Vitamin B3 belongs to the water-soluble vitamins. It is also known as Niacin. The name Niacin may collectively describe the two chemical structures; nicotinic acid and nicotinamide. But, it is used to specifically refer to nicotinic acid. Another form is the inositol hexanicotinate, which has different effects from niacin. Generally, vitamin B is involved in energy production, normal enzyme function, digestion, promoting normal appetite, healthy skin, and nerves. These important functions can be described thus; Vitamin B3 stimulates the production of histamine, a chemical compound which triggers the dilation of the blood vessels while reducing inflammation. This is an important physiological function in the reduction of atherosclerosis, a dangerous hardening of the arteries that can result to heart diseases. Niacin has been associated with increasing High Density Lipoprotein (HDL) levels in the blood. High levels of HDL, also known as the good kind of cholesterol, is important in lowering the risks of cardiovascular disorders in patients with mixed dyslipedia, heart attack, stroke, or other forms of heart disease due to having high LDL cholesterol levels (known as the bad cholesterol).
It has been studied that vitamin B3 in the form of niacinamide can help improve the efficiency of certain oral drug treatments that are used to control diabetes. This implies that diabetic patients are able to effectively control blood glucose levels better with the help of niacin, and can also lower their risk of high blood cholesterol and heart disease which is commonly seen in diabetic patients. Niacin have been shown to reduce skin inflammation, flare ups, irritation, redness, hence, proves its use for the treatment of these skin conditions, bullous pemphigoid and granuloma annulare. Again, Niacinamide, a form of vitamin B3 is prescribed as a natural treatment for healthy skin and for clearing acne when applied to the skin topically. Others choose to take niacin or B vitamin complex supplements to help their symptoms. Niacin improves the activities of the nervous coordination which is why it is used in the protection against Alzheimer’s disease, Schizophrenia, hallucinations and other age related brain disorders that result in cognitive decline. Studies have also shown correlations between increased niacin intake and lower risks for attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Studies have shown that Niacin intake lowers the levels of joint pain, enhances muscle strength, and reduces symptoms associated with muscle or joint fatigue. Vitamin B3 prevents pellagra, a disease condition resulting from its deficiency.
The best dietary sources of vitamin B3 include; Beets Brewer’s yeast, Beef liver, Beef kidney, Fish, Salmon, Swordfish, Tuna, Sunflower seeds, Peanuts, whole and enriched grain products. In addition, foods that contain tryptophan, an amino acid, can be converted by the body into niacin, include poultry, red meat, eggs, and dairy products.
However, the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for niacin is 16 mg/day for adult males and 14 mg/day for adult females. These values are so dependent on energy expenditure.
Deficiency of Vitamin B3:
The signs of the deficiency of vitamin B3 are as:-
- Loss of appetite is the early symptom of the deficiency of vitamin B3.
- Indigestion may occur due to deficiency of vitamin B3.
- Skin lesions may be seen in some cases.
- Mental imbalance can occur due to deficiency of vitamin B3.
A deficiency of vitamin B3 is the main cause of the disease condition, pellagra, the classic niacin deficiency disease characterized by bilateral dermatitis, diarrhea, and dementia. However, the deficiency symptoms have been studied to occur with alcoholism, protein malnourishment, low calorie diets, and diets high in refined carbohydrates
Most Common Niacin Side Effects
Eating foods rich in niacin has less chances of causing side effects. However it is still possible to experience niacin side effects when taking supplements, especially at high doses. The most common side effects experienced by individuals taking high dose supplements and who have pre-known medical conditions include;
- Nausea or vomiting
- Skin reactions, rashes
- Allergic reactions: Niacin supplements can cause allergies. This is because some contain histamines that can trigger allergic symptoms to be released
- Heart problems: High doses of niacin may increase the risk of irregular heartbeats
- Diabetes: Niacin and niacinamide might increase blood sugar. People with diabetes who take niacin or niacinamide should check their blood sugar carefully.
- Worsened gallbladder or liver disease symptoms
- Aggravated gout symptoms.
- Low blood pressure
- Stomach or intestinal ulcers
- Problems after surgery controlling blood sugar levels and
- Liver damage in rare cases.
So far, studies still maintain that consuming excess vitamin A (Niacin) from natural sources is not associated any side effect.