Vitamin B3 (Niacin)

General Info

Absorption

Niacin is absorbed from the stomach, and both niacin and niacinamide are absorbed from the small intestine. Both niacin and niacinamide are transposed to coenzymes in the kidney, blood, brain, and liver.

Dietary Origins

The following are excellent sources of niacin; brewer's yeast, fish, lean meats, legumes, milk, organ meats, peanut butter, peanuts, and poultry.

Overview

Vitamin B3 is a water-soluble B vitamin that exists as two forms, niacin and niacinamide. Niacin plays an essential role in over 200 chemical reactions in the body. These two forms work independently in many cases, but are both necessary for treating the vitamin B3 deficiency known as pellagra. Observed for centuries as a disease of the skin, gastrointestinal tract, and central nervous system, pellagra progresses from an indentifying dermatitis to diarrhea, dementia, and eventually death. Affected population’s consumed a diet low in protein and high in corn. Niacin, which is also known as nicotinic acid, lowers elevated blood lipids and may reduce mortality. In addition to being used alone, it has also been used in combination with cholesterol-lowering drugs to increase the lipid-lowering effects. Niacinamide, which is also known as nicotinamide has been used to treat newly diagnosed patients with type I diabetes, patients with type II and people with arthritis.

Toxicities & Precautions

General

There are no known toxicities or precautions associated with niacin when used correctly.

Side Effects

Larger doses can cause short side effects such as flushing of the skin, and head throbbing. The side effects are not serious and will disappear within a half hour. To avoid such side effects start at low doses and gradually increase the amount to help reduce the effects severity.

Functions in the Body

Blood Cholesterol Levels

Reduces LDL and triglycerides, and increases HDL.

Energy Production

Reduces oxidation damage by involving the production of energy from carbohydrates.

Heart Attacks

May help reduce repotting rate for heart attacks.

Metabolism

Help metabolism process amino acids, carbohydrates, and fatty acids.

Symptoms & Causes of Deficiency

Severe deficiency is known as pellagra, a disease of the skin, gastrointestinal tract and central nervous system. Pellagra progresses from an identifying dermatitis to diarrhea, dementia, and eventually death. This disease occurs in areas where diets are low in protein and high in corn. In the gastrointestinal tract, the deficiency can cause inflammation of the mucous membranes, leading to digestive abnormalities including swollen tongue and diarrhea. A severe deficiency can affect the nervous system causing mental confusion and disorientation. Based on what is known about vitamin B3 it may also be speculated that a deficiency may cause increase destruction of pancreatic beta cells, cataracts, risk of arthritis, and elevated cholesterol levels.