Benefits and Side Effects of Niacin
Vitamin B3, also known as niacin, is important for helping the body to convert food into energy. It can be found in foods such as eggs, fish, poultry, legumes, and cereal grains.
1) Treats skin disorders. Niacinamide has anti-inflammatory properties that may benefit those with acne, rosacea, and seborrheic dermatitis.
2) It May help fight osteoarthritis. Studies have found that people with osteoarthritis who took a daily niacinamide vitamin supplement for six months had less pain and needed fewer NSAIDs to manage their symptoms.
3) Decreases the risk of cardiovascular disease. Niacin intake has been linked to reduced levels of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, or LDL (bad) cholesterol, and triglyceride fats in the blood. This may reduce the risk of heart disease by improving blood vessel function.
4) Boosts brain health. Niacin is necessary for synthesizing myelin sheaths, which protect and insulate nerves and assist in neurotransmitter (brain chemical) function. Niacin also helps break down glycogen, a stored form of carbohydrate that’s converted into glucose within the brain to provide it with energy.
5) Boosts energy levels. Taking niacin supplements may give you an energy boost by releasing stored fat from your body to be used as energy.
6) Protects against Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. Studies suggest that niacin may help protect the brain from neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease by preserving neuron function and functioning of neurotransmitters in the brain, including dopamine and acetylcholine; vitamin B3 is also essential for synthesizing the neurotransmitter serotonin, which plays a role in mood.
7) Treats coronary heart disease. Taking niacin supplements orally has been shown to have beneficial effects on lipid levels, including lowering LDL cholesterol and triglycerides while increasing HDL cholesterol (the good kind). This may help protect against coronary heart disease.
8) Promotes healthy skin. Niacinamide is an effective agent in treating acne because it repairs the skin barrier function, reduces inflammation, and decreases oil production. In addition, niacinamide has been shown to reduce hyperpigmentation and improve elasticity. Topical niacin also has been found to have wound healing properties.
9) Helps to reduce diabetic neuropathy pain. The vitamin helps protect against peripheral nerve damage, a complication of diabetes that can result in unpleasant sensations such as pain and numbness. It achieves this by inhibiting the release of cytokines (inflammation-causing chemicals).
10) Prevents cataracts and macular degeneration. Niacin is involved in the metabolism of mucus, which helps keep the cornea and lens of the eye clear. Studies have found that people with low dietary intakes of niacin had a higher risk of developing cataracts and macular degeneration compared to those who consumed more niacin-rich foods.
The amount of niacin you need daily depends on your age. The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) is as follows:
• Children, birth to 6 months: 2 milligrams (mg)
• Infants, 7 to 12 months: 4 mg
• Children, 1 to 3 years: 6 mg
• Children, 4 to 8 years: 8 mg
• Children, 9 to 13 years: 12 mg
• Teens, 14 to 18 years (boys): 16 mg
• Teens, 14 to 18 years (girls): 14 mg
Adults, 19 and older (men): 16 mg
Adults, 19 and older (women), including pregnant or breastfeeding women: 14 mg
Adults, 70 years and older: Increase the amount of niacin you consume daily to above the RDA.
Niacin can be found in many types of food. While there are no recommended daily intakes for vitamins, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) suggests eating 5 to 7 servings of grains (at least three-fourths of which should be whole grains), 2 to 3 fruit servings, and 2 to 3 vegetable servings each day. Good sources of niacin include lean meats, poultry, fish, nuts, soy products, peanuts, legumes (beans and peas), mushrooms, brown rice, whole-wheat flour, and fortified cereals.
Niacin benefits for skin:
The vitamin’s most well-known use is to treat and prevent pellagra (niacin deficiency), which has also been known as the “3 D” disease: diarrhea, dementia, and dermatitis. Pellagra was a common public health problem in the United States from 1900 to 1940, but can rarely be seen nowadays.
Niacinamide is a form of the B-complex vitamin niacin (vitamin B3) that has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties and may be beneficial for inflammatory skin conditions including acne, rosacea, and atopic dermatitis (eczema). Niacinamide can also be used to treat skin conditions such as seborrheic dermatitis (a common form of dandruff) and melasma.
Niacin liver damage myth:
One of the myths about niacin is that it causes liver toxicity. It is true that very high doses of niacin (2 grams or more taken orally, or 2000 to 6000 milligrams per day) can cause liver problems. This side effect is easily avoidable by taking supplements in the form of nicotinamide, which does not cause this problem.
Niacin and its derivatives (nicotinamide and nicotinic acid) also help decrease cholesterol levels. Niacin can be used to lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, triglycerides, and lipoprotein(a).
Niacin side effects:
At recommended doses, niacin is considered safe and well-tolerated. The most common side effects include: flushing (warmth, tingling, and redness of the skin), itching and/or burning sensations in the skin, stomach upset, nausea and vomiting, heartburn, diarrhea, decreased appetite. Headache can also be a side effect of niacin being taken after a meal.
Most of the side effects can be prevented or reduced by starting with low doses and increasing the dose slowly over time.
You should not take niacin if you have liver problems, diabetes, gout, low blood pressure, malabsorption syndrome, gallbladder disease, intestinal ulcers, stomach ulcers, bleeding disorders (e.g. hemophilia), untreated leukopenia (low white blood cells), or anemia due to folic acid deficiency, or if you are pregnant and/or breastfeeding.
Niacin and depression:
Niacin is a type of B vitamin. Like all B vitamins, niacin is water-soluble and helps your body convert food (carbohydrates) into fuel (glucose), which is used to produce energy for your cells. Niacin also helps your body metabolize fats and prevent them from building up in the liver.
Niacin has long been prescribed to people who have low levels of “good cholesterol” (HDL). This use was not supported by research until lately. Now, niacin is also used to treat depression and schizophrenia.
However, the evidence for this treatment is not clear-cut. More research is needed before one can say for sure whether niacin can help people with depression or schizophrenia.
Niacin is effective in increasing HDL (“good”) cholesterol levels. It should only be used by people who have low HDL and high LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels, and/or those who might be at risk for cardiovascular disease.
Niacin can also help lower triglyceride levels when combined with a drug called fenofibrate.
Niacin continues to have the ability to lower LDL cholesterol levels as well, but not as effectively as statins, such as atorvastatin (Lipitor). Like other B vitamins, niacin is beneficial for your nervous system and skin.