Benefits of Vitamin B3 (Niacin)
Vitamin B3, also known as niacin, is one of the water soluble B-complex vitamins. It is a highly versatile nutrient that contributes to over fifty different metabolic processes in the body. These processes convert sugars, proteins, and fatty acids into usable energy. Just like the other B vitamins, niacin is important for energy creation, but also has many other health benefits. Some of the benefits of vitamin B3 include:
- Vitamin B3 is required for a healthy digestive system. It is needed to create hydrochloric acid, which is the primary acid involved in breaking down and digesting food. Niacin also protects the pancreas.
- Vitamin B3 is used to maintain skin health. It has also been used to help reduce acne.
- Niacin helps the body eliminate toxins.
- It is necessary to produce certain hormones.
- Vitamin B3 helps enzymes to function correctly. It is necessary for a number of enzymes to become active. Enzymes are important compounds that are integral to healthy bodily processes.
- It contributes to the regulation of gene expression and functions.
- Vitamin B3 stimulates circulatory function and is good for general heart health. It lowers cholesterol levels by keeping it from accumulating in the arteries and liver. Niacin also helps to raise levels of good cholesterol (HDL) and decrease levels of bad cholesterol (LDL). Vitamin B3 can also enhance the effectiveness of some medications prescribed to lower cholesterol.
- Together with chromium it contributes to the regulation of healthy blood sugar levels.
Function of Vitamin B3 (Niacin)
Vitamin B3, exists in two main types: Niacin (nicotinic acid) and niacinamide (nicotinamide). A third kind of vitamin B3 called inositol hexaniacinate is found in some supplements. Both forms of vitamin B3 function the same as nutrients. However, for medical uses they have different roles. Nicotinic acid is used as an anti-hyperlipidemic. Nicotinamide is sometimes used as an anti-diabetogenic.
Niacin works with the other B vitamins in the body processes which convert macro-nutrients (carbohydrates, fat, and protein) into energy that is usable by the body. Niacin is not only required to metabolize energy sources, but also to grow and maintain healthy cells and body tissues. It is needed to produce hydrochloric acid for digestion, to produce hormones, and it also acts as an antioxidant and detoxifier.
The body is able to convert tryptophan (one of the amino acids) into niacin, an amino acid.amino acid. However, it is not efficient to do so. About 60 mg of tryptophan are required to produce 1 mg of Niacin.
Vitamin B3 is mostly stored in the liver. Most absorption of the nutrient happens in the intestines. Niacin absorption is very efficient and doses of up to 4 grams are able to be totally absorbed.
A deficiency of vitamin B3 can cause pellagra. Pellagra is a condition primarily seen in alcoholics, those who suffer from malnourishment, and in people who have multiple nutritional deficiencies.
Dietary sources of vitamin B3 include foods from animal and vegetable sources. It can be found in milk, lean, white meats (like chicken and pork), and fish. Some vegetable sources include broccoli and carrots. Foods made from fortified grains can also be good sources.
Ingesting very large quantities of vitamin B3 could cause liver damage, ulcers, and skin rashes. When large doses are administered to help reduce cholesterol levels, it can cause skin flushing and itching, as well as low blood pressure. These dosage generally measure over 100 mg per day of nicotinic acid.