The Health Benefits of Vitamin B3 (Niacin)

The Health Benefits of Vitamin B3 (Niacin)


Introduction & Biological Role

Let’s take a few minutes to talk about Niacin which is also known as vitamin B3. You may also hear or read about described as nicotinic acid and also has two other forms, niacinamide or nicotinamide and inositol hexanicotinate. The latter two having somewhat different effects on our bodies.

Niacin is a water soluble vitamin that is often considered an essential human nutrient depending on the definition used. At baseline, niacin helps the digestive system, skin, and nerves to function. It is also important for converting food to energy.

I’m going to go over the known benefits first, but make sure to stick around and learn about side effects and toxicity. Niacin is not a supplement that should be started in high doses without the advice or supervision of a physician.

Vitamin B3 Supplement Options

Potential Medical Benefits

Treat High Cholesterol

Most well known effect, used since 1950s. Lower bad cholesterol (LDL) and raise good cholesterol (HDL). By lowering bad cholesterol, it may slow progression of atherosclerosis, reduce risk of heart attack and stroke, reduced risk of second heart attack in folks who have already had one.

Diabetes Mellitus

May have a benefit in reducing the risk or slowing the progression of type 1 diabetes


May help improve arthritis symptoms, including increasing joint mobility

Alzheimer's disease

May help with Alzheimer’s disease. Folks with higher levels have lower risk, however supplementation has not been studied.


Folks with more niacin in diet have lower risk of developing

Skin conditions

Currently being investigated as a potential treatment for rosacea, aging, and prevention of skin cancer

Potential Benefits with insufficient evidence to formally recommend:

  • Attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
  • Migraine headache.
  • Dizziness.
  • Depression.
  • Motion sickness.
  • Alcohol dependence.
  • Improving orgasm.
  • Acne.

Side Effects/ Toxicity

You should not take niacin at high doses without your doctor's supervision. High doses of niacin cause flushing of the skin, stomach upset (usually resolves), headache, dizziness, blurred vision, increased risk of liver damage, can raise blood sugar (anyone with diabetes should take niacin only when directed to do so by their doctor.

It also has  many known interactions with prescription drugs.


Leads to a disease or syndrome known as Pellagra, symptoms which include problems with Skin, GI tract, and Mental status.

Best Dietary Sources

  • Beets,
  • Brewer's yeast,
  • Beef liver & kidney
  • Fish:  salmon, swordfish, tuna,
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Peanuts.
  • Bread and cereals are usually fortified with niacin.
  • Dairy
  • Eggs
  • Poultry

Recommended Daily Allowance for Adults (RDA)

Again talk to your healthcare provider, however these are the official recommendations from the NIH

  • Men 19 years and older: 16 mg (RDA)
  • Women 19 years and older: 14 mg (RDA)
  • Also likely safe in pregnancy and breast feeding

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