Vitamin B3 is a water soluble vitamin also known as Niacin. It is found in the food sources liver, fish, eggs, brewer’s yeast, avocados, dates, figs and prunes. The Recommended Daily Amount (RDA) for Niacin is 17mg per day for males and 13mg per day for females.
Niacin is necessary for cognitive function and the health of the nervous system. It also plays a role in the metabolism of fats and the health of the digestive system. Niacin is also thought to help improve circulation and reduce cholesterol. Niacin contributes to the reduction of tiredness and fatigue and contributes to the maintenance of normal skin.
Deficiency is characterized by a condition known as Pellagra, a collection of symptoms which involve changes in the skin, digestive system and nervous system. Symptoms may include dizziness, vomiting, constipation or diarrhea, and inflammation of the tongue and stomach lining. Neurological symptoms can include fatigue, sleeplessness, depression, memory loss and visual impairment.
Prevention of Pellagra- Niacin is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the prevention of niacin deficiency, and certain conditions related to niacin deficiency such as pellagra (1).
Parkinson’s disease is closely linked with dysfunction of the mitochondria (the battery powerhouse of each cell). A certain form of Vitamin B3 known as Nicotinamide has been shown to boost mitochondrial function in brain cells derived from Parkinson’s disease stem cells and has been shown to exert neuroprotective properties in Parkinson’s disease studies (2).
Cholesterol lowering- Vitamin B3 supplementation has also been associated with cholesterol lowering properties (3). Studies have shown niacin helps in reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease in those who have high LDL levels and low HDL levels. Data also confirms the rationale for the use of niacin in combination with prescription medications for cholesterol lowering (4).
Digestive Support– Vitamin B3 contributes to normal energy-yielding metabolism. Vitamin B3 is required for the correct absorption and metabolism of fats, carbohydrates and proteins, making it valuable for people whose diets are high in these nutrients. It helps support correct growth and development via the correct use of these nutrients.
Fatigue and Tiredness– Vitamin B3 contributes to normal energy yielding metabolism. This suggests that a deficiency may be a factor in cases of tiredness and fatigue, and so a supplement may help prevent this. This may also be of value to those participating in sports to ensure the correct functioning of their energy metabolism and maximize performance. Vitamin B3 is thought to be involved in many pathways for releasing energy from fats and sugars, thus helping burn fats for energy and maintaining correct blood sugar levels. Vitamin B3 also directly contributes to the reduction of tiredness and fatigue.
Stress and related symptoms– Vitamin B3 contributes to the normal function of the nervous system. This means it may help support cases of stress, anxiety and low mood. Many B vitamins are thought to work together in this respect.
Acne, Eczema and Psoriasis– Vitamin B3 contributes to the maintenance of normal skin. This means that if deficient, these skin conditions may become aggravated, and a supplement could help prevent this.
Side effects of Niacin supplementation may include flushing, itching of the skin, nausea, vomiting and gastrointestinal disturbances. Intakes of 3,000 mg/day or more for long periods of time may be associated with jaundice, hyperglycemia and abdominal pain however symptoms usually resolve with reduction in dose or cessation. It is recommended for diabetic patients to be monitored whilst taking Niacin supplements due to its potential to impair glucose tolerance. It is also recommended to be avoided by those with pre-existing liver disease, increased liver enzyme output and those with gout or peptic ulcers. There are insufficient data from human or animal studies to establish a safe upper level for nicotinamide.