Once thought to be a single nutrient, designated “vitamin B”, researchers eventually realized that there were numerous elements involved and each was eventually christened with its own distinguishing number. Today we have the group known as the Vitamin B Complex which includes the individual vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, B6 and B12, each having a unique structure and performing unique functions in our body. Other nutritional elements tag along with the Vitamin B Complex including choline, inositol, PABA, folic acid and biotin. In this complex team it’s “all for one and one for all”; a deficiency in one B vitamin often indicates a deficiency in another and that’s why they’re generally taken in the complex form. However, depending on your individual needs, you can always “top up” by adding another tablet of the individual B vitamin you need more of.
The Functions of Vitamin B3 in the Body
As with its B complex partner vitamin B1, vitamin B3 also contributes to maintaining proper circulation throughout the body, the proper functioning of the nervous system, the metabolism of carbohydrates, fats and proteins and the production of hydrochloric acid necessary for proper digestion.
Unique to vitamin B3 is its involvement in keeping our skin looking healthy and young, ensuring that bile and stomach fluids are present and at the ready as digestion takes place, the amalgamation of sex hormones in the body, enhancing memory, lowering cholesterol levels, and as a supportive treatment for psychological illnesses.
Signs of a Vitamin B3 Deficiency
- Canker sores
- Limb pains
- Loss of appetite
- Low blood sugar
- Muscular weakness
- Skin eruptions
Food Sources of Vitamin B3
Dietary sources of vitamin B3 include beef liver, brewer’s yeast, broccoli, carrots, cheese, corn flour, dates, eggs, fish, milk, nuts, peanuts, pork, potatoes, tomatoes, wheat germ and whole wheat products.
Conditions Which May Benefit From Taking Vitamin B3
Pellagra is a disease that affects your digestive system, skin, and nerves, resulting in dermatitis, diarrhea, and mental disorders. The most common cause of pellagra is not having enough niacin (primary pellagra). Other causes of pellagra are associated with digestive disorders that reduce the absorption of niacin in your body.
Niacin is also known as nicotinic acid, or vitamin B3. In the United States, individuals most at risk for developing pellagra are alcoholics, as a result of malnutrition.
Both alcoholism and not consuming enough green vegetables, seafood, meat, and eggs commonly cause primary pellagra. Secondary pellagra occurs when sufficient niacin is consumed but not taken up and used by the body. Secondary pellagra is often caused by gastrointestinal diseases that prevent absorption of niacin. Because tryptophan is needed to make niacin, low levels of tryptophan may also lead to pellagra. 1
Niacin (but not niacinamide) has been used since the 1950s to lower elevated LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and triglyceride (fat) levels in the blood and is more effective in increasing HDL (“good”) cholesterol levels than other cholesterol-lowering medications. You should not take niacin at high doses without your doctor’s supervision.
AtherosclerosisBecause niacin lowers LDL and triglycerides in the blood, it may help prevent atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) and is sometimes prescribed along with other medications. However, niacin also increases levels of homocysteine levels in the blood, which is associated with an increased risk of heart disease. This is another reason you should not take high doses of niacin without your doctor’s supervision.
DiabetesSome evidence suggests that niacinamide (but not niacin) might help delay the onset of insulin dependence (in other words, delay the time that you would need to take insulin) in type 1 diabetes. In type 1 diabetes, the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks the cells in the pancreas that make insulin, eventually destroying them. Niacinamide may help protect those cells for a time, but more research is needed to tell for sure.
The effect of niacin on type 2 diabetes is more complicated. People with type 2 diabetes often have high levels of fats and cholesterol in the blood, and niacin, often in conjunction with other drugs, can lower those levels. However, niacin can also raise blood sugar levels, resulting in hyperglycemia, which is particularly dangerous for someone with diabetes. For that reason, anyone with diabetes should take niacin only when directed to do so by their doctor, and should be carefully monitored for hyperglycemia.
Other Conditions Still Under Review…
Alzheimer’s disease — Population studies show that people who get higher levels of niacin in their diet have a lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease. No studies have evaluated niacin supplements, however.
Skin conditions – Researchers are studying topical forms of niacin as treatments for acne, aging, and prevention of skin cancer, although it’s too early to know whether it is effective.
One preliminary study suggested that niacinamide may improve arthritis symptoms, including increasing joint mobility and reducing the amount of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) needed. More research is needed to determine whether there is any real benefit. 2
Nutter’s Can Suggest…
Vitamin B3 essentially comes in two forms: niacin (or nicotinic acid) and niacinamide and both possess the same vitamin activity in the body. Some people prefer to take niacinamide because niacin can cause flushing, which is characterized by itching, burning, and tingling sensations of the skin. However, niacin, not niacinamide, is recommended for circulatory problems, and it has greater cholesterol and triglyceride lowering properties.
Niacin is necessary for the metabolism of carbohydrates, fats and proteins. When given in large amounts, niacin has a drug-like effect on blood cholesterol levels. It seems to inhibit the secretion of cholesterol from the liver into the circulation, and also increases the amount of high density lipoprotein, the so-called “good cholesterol”. World-renowned author and researcher, Dr. Abram Hoffer, uses very high doses of niacin to treat schizophrenia with good results.
1. Better Medicine
2. University of Maryland Medical Center
Carol Roy is a Natural Health Practitioner who received her diploma from the Alternative Medicine College of Canada in Montreal, Quebec. With 12 years experience in her area of expertise, natural health and wellness, Carol has also trained to become a fully qualified Reiki Master, Quantum Touch Practitioner, and Reflexologist.
The suggestions by Nutter’s Bulk & Natural Foods and the contents of this article
are recommendations only and not a substitute for any medical advice or a
replacement for any prescriptions. Seek medical advice for any health concerns.
Consult your health care provider before using any recommendations herein.