Health Benefits of Vitamin B3

Health Benefits of Vitamin B3


Health Benefits of Vitamin B3

As mentioned in our previous information leaflets on the Vitamin B family, B3 is also a water soluble vitamin. Vitamin B3, also known as Niacin, was first isolated during oxidization of nicotine from tobacco, and was thus given the name nicotinic acid vitamin.  Shortly it’s name was shortened to Niacin.  However, it is important to note that this vitamin is not remotely related to the molecule nicotine!

This vitamin is one of the most stable of the B vitamins in our body and is resistant to heat, light, air, acid and alkaline conditions.

What Affects Absorption?

Vitamin B3 is readily absorbed in the small intestine.  Small amounts can be stored in the liver, but most of the excess is excreted in urine.

When niacin is in short supply, you will need extra protein, as Vitamin B can also be manufactured from one of the amino acids in protein called Tryptophan.  However to do this adequately you will also need to be in good supply of the following nutrients;   Vitamin B1, B2, B6, Vitamin C and the mineral iron.  These are all needed for the conversion process of Tryptophan into Niacin (Vitamin B3).

Athletes require more B3 than less active people.  Stress illness and tissue injury will increase the body’s need for niacin.

Using this vitamin therapeutically (for control of symptoms), it is not unusual to consume 2 – 3 grams daily for short periods of time.  However, you will ideally need to take it with a Vitamin B complex to enhance absorption.


Only small to moderate amounts of Vitamin B3 occur in food as pure niacin.  The rest is converted from Tryptophan as previously discussed above.  However, the best sources of Vitamin B3 is as follows:

  • Liver & other organ meats (sorry vegetarians and vegans) 🙁
  • Poultry
  • Fish
  • Peanuts
  • Yeast
  • Dried Beans
  • Whole Grains
  • Avocados
  • Dates & Figs
  • Milk & Eggs (because of their level of tryptophan)
  • Dandelion Greens
  • Carrots

Health Benefits:

Vitamin B is involved in more than 50 different metabolic reactions within the human body.  We will look at a few of the important health benefits below;

  • Helps to release energy (metabolization) of carbohydrates, fats and protein
  • Stimulates circulation
  • Several studies have shown niacin is commonly used to lower elevated LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels in the blood and is more effective in increasing HDL levels than other cholesterol-lowering medications.
  • Maintains healthy function of the nervous system & normal brain function – has been known to help in the symptoms of anxiety and depression.
  • Essential for DNA synthesis
  • Helps with migraine headaches
  • Healthy skin and has been used as an acne treatment.
  • Maintains digestive tract & for proper digestion of food
  • Synthesises sex hormones
  • High doses of niacin medications are used to prevent development of atherosclerosis and to reduce recurrent complications such as heart attack and peripheral vascular disease in those with the condition.
  • Is a body detoxifier – has been used to help alcoholics and drug addicts detox with fewer side effects.


  • Increase energy levels
  • Improves digestive disorders
  • Provides greater ability to handle stress, helps with anxiety and depression
  • Helps regulation of blood sugar drops (Hypoglycemia)
  • Acne
  • Problems with teeth and gums
  • Migraines
  • Stimulate sex drive
  • Detoxification
  • Heart Disease (although please note – very high doses of Vitamin B3 can also raise blood levels of homocysteine which is not wanted in anyone suffering from Heart Disease, so moderate doses only – do not overdose – or get levels checked regularly at your doctors office).  A relatively new form of niacin called inositol hexaniacaninate can be useful in reducing LDL cholesterol without the effects of raising homocysteine levels.

For day to day normal intake limits consume up to 35mg daily and this applies to all adults.  Children, depending on age, need less.

Also, an important note.  Most people prefer to take Vitamin B3 in a form known as niacinimide.  This does not have the therapeutic affects as when taken it in the form of nicotinic acid.  For example, in studies, this form was not shown to benefit lowering LDL cholesterol in patients.   However, when taken in the form known as nicotinic acid, this has increased benefits on the body.  However, you will experience what is known as a niacin flush.  You may feel tingly, go red all over your body and initially feel hot.  It may feel odd, but is very normal.

In my opinion, if you are supplementing with niacin for therapeutic effects, you must take B3 in it’s nicotinic acid form.  Eventually, the body will become desensitized and the flushing will diminish.


Years ago, a Vitamin B3 deficiency called Pellagra, which was defined by the 3 D’s – dermatitis, diarrhea and dementia, and the fourth D was death – was a real problem due to malnutrition.  However, these days it is not so common.

One of the first signs of niacin deficiency is the skin’s sensitivity to light; the skin becomes rough, thick and dry.  It can then go on to become darkly pigmented.

Pellagra effects every cell in the body.  You will notice a decline in energy production and problems with maintaining healthy skin and gastrointestinal health.  Symptoms can include anorexia (no appetite), weakness, fatigue, indigestion and skin eruptions.  This can then progress to nausea, sore, red tongue, canker sores, vomiting, tender gums, bad breath and diarrhea.

Neurological problems include irritability, insomnia, headaches and progress to tremors, extreme anxiety, depression and eventually all the way into psychosis.

People who eat lots of sugar, refined, processed food will also require increased amounts of niacin.


The family of B vitamins are quite safe.  However, the niacin flush mentioned previously can be a little uncomfortable for some.

With the use of high-dose therapeutic doses in recent years some people have reported experiencing minor problems such as irritation of the gastrointestinal tract or liver.  Others have reported slight sedating properties.  However, the risk of deficiency far outweighs any negative effects.  If, for any reason, you are experiencing negative effects from taking niacin – discontinue use.  I am sure this would be in the minority of cases.




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About Michelle

Michelle Firrisi is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist and Clinical Herbalist. She lived most of her life in the Island of Guernsey, in the Channel Islands, UK.

She now lives in beautiful British Columbia, Canada. Michelle also holds an Honours Degree in Bachelor of Science Podiatric Medicine and practices Reiki, Massage and Shamanism. Her main speciality is in the areas of Addiction, Anxiety, Depression and reversing Mood Disorders with targeted Amino Acid Therapy & Nutrition.

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Statements and opinions written on this website are based on experience and designed for educational purposes only. It should not be taken as professional medical advice. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Before changing your diet or with all medical conditions consult a qualified medical professional.