Vitamin B-3, also called Niacin, Niacinamide, or Nicotinic Acid,
is an essential nutrient required by all humans for the proper metabolism of
carbohydrates, fats, and proteins, as well as for the production of hydrochloric acid for
digestion. B3 also supports proper blood circulation, healthy skin, and aids in the
functioning of the central nervous system. Because of its role in supporting the higher
functions of the brain and cognition, vitamin B3 also plays an important role in the
treatment of schizophrenia and other mental illnesses. Lastly, adequate levels of B-3 are
vital for the proper synthesis of insulin, and the sex hormones such as estrogen,
testosterone, and progesterone.
A deficiency in vitamin B-3 can result in pellagra, a disorder characterized by
malfunctioning of the nervous system, gastrointestinal upset, diarrhea, dementia,
depression, and severe dermatitis and skin lesions. Recently Niacin has been embraced by
the medical community for its ability to safely lower elevated blood cholesterol and
triglyceride serum levels without harmful side-effects. Due to the large amounts of niacin
used, it is best to undertake such a program only in close partnership with your physician.
High doses of niacin may result in a niacin flush, a natural allergic reaction that is
harmless, but can be uncomfortable if unexpected. A niacin flush will generally result in
a burning, tingling, and itching sensation, accompanied by a reddening flush, that spreads
across the skin of the face, arms and chest. This effect is harmless and will pass within
20 minutes to an hour. Drinking a glass of water will also speed relief if too much niacin
has been consumed.
High amounts should be used with caution by those who are pregnant and megadoses of pure
niacin may aggravate health problems, such as stomach ulcers, gout, glaucoma, diabetes
mellitus, and liver disease. Again, check with your physician before taking doses of
niacin greater than 1,000 mg. per day. Natural food sources for Vitamin B3 include beef,
broccoli, carrots, cheese, corn flour, eggs, fish, milk, potatoes and tomatoes.