Vitamin B3 is a powerful member of the B-complex family and comes in two basic forms. Niacin, also known as nicotinic acid, and niacinamide, which is also known as nicotinamide. All forms of vitamin B3 have biologic activity; however niacin is also necessary for regulating cholesterol in the body.
Vitamin B3, in all of its forms are necessary for releasing energy from carbohydrates and converting proteins and fats into calories. Vitamin B3 also works closely with the other vitamins from the B-complex including vitamin B1, vitamin B2, Vitamin B6 and pantothenic acid. Vitamin B3 is also necessary for a healthy nervous system as well as the sex hormones.
Vitamin B3 has been used topically to treat acne, and has also been used successfully for high cholesterol, intermittent claudication, vascular disease and schizophrenia. The niacin form of vitamin B3 has been used for high triglycerides and the niacinamide form of vitamin B3 has had successful use in the treatment of osteoarthritis.
Pellagra is a disease that is caused by a deficiency in vitamin B3; however it is now rare to experience this deficiency in Western societies. The symptoms of Pellagra include a loss of appetite, diarrhea, mental changes, a skin rash and digestive and emotional disturbances.
Mild deficiencies of vitamin B3 may result in generalized weakness, or loss of muscle strength, general fatigue, apathy, backache, headache, loss of memory, a lack of appetite and digestive problems.
It is not generally necessary to supplement with vitamin B3 because most people receive adequate amounts from their normal diet. The best dietary sources of vitamin B3 are found in proteins such as: beef, liver, pork, turkey, fish, peanuts and sunflower seeds. Some vegetarian alternatives include rice bran, turnips, beets and beet greens and celery.
Vitamin B3 is a stable vitamin and is not easily affected by heat, light, air, or acid. Because vitamin B3 is a water soluble vitamin, it is not generally stored in the body, however small amounts may be found in the liver, but most vitamin B3 is excreted through the urine.
Most people do not need to supplement with vitamin B3, because it has been added to white flour as well, as getting enough in their general diets. However, if you wish to supplement, you can take the adequate amount by consuming a B-complex vitamin or a multivitamin supplement.
Niacinamide is generally a safe supplement to take, however the other form of vitamin B3, niacin may cause side effects such as headache, stomachache, and flushing in some people. Large amounts of niacin may cause liver damage and other serious problems.