In this post we outline all you need to know about vitamin B3, why it is important for aging, and when you might need to take a vitamin B3 supplement.

Vitamin B3 is water soluble and refers to two forms of the vitamin that are biologically active: niacin or nicotinic acid, and niacinamide, its amide form.

This vitamin prevents pellagra, a deficiency disease characterized by the four ‘Ds’: dermatitis, dementia, diarrhea and death.

Among all water soluble vitamins, experts consider niacin is the most stable. Human cells can synthesize niacin from tryptophan, which is an essential amino acid.

Liver and glandular organs, lean meats, poultry, fish, dairy products, green vegetables, legumes and nuts are all good sources for niacin.

Niacin contributes to maintaining the proper function of more than 200 metabolic enzymes, and plays a major role in a wide range of biochemical processes. It acts as hydrogen and electron receptors important in producing energy, and synthesizing fatty acid and protein.

Recent research reveals that niacin is essential in preventing and alleviating diseases that usually arise with aging. These include heart disease and age-related macular degeneration, which is a blind spot in the center of your vision.

Why do we need vitamin B3 as we age?

Niacin deficiency commonly occurs in the elderly, because As we age the metabolism slows down and the body’s ability to absorb nutrients from food sources decreases.

Studies show that niacin has great potential in the field of anti-aging by preventing age-related diseases, which may dramatically increase longevity. For this reason, it is vital to maintain sufficient supply of vitamin B3 at all times.

It lowers blood cholesterol by increasing good cholesterol levels (HDL levels), while lowering bad cholesterol (LDL) and triglyceride levels.

As a result of controlling your blood cholesterol, the process of atherosclerosis slows downs and you reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular disease.

Niacin also prevents age-related macular degeneration by improving blood circulation to choroidal blood vessels that underlie the eye’s macula. Further, initial studies suggest that severe niacin insufficiency can cause dementia and cognitive impairment.

Niacinamide could improve arthritis symptoms by increasing joint mobility.

Can I get enough vitamin B3 in my food?

Vitamin B3 is found in a wide variety of animal and plant food products, including liver and glandular organs, lean meats, poultry, fish, dairy products, green vegetables, legumes and nuts.

A well-balanced meal is sufficient enough to supply your daily requirement for niacin.

If I’m to take a vitamin B3 supplement, in what form should I take it?

A vitamin B3 supplement is available in niacinamide, niacin and inositol hexaniacinate forms.

Experts recommend that for dietary supplementation you should take multivitamins or B-complex vitamins that contain 25mg of niacin or niacinamide.

To reduce cholesterol, you should take a vitamin B3 supplement in the form of niacin.

Niacin is sold as a tablet or capsule in regular and timed-release forms. Although timed-release forms cause fewer side effects, they can be more damaging to the liver, and regardless of the dose and form, experts strongly suggest you take liver function tests every 6-12 weeks.

Don’t use niacin if you have allergies, gallbladder disease, gout, low blood pressure, angina, kidney or liver disease, or stomach or intestinal ulcers.

What dose of vitamin B3 should I take?

  • The recommended daily intake for vitamin B3 is 16mg for men and 14mg for women
  • For vitamin B3 supplementation, you should take up to 25mg of niacin or niacinamide per day
  • Under medical supervision for conditions such as high cholesterol, experts recommend taking 1200-1500mg of niacin per day
  • To prevent heart disease, you should take 4g of niacin daily

Are there any risks with vitamin B3 supplement?

Niacin and niacinamide are generally safe when you take them orally. However, large doses can cause niacin flush, which is experiecing flushed skin, and a burning and tingling sensation in the face and chest.

Long-term and excessive intake can cause liver damage and stomach ulcers.

Are there any special requirements when I take a vitamin B3 supplement?

You should take vitamin B3 supplements with food or milk to reduce niacin flush. Taking a nonenteric-coated aspirin or NSAID 30 minutes before niacin can help lessen flushing.

Avoid hot liquids or alcoholic beverages around the time you take your supplements. Take niacin with a full glass of cool water.

Does this supplement need other compounds to accompany it for optimal absorption?

For better absorption, it is best to take niacin with a B-complex vitamin and vitamin C.

If I take a vitamin B3 supplement, do I need to take this in divided doses?

Take niacin in a single dose daily.

How to determine if I am vitamin B3 deficient

Your doctor can undertake a blood test to determine if you are deficient in vitamin B3. Low levels of niacin, tryptophan, nicotinamide-adenine dinucleotide (NAD) and nicotinamide-adenine dinucleotide phosphate (NADP) in the blood suggest niacin deficiency.

What is the best source of vitamin B3?

It is best to obtain niacin and niacinamide from natural food sources. Plant and animal foods prevent side effects and adverse effects of long-term intake of vitamin B3 supplements. Mushrooms, yellow fin tuna, chicken breast, asparagus, salmon, venison, romaine lettuce and halibut are the best sources of natural vitamin B3.

You should consider vitamin B3 supplementation during malabsorptive states and in cases where an altered metabolism impairs niacin synthesis.


Last Reviewed 07/01/2017

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Ann-Mary Amber

Ann-Mary Amber has twenty years experience in wholistic therapies and specialises in nutritional and environmental medicine. She is an experienced group facilitator and lecturer and an integral part of the ACNEM education team.

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