Diet & Exercise: Essential nutrients: Vitamin B3, niacin

Published 8:00 am Friday, March 9, 2018

Today, I’d like to share information on the essential nutrient, Niacin. 

Also known as nicotinic acid or vitamin B3, niacin is an organic compound, and is one of 20 to 80 necessary human nutrients. Unlike vitamin B2 (riboflavin), niacin is colorless. As with all B vitamins, niacin helps us convert food to energy by helping enzymes do their job.

One of vitamin B3’s other benefits is its effect on blood cholesterol levels. Niacin has been used to lower LDL (bad) cholesterol levels since the 1950s. It also helps raise LDL (good) cholesterol blood levels by helping stop the breakdown of “apolipoprotein A1,” a protein the helps make HDL (good) cholesterol.

Some studies show niacin raises HDL (good) cholesterol levels by 15-35 percent. Niacin has also been shown to lower triglyceride (fat in the blood) levels by 20-50 percent.

This nutrient may also reduce oxidative stress and inflammation, both of which can cause atherosclerosis, the hardening of the arteries, so niacin may help prevent heart disease.

B3 has been shown to treat diabetes and high blood sugar levels. Many patients have been able to effectively control HBA1C levels with the help of niacin.

Along with other B vitamins, niacin aids in the normal functioning of the digestive system, assisting healthy appetite and normal nerve function.

Individuals with pellagra can benefit from niacin. Pellagra is actually a disease caused from lack of niacin. Its symptoms include inflamed skin, diarrhea, dementia and sores in the mouth.

Other benefits of niacin include improved mental health, and even healthy glowing skin.

Good sources of niacin include chicken, turkey, organ meats, grass fed beef, tuna, peanuts, mushrooms, eggs, avocados, tomatoes, green peas, sunflower seeds, broccoli, carrots, sweet potatoes, leafy greens and asparagus.

The actual daily requirement for niacin depends on quantity of the amino acid tryptophan present in the body. The conversion is 60mg tryptophan to 1mg niacin.

In 1998, the U.S. food and nutrition board set recommended dietary allowances for vitamin B3 — children 1-3 years: 6mg, children 4-8 years: 8mg, children 9-13 years: 12mg, adolescents 14-18 years: 16mg, adults 19 and older: 16mg.

Niacin deficiency symptoms include memory loss and confusion, depression, fatigue, diarrhea and skin problems. Although today, it’s not very common for folks to have a niacin deficiency, there are those who might benefit from supplementary forms of vitamin B3.

All three forms of niacin have different effects on the body. Niacinamide has anti-inflammatory benefits, whereas nicotinic acid and inositol hexaniacinate affect the circulation of the blood.

Caution though, niacin may have a drug effect when taken in high doses, so always consult a doctor or medical professional before taking supplements of changing your diet considerably. Also, taking large doses of B3 can cause skin flushing because niacin causes blood vessels in the skin to dilate.

Diet or exercise question? Email me at or text to 864-494-6215. David Crocker, of Landrum, has been a nutritionist and master personal trainer for 29 years.