Vitamin B3 is a water-soluble vitamin also known as niacin. The name ‘niacin’ specifically refers to ‘nicotinic acid’, but it also is used to collectively describe nicotinic acid and nicotinamide (niacinamide). Niacin supports health of skin, nervous and digestive systems.
Our body can convert nicotinic acid and niacinamide when ingested. In addition, our body works very hard and can make 1mg of niacin from 60mg of the amino acid, tryptophan.
Why you may need vitamin B3
High cholesterol – niacin has been found to reduce LDL cholesterol (bad fats) and increase HDL cholesterol (good fats) and reduce total serum cholesterol.
Alzheimer’s disease – studies indicate that consuming higher amounts of niacin can reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
Osteoarthritis – niacinamide has been found to improve joint flexibility and reduce inflammation.
How much do you need?
Recommended Daily Intake (RDI)
Adults (over 19 years): 14mg (women), 16mg (men) daily
Pregnancy: 18mg daily
Breastfeeding: 17mg daily
Children 9-13 years: 12mg daily
Children 14-18 years: 14mg (girls), 16mg (boys) daily
Symptoms of deficiency
Niacin deficiency causes a condition called pellagra, which mainly affects the gastrointestinal tract, skin and central nervous system.
Symptoms include reduced appetite, weight loss, gastrointestinal upsets, weakness, irritability, poor concentration, stomatitis (inflammation of the mouth lining), glossitis (painful red tongue), dermatitis, dementia and diarrhoea.
The best dietary sources include meats, eggs, legumes, almonds, tuna and mushrooms
Other reasons why you may need more
You may need extra niacin if you have any of the following conditions – hyperthyroidism, diabetes mellitus, liver cirrhosis, pregnancy, lactation and Hartnup disease, a genetic disorder that interferes with tryptophan absorption. Excessive intake of sugar, coffee, alcohol, cigarette smoking and a low protein diet also increases your niacin demand.
- Large doses of niacin can exacerbate the following conditions and are best avoided: gout, peptic ulcer, liver, gallbladder and kidney disease, coronary heart disease, allergy prone people, diabetes and hypotension.
- Always consult your healthcare professional before taking large doses of vitamin B3.
- Excessive amounts of nicotinamide and nicotinic acid can cause different side effects.
Nicotinamide: greater than 3g daily for over three months may cause nausea, headaches, heartburn, dry hair and skin and blurred vision.
Nicotinic acid: acute flushing or a burning sensation can occur at doses of greater than 100mg daily. Other symptoms that arise include headache, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, itchy skin, increased pulse and respiration rate, increased uric acid levels, impaired glucose tolerance, liver impairment and hypotension.