Vitamin B3 belongs to the group of water-soluble vitamins and it is known as niacin (nicotinic acid, niacinamide, nicotinamide). This vitamin is an important part of coenzymes required for the metabolism of glucose, fat and alcohol. Usually is measured in milligrams (mg) and can be produced by the body by using amino acid tryptophan. Persons who are suffering from deficiency of vitamins B1, B2 and B6, cannot produce niacin from tryptophan.
Nicotinic acid participates in the release of energy from carbohydrates and in the conversion of carbohydrates into fat. Interestingly, nicotine acid regulates cholesterol, while nicotinamide has no such effect. Many researchers consider that in this context lays the answer for excess cholesterol in the body, but still there is no evidence.
This vitamin is essential for the synthesis of sex hormones (estrogen, progesterone, testosterone) and cortisone, thyroxine and insulin. It’s essential for health maintenance of nervous system and brain function.
Vitamin B3 is commonly used in treatment of pellagra. It also is used as additional therapy in the treatment of diseases of the cardiovascular system and migraines, as well as in the treatment of hyperlipidemia (elevated fats in the body) that does not respond to diet and weight loss.
Food rich in Vitamin B3
The best sources of vitamin B3 are: beer yeast, peanuts, fish, meat, liver, milk, potatoes, green vegetables, etc. It cannot be found as a separate supplement, but is located within the multivitamin preparations.
How much vitamin B3 we need?
The recommended daily dose is 13 to 19 mg for adults, while for breastfeeding mothers recommended daily dose is 20 mg daily.
Vitamin B3 deficiency
Even very small deficiency of vitamin B3 will cause certain symptoms. They may include a general feeling of fatigue, nausea or vomiting, loss of appetite, mouth ulcers, headaches, anemia, and problems with the digestive system, sleeping or relaxing. In severe deficiencies can develop a disease called Pellagra. Often this disease is called 3D because it is characterized by dermatitis, diarrhea and dementia. Most often occurs in chronic alcoholics, people who eat foods low in protein, as in the case of lack of more vitamins of B group.
Pellagra is characterized by changes in: skin (peeling, photosensitivity redness on the forehead, neck, and feet), mucous membrane (increased secretion of saliva, inflammation of the buccal mucosa, sometimes the vagina and urethra), gastrointestinal tract (nausea and diarrhea), central nervous system (headache, dizziness, neuritis, confusion, depression, dementia, etc.).
In essence this vitamin is not toxic except for some side effects from doses over 100 mg. Some sensitive individuals may experience irritation or itching of the skin. Large amounts of vitamin B3 (niacin) may annoy the body’s ability to release glucose, causing a possible worsening of glucose control in diabetes. It can also interfere with the control of uric acid, thus leading to an attack of gout in people prone to this disease.
Vitamin B3 affects lipid levels, and is used in combination with other drugs for the treatment of hyperlipidemia. Recent research has shown that lowering cholesterol levels, required much smaller amounts of niacin (without the unpleasant side effects) if niacin is taken in combination with proper diet.