Niacin (Vitamin B3)
Niacin was the third of the B group vitamins to be discovered, hence its designation as vitamin B3. Historically it has also been called vitamin P.
Niacin was the third of the B group vitamins to be discovered, hence its designation as vitamin B3. Historically it has also been called vitamin P. It comes in two different forms: niacinamide (or nicotinamide) and nicotinic acid. Both forms of supplement can provide the body’s nutritional requirements but they have different effects. Niacin influences the cardiovascular system, stimulating circulation and dilating the blood vessels, thus potentially helping to maintain healthy cholesterol levels.
The niacinamide form can initiate a sudden hot tingling flush in some individuals, which is temporary and harmless. It’s caused by the release of histamine, a vasodilator.
People who react with a ‘niacin flush’ may prefer the nicotinic acid form, which is non-flushing.
Niacin (Vitamin B3) Benefits
Niacin deficiency, known as pellagra, used to be called the disease of the 4 D’s: diarrhoea, dermatitis, dementia/depression, and (ultimately) death. Caused by poor dietary nutrition it is now rare in developed countries but still prevalent in countries where malnutrition is common.
Niacin deficiency may present as ulcer formation, dizziness, bad breath, headaches, nausea, irritability and depression.
As part of a vitamin B complex supplementation, niacin supports healthy brain and nervous tissue function and improves the stress response by supporting adrenal function.
As a vasodilator niacin can help ease cramping of the calf muscles and may help treat Raynaud’s disease. It can help regulate hypoglycaemia and may help relieve headaches and migraines.
Niacin (Vitamin B3) Side Effects and Contraindications
Niacinamide forms may cause temporary flushing.
Niacin should always be taken in conjunction with a B complex supplement, as all the B group vitamins need to be present in the correct ratio for optimal effect.
High doses should be avoided in the following conditions: diabetes, low blood pressure, gout, liver disease or ulcers.