Vitamin B3 (Niacin) – sources, benefits, risks

 

vitamin b3 food

What is vitamin B3?

Vitamin B3 also known as niacin or niacinamide comes in several forms, also known as nicotinic acid, or nicotinamide, and inositol hexanicotinate. Each form of this vitamin has various uses, and affects different parts or functions of the human body.

For example, niacin helps convert carbohydrates, fats, and proteins into energy. This vitamin also helps the adrenal gland function properly, and helps remove harmful chemicals from the liver. Vitamin B3 has also been used for migraine headaches, blood circulation problems, dizziness, and the aftereffects of strokes, and may be useful in treating acne, melanoma skin cancers, and erectile dysfunction.

Where to find vitamin B3?

Niacin can be found abundantly in yeast, nuts, wheat germ, leafy green vegetables, meat, fish, and dairy products. Reports also indicate that the human body can produce this vitamin from the amino acid tryptophan, which some people take as a sleep aid.

Deficiencies of vitamin B3 most often occur where corn is a staple food, as in Mexico and parts of South America. Corn is the only grain low in niacin, and this lack is increased in areas where people do not use lime in their cornfields. Lime releases tryptophan, which humans convert into this vitamin.

Individuals who lack adequate amounts of vitamin B3 may experience fatigue, indigestion, mouth sores (canker sores) and bouts of depression. If niacin deficiency becomes severe enough, people can develop pellagra, whose symptoms are rough, scaly skin, dementia, and diarrhea. Some may even experience burning in the mouth and a red, swollen tongue. In the United States, the prime cause of vitamin B3 deficiency remains alcoholism.

Side Effects

Because niacin is water soluble, there are few cases of overdosing. However, those who do take high doses of vitamin B3 may have skin flushing, stomach problems, headaches, dizziness, and blurred vision. Over time, excessive use of this vitamin can lead to liver damage. Taking an aspirin beforehand can reduce the flushing.