Comes in two forms:
(a) Niacin and (b) Niacinamide
What does it do?
The body uses vitamin B3 in the process of releasing energy from
carbohydrates. It’s needed to form fat from carbohydrates and to process
alcohol. The niacin form of vitamin B3 also regulates cholesterol,
though niacinamide does not.
Vitamin B3 comes in two
basic forms—niacin (also called nicotinic acid) and niacinamide (also
called nicotinamide). A variation on niacin, called inositol hexaniacinate, is also available in supplements. Because it has not been
linked with any of the usual niacin toxicity in scientific research,
inositol hexaniacinate is sometimes prescribed by European doctors for
those who need high doses of niacin.
Where is it found?
The best food sources of vitamin B3 are peanuts, brewer’s
yeast, fish, and meat. Some vitamin B3 is also found in whole grains.
likely to be deficient? Pellagra, the disease caused by a vitamin B3
deficiency, is rare in Western societies. Symptoms include loss of
appetite, skin rash, diarrhea, mental changes, beefy tongue, and digestive
and emotional disturbance.
How much is usually
taken? In part because it is added to white flour, most people
probably get enough vitamin B3 from their diets; however, 10–25 mg of the
vitamin can be taken as part of a B-complex
Are there any side effects or interactions? Niacinamide is
almost always safe to take, although rare liver problems have occurred at
doses in excess of 1,000 mg per day. Niacin, in amounts as low as 50–100
mg, may cause flushing, headache, and stomachache in some people. Doctors
sometimes prescribe very high amounts of niacin (as much as 3,000 mg per
day or more) for certain health problems. These large amounts can cause
liver damage, diabetes,
damage to eyes, and elevated blood levels of uric acid (which can cause gout),
and should never be taken without consulting a nutritionally oriented
Although the inositol
hexaniacinate form of niacin has not been linked with side effects, the
amount of research studying the safety of this form of the vitamin remains
quite limited. Therefore, people taking this supplement in large amounts
(several thousand milligrams per day or more) should be followed by a
nutritionally oriented doctor.
works with vitamin
B1 and B2 to
release energy from carbohydrates. Therefore, these vitamins are often
taken together in a B-complex
vitamin supplement (although most B3 research uses niacin or
niacinamide by itself).