin). These effects only last a short time (usually 20 minutes), depending on the dose. 

Foods rich in vitamin B3 are liver, lean meat, whole wheat, brewer’s yeast, kidney, wheat germ, fish, eggs, roasted peanuts, chicken/turkey breast, avocados, dates, figs, prunes, seafood, rhubarb, and milk products. 

Symptoms of a B3 deficiency include:

  • Chapping of backs of hands
  • Diarrhea
  • Itchy, red or inflamed skin, dermatitis
  • Irritability, anxiety or depression
  • Indigestion
  • Small ulcers or canker sores on mouth
  • Burning sensation in hands or feet
  • Insomnia
  • Whitish, coated tongue
  • Brilliant red, painful tongue
  • Swollen tongue with red tips and sides
  • Feel as if hands or feet go numb

A severe lack of vitamin B-3 can result in pellagra. The condition can be fatal.

Factors that can lead to low levels of B-3 include:

  • having a diet low in tryptophans or a condition that reduces the body’s ability to convert tryptophan to niacin, such as Hartnup disease or carcinoid syndrome
  • undernutrition, for example, due to alcohol use disorder, anorexia, and inflammatory bowel disease
  • a low intake of vitamin B-2, B-6, or iron, as this can reduce the amount of tryptophan that converts to niacin

In the past, some people have combined vitamin B-3 with statin use as a treatment to control cholesterol. However, research into this has produced mixed results, and some people have had adverse effects.  For this reason, the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association do not recommend using this treatment.

The amount of vitamin B-3 found in food does not cause side effects. However, taking high doses of vitamin B-3 as a supplement can result in adverse effects.

These include:

  • flushed or itchy skin
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • constipation
  • headache
  • rash
  • dizziness

Excess vitamin B-3 can also:

  • reduce glucose tolerance and insulin resistance
  • trigger an attack in people with gout
  • result in eye problems
  • lead to gastrointestinal problems
  • increase the risk of liver damage
  • lower blood pressure, leading to a loss of balance and risk of falls

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) Dietary Supplement Label Database recommend 16 milligrams (mg) a day of vitamin B-3 for anyone of 4 years of age or over who is consuming a 2,000-calorie diet. In saying that supplementary can range up to 350 mg daily

On this basis, those who eat a well-balanced diet will tend to consume enough niacin in their food.

by Janice Buckler

Janice Buckler, BSc, RHN is the owner of Natural Legends Nutritional Consulting and a Registered Holistic Nutritional Consultant™ professional using BioScan MSA (meridian stress assessment) Technology which can help detect many illnesses and so natural remedies can be set up that works for “you”.

To learn more about Holistic Heath and BioScan MSA Technology for to my website at natural-legends.com or follow me on Twitter @JaniceBuckler