Vitamin B3

Vitamin B3
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Vitamin B3, also known as niacin, is one of the eight B vitamins. It plays a role in converting the food we eat into energy. It helps the body use protein and fat and keeps the skin, hair and nervous system healthy.

Other possible benefits of vitamin B-3 are due to its potential cholesterol-lowering, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory properties.

Other names for vitamin B-3 include nicotinamide, nicotinic acid, and vitamin PP because it prevents pellagra.

The body expels the niacin it doesn’t need in the urine. The body does not store niacin, so people should consume it in food every day.

A healthy diet can meet a person’s entire vitamin B-3 needs.

Vitamin B3 deficiency symptoms

In the past, niacin deficiency was common, especially in the Southern States of the USA, but now, most people get enough vitamin B-3 in their diets.

According to the Food Supplements Office (ODS), a person who is deficient in vitamin B-3 may experience:

  • A pigmented rash on skin exposed to the sun
  • Rough appearance to the skin
  • Bright red tongue
  • Fatigue or apathy
  • Vomiting, constipation, and diarrhea
  • Circulation problems
  • Depression
  • Headache
  • Loss of memory
  • Hallucinations in severe cases

A severe vitamin B-3 deficiency can cause pellagra. The condition can be fatal.

Factors that can lead to low B-3 levels include:

  • Have a diet low in tryptophan or a condition that reduces the body’s ability to convert tryptophan to niacin, such as Hartnup disease or carcinoid syndrome
    malnutrition, for example due to alcohol use disorder, loss of appetite, and inflammatory bowel disease
  • Low intake of vitamin B-2, vitamin B-6, or iron, as it can reduce the amount of tryptophan converted to niacin

Used in Medicine

In the past, some people combined the use of vitamin B-3 with statins to control cholesterol. However, research on this has yielded mixed results and some people have had negative effects.

For this reason, the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association do not recommend this treatment.


The amount of vitamin B-3 in foods does not cause side effects. However, taking high doses of vitamin B-3 as a supplement can cause adverse effects.

These include:

  • Reddened or itchy skin
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Headache
  • Debris
  • Dizziness

Excess vitamin B-3 can also:

  • Reduces glucose tolerance and insulin resistance
  • Trigger an attack in people with gout
  • Results in eye problems
  • Causes gastrointestinal problems
  • Increase the risk of liver damage
  • Low blood pressure leads to loss of balance and risk of falling
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