Vitamin B-3 (niacin): Deficiency, uses, and recommended intake

Vitamin B-3, also known as niacin, is one of eight B vitamins. It plays a role in converting the food we eat into energy. It helps the body to use proteins and fats, and it keep the skin, hair, and nervous system healthy.

It may also reduce cardiovascular risk, because it can be used to treat high cholesterol. There is some evidence that it may reduce blood pressure because it is a vasodilator.

Vitamin B-3 is also known as nicotinamide, nicotinic acid, and vitamin PP, because it prevents pellagra.

Any niacin the body does not need is excreted in urine. It is not stored in the body, and it must be consumed daily. All the body’s vitamin B-3 needs can be obtained through a healthy diet.

Vitamin B-3 deficiency is rare in the United States. Excessive alcohol consumption is the main reason for a lack of vitamin B-3. It has also been reported in patients with anorexia nervosa or bariatric surgery.

Deficiency symptoms

[vitamin b3 pill in a hand
Vitamin B-3 is also known as vitamin PP, nicotinamide, and nicotinic acid.

A person who lacks vitamin B-3 may experience:

fatigue

indigestion

vomiting

circulatory problems

depression

canker sores

balancing disorder

A severe lack of vitamin B-3 can cause pellagra.

Features of pellagra include skin problems, dementia, and diarrhea. It can be fatal.

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Uses in medicine

High doses of vitamin B-3 have been used to control cholesterol.

Some studies have suggested that niacin might help to slow the progression of heart disease and atherosclerosis, diabetes, osteoarthritis, cataracts, Alzheimer’s disease and various skin conditions, but further research is needed to confirm these findings.

High doses of vitamin B-3 can cause adverse effects, including flushed or itchy skin, nausea, vomiting, and constipation. It can also raise glucose levels in people with diabetes. It can trigger an attack in people with gout. It can lead to high levels of liver enzymes, and it can increase the risk of liver damage.

Before taking any supplement, a person should speak to their doctor.

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