Vitamin B3, also known as niacin, is found in most foods. It has many beneficial effects on our health – it lowers cholesterol, protects the brain, helps keep the heart healthy, and improves the skin. Read more below to find out more about this powerful substance.

What is Vitamin B3 (Niacin)?

Vitamin B3 consists of two molecules: nicotinamide and nicotinic acid – sometimes collectively termed “niacin” [1].

Niacin may improve cardiovascular health. Most people get their recommended daily intake of Vitamin B3 from their diet.

Health Benefits of Niacin

1) Lowers Cholesterol

Niacin can lower cholesterol in many ways.

First, it decreases LDL-cholesterol (also known as “bad” cholesterol), which can cause blockages in blood vessels [2, 3, 4, 5, 6].

It increases HDL cholesterol (or “good cholesterol”), which can remove other cholesterol from the body [2, 3, 4, 5, 6].

In total, niacin decreases triglyceride levels and overall cholesterol [4, 5, 6].

It also decreases lipoprotein and can reduce lipid accumulation in the liver [74, 5, 6].

2) Heart Health

Taken daily with each meal, niacin prevents coronary heart disease events like non-fatal heart attacks and death [8].

The same study also found that niacin is protective in that niacin may halt or even reverse artery disease progression [8].

In a meta-analysis of seven trials, niacin was associated with a significant reduction in cardiovascular events [9].

3) Neuroprotection

A study on rats found that niacin is neuroprotective after a stroke [10].

4) Anti-Inflammatory Properties

It has been found that 1-methyl nicotinamide, a metabolite of nicotinamide, possesses significant anti-inflammatory properties. Daily treatment resulted in reduced inflammation symptoms [11].

5) Skin

Niacin substantially accelerated healing processes of burned skin [11].

When applied topically to the skin, niacin reduces fine lines, wrinkles, redness, and skin yellowing in 50 women. It also improved skin elasticity [12].

6) Longevity

Niacin increase NAD+ concentrations which could confer pro-longevity effects [13].

Important Mechanisms

Sources of Vitamin B3/Niacin

You can meet all of your body’s needs for B3 through diet. Niacin is most abundant in meat, eggs, fish, dairy products, certain vegetables, and whole wheat [1].

Vitamin B3 deficiency can cause many problems.

Symptoms of mild Vitamin B3 deficiency include:

  • Indigestion
  • Fatigue
  • Canker sores
  • Vomiting
  • Poor circulation
  • Depression

Severe deficiency can cause a condition known as pellagra, which is characterized by skin problems, diarrhea, and mental problems [17].

Side Effects

Flushing of the face is the most common side effect. Flushing can result in burning, tingling, itching, and redness of the face, arms, and chest, as well as headaches [18].

An overdose of niacin can cause thrombocytopenia or low blood platelet count. This causes bruising and blood to bleed into tissues [18].

Although there is no evidence that taking large doses of niacin can let you pass drug tests, there have been people who tried doing so.  Niacin toxicity caused organ failures, fever, skin problems, and other disorders [19].

Dosage

The recommended daily allowance of niacin is 16mg daily in adult men and 14mg daily in adult women, which can easily be obtained from a normal diet since vitamin B3 can be found in all animal, plant, and fungal food sources [1].

For supplementation, several studies used 1 Gram, administered three times a day with meals [8].

At high doses, niacin can be toxic. You should not take doses higher than the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) except under your doctor’s supervision [17].

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