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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” (R).

Niacin improves cardiovascular health and reduces cholesterol, improves circulation, and suppresses inflammation. Most people get their recommended daily intake of Vitamin B3 from their diet.

Health Benefits of Niacin

1) Niacin 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 (R, R2, R3, R4, R5).

It increases HDL cholesterol (or “good cholesterol”), which can remove other cholesterol from the body (R, R2, R3, R4, R5).

In total, niacin decreases triglyceride levels and overall cholesterol (R, R2, R3).

It also decreases lipoprotein and can reduce lipid accumulation in the liver (RR2, R3, R4).

2) Niacin Improves Heart Health

Taken daily with each meal, niacin prevents coronary heart disease events like non-fatal heart attacks and death (R).

The same study also found that niacin is protective in that niacin may halt or even reverse artery disease progression (R).

One study on humans showed that compared to the placebo group, niacin therapy significantly reduced coronary artery disease and nonfatal heart attacks (R).

3) Niacin Protects the Brain After a Stroke

A study on rats found that niacin is neuroprotective after a stroke (R).

Niacin therapy has also been shown to significantly reduce the chance of a stroke occurring (R).

4) Niacin Has Anti-Inflammatory Properties

It has been found that 1-methylnicotinamide, a metabolite of nicotinamide, possesses significant anti-inflammatory properties. Daily treatment resulted in reduced inflammation symptoms  (R).

5) Niacin Improves Skin

Niacin substantially accelerated healing processes of burned skin (R).

When applied topically to the skin, niacin reduces fine lines and wrinkles, redness, and skin yellowing (R).

Niacin also improves skin elasticity (R).

6) Niacin May Promote Longevity

Niacin increase NAD+ concentrations which could confer pro-longevity effects (R).

Technical Section

  • The level of hs-CRP decreased significantly in patients treated with niacin for 1 month (R).
  • GPR109A,a niacin receptor, seems to mediate anti-lipolytic, anti-inflammatory, and antiatherogenic effects of niacin (R).
  • Niacin binds to adipocyte membrane-bound GPR109A, thereby inhibiting adenylyl cyclase, lowering intracellular cAMP concentrations, and subsequently reducing protein kinase A-mediated activation of hormone-sensitive lipase (HSL) (R).
  • It directly inhibits hepatocyte Acyl-CoA: diacylglycerol acyltransferase 2, a key enzyme catalyzing the terminal step in hepatic triglyceride synthesis (R).
  • Niacin retards apoB-100 production rates, thus limiting LDL production (R).
  • Niacin was recently found to inhibit proprotein convertase subtilisin-like/Kexin-type 9, a protease which accelerates hepatic LDL-receptor degradation and increases LDL-cholesterol  (R).
  • Increases Adiponectin levels (R).
  • Increases Leptin levels (R).
  • Increase in Ketone Bodies (R).
  • Reduces HIF-1a expression (R).
  • The increase of PPARa and PPARy expression in adipocytes (R).

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 (R).

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 (R).


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 (R).

For supplementation, several studies used 1 Gram, administered three times a day with meals (R).

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 (R).

Side Effects

Flushing of the face is the most common side effect. Flushing can result cause burning, tingling, itching, and redness of the face, arms, and chest, as well as headaches (R).

An overdose of niacin can cause thrombocytopenia or low blood platelet count. This causes bruising and blood to bleed into tissues (R).

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 (R).

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