B3 is one of 8 B vitamins. It is also known as niacin (nicotinic acid) and has 2 other forms, niacinamide (nicotinamide) and inositol hexanicotinate, which have different effects from niacin.
Functions of Vitamin B3 – Niacin
- Niacin also helps the body make various sex and stress-related hormones in the adrenal glands and other parts of the body
- Niacin helps improve circulation
- Vitamin B3 is a required component for the production of hydrochloric acid in the stomach, which is needed for proper digestive function
- It also has plays roles in antioxidant and detoxification processes
- It is necessary for regulating the expression of genes and in maintaining genomic activities
- Niacin, works in conjunction with chromium to help regulate and stabilize blood sugar levels by promoting proper insulin function.
Small amounts of niacin are manufactured in the body from the amino acid tryptophan. To ensure that you are getting enough Vitamin B3 in your diet, be sure to consume a variety of the following foods which are dietary sources of Vitamin B3.
- Meat Sources - Lean meats that are high in protein, including chicken, veal, turkey, and pork are good sources of niacin.
- Fish Sources - Fish are a good source of vitamin B3, including tuna, halibut, swordfish, and salmon.
- Nut and Legume Sources - Various legumes, nuts, and seeds including sunflower seeds, peanuts, almonds, and peanut butter.
- Fortified Grain Sources - Enriched whole-grain products including cereals and other baked goods are often a good source of niacin. Brewer's yeast is another good source.
- Fruits and Vegetable Sources - Many fruits and vegetables including broccoli, beets, corn, sweet potatoes, carrots, dates, tomatoes, peaches, and mangos.
- Dairy Sources - Dairy products like milk and cheese also contain niacin.
- Herb Sources - Many herbs also contain vitamin B3, including alfalfa, cayenne, chamomile, fennel seed, hops, liquorice, parsley, peppermint, red clover, and rose hips.
- Men 19 years and older: 16 mg (RDA)
- Women 19 years and older: 14 mg (RDA)
- Pregnant women: 18 mg (RDA)
- Breastfeeding women: 17 mg (RDA)
A deficiency of vitamin B3 is rare, due to the widespread enrichment of flours with niacin. However, a deficiency can occur if a person consumes a diet too low in protein. Pellagra is a disease resulting from a niacin deficiency. Pellagra usually occurs due to alcohol abuse, malnutrition, and in those who have multiple nutrient deficiencies.
Who are prone to deficiency
- Infant and elderly people
- People chronically sick who might suffer from a lack of vitamin absorption due to their illness
The primary symptoms of Pellagra include:
- Skin problems (including dermatitis, skin lesions on the face, arms and hands, and inflamed skin)
- Mouth problems (including canker sores, mouth irritation, and ulceration or swelling of the tongue)
- Digestive problems (including diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, and poor apetite)
- Mental impairment (including disorientation, dementia, depression, irritability, and emotional instability)
- Other symptoms include high sensitivity to sunlight, aggression, dermatitis, alopecia, oedema, smooth beefy red glossitis, red skin lesions, insomnia, weakness, mental confusion, ataxia, paralysis of extremities, peripheral neuritis, diarrhea, dilated cardiomyopathy, and eventually dementia
High dosages of Vitamin B3 Niacin may cause irritation of stomach ulcers, altered blood sugar or insulin levels or uric acid concentrations. Problems with liver damage have also been associated with high dosages of Vitamin B3 Niacin. Normally these dosages are associated with the extremely high dosages recommended to individual with high cholesterol or at high risk of heart attack or heart disease.
Lactic acidosis, muscle cell damage, increased blood levels of creatine kinase—a marker of muscle damage— has been reported in multiple studies as well. In some cases of Vitamin B3 Niacin abuse there have been reports of fatalities. Extremely high doses of Vitamin B3 Niacin can also cause niacin maculopathy—a thickening of the macula and retina which leads to blurred vision and blindness. This maculopathy is reversible after stopping Vitamin B3 Niacin intake.