Vitamin B3

The A-B-C's of Vitamin Supplements

Peer Reviewed

Chemical Formula of Vitamin B3 shown on a tabletVitamin B3 is also known as niacin, niacinamide, or nicotinic acid. A deficiency of this vitamin can cause a disease termed pellagra. The symptoms of pellagra include dermatitis, canker sores, and inflammation of the mucous membranes, depression, confusion, and diarrhea. Since Vitamin B3 is water-soluble and not stored in the body, it is important to insure sufficient amounts are consumed regularly.

This vitamin is required for proper circulation and healthy skin. Vitamin B3 is essential in the metabolism of carbohydrates (to produce energy), fats, and proteins. It also aids in the production of hydrochloric acid, needed for proper digestion. Additionally, Vitamin B3 facilitates the body's ability to eliminate toxins.

Niacin and niacinamide (or nicotinic acid) work basically the same, but may be used differently. For example, niacinamide may be used in the treatment of osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, insomnia, migraine headaches, and insulin-dependent diabetes. Vitamin B3 (niacin) can increase good cholesterol (HDL) and lower bad cholesterol (LDL). Niacin may enhance the effectiveness of some medications prescribed to lower cholesterol (check with a medical professional prior to combining niacin with prescription medication).

Dosage Guidelines
Always take vitamin B3 (niacin, niacinamide) with food. Niacin is available in tablet and time-release tablets and capsules. These are available in strengths of 25 mg, 50 mg, 250 mg, and 500 mg.

When combining with prescription medication, check with a medical professional prior to taking vitamin B3. See Cautions below.

Sources of Vitamin B3
A regular healthy diet that includes protein usually supplies the appropriate amount of vitamin B3 to keep the body in good working order. Niacin and niacinamide are found in beef liver, brewer's yeast, lean meats, poultry, fish, eggs, cheese, soybeans, nuts, whole grains, green vegetables, cooked dried beans, and milk (non- or low fat milk). Vegetables should be baked, steamed or prepared as stir-fry to retain vitamin B3.

High doses of Vitamin B3 (75 mg or more) may cause liver damage. People who are pregnant, diabetic, or who suffer from asthma, liver disease, gallbladder disease, gout, glaucoma, or ulcers, should seek the advice of a medical professional prior to taking this vitamin.

A common side effect from niacin is the niacin flush, which causes the skin to turn red (flush), tingle, or burn in the areas of the face and chest.

Recent studies have suggested that time-release niacin forms may lead to liver damage. Inositol hexaniacinate, a form of niacin developed in Europe, is thought to be safe in a sustained-release form.

Niacin can elevate blood sugar levels.

Disclaimer: Many people report feeling improvement in their condition and/or general well-being taking dietary, vitamin, mineral, and/or herbal supplements. The Editorial Board of, however, cannot endorse such products since most lack peer-reviewed scientific validation of their claims. In most cases an appropriate diet and a "multiple vitamin" will provide the necessary dietary supplements for most individuals. Prior to taking additional dietary, vitamin, mineral, and/or herbal supplements it is recommended that patients consult with their personal physician to discuss their specific supplement requirements.

Updated on: 03/08/16
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Thomas G. Lowe, MD
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