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What Have You Heard About Vitamin B3?

Without Vitamin B3 or niacin, our body cannot function properly.

Niacin, or vitamin B3, is a water-soluble B vitamin found naturally in some foods, added to foods, and sold as a supplement. The most common forms of niacin in food and supplements are nicotinic acid and nicotinamide. Vitamin B3, or niacin, is a nutrient that, like all vitamins, is essential to health, life and just feeling great! Vitamin B3 helps our bodies convert food into energy, burn fat properly, and is responsible for helping us feel energized!

Food Source

  • Red meat: beef, beef liver, pork

  • Poultry

  • Brown rice

  • Fortified cereals and bread

  • Fish

  • Bananas

  • Legumes

  • Nuts

  • Seeds

Did you know?

Vitamin B3 is a common ingredient in energy drinks. This is because sufficient levels of B Vitamins are required by the body to convert food into energy, maintain proper cell development, function, and growth, or make new genetic materials, including but not limited to DNA.

Also, corn is naturally high in niacin, but it is bound to carbohydrates, making it difficult to be absorbed by the human body. However, corn can be processed into a tortilla, a process where it is treated with calcium hydroxide, cooked, and ground, making it absorbable because of the calcium hydroxide treatment.

Signs of Deficiency

Without vitamin B3 or niacin, our body will be unable to function. Consuming a diet high in processed foods is likely low in niacin. Consuming alcohol can also lower vitamin B3 levels too. In the neuropathy clinic, mild deficiencies of niacin are probably relatively common. Niacin deficiency can cause a disease called pellagra. Pellagra is a disease characterized by these three D’s: diarrhea, dermatitis, and dementia. Other signs of severe niacin deficiency include:

  • Depression

  • Fatigue

  • Memory loss

  • Headache

  • Hallucinations

In very severe niacin deficiencies, significant changes occur to the nervous system.

These changes can show up as psychiatric symptoms and, as we mentioned earlier, dementia or brain disease. More commonly, especially in modern society, are lower levels of niacin than are optimal, possibly making worse some very common conditions, including high cholesterol and metabolic syndrome. A proper diet should include good food sources of niacin. Many nuts are also high in niacin. Avocado and shiitake mushrooms are also high in niacin.

Vitamin B3 as niacinamide is also a common ingredient in many multivitamins and other dietary supplements. Since niacin is available in two different common forms (niacin and niacinamide), we recommend often advising patients to consume both forms in small amounts. The reason for this is they will tend to act somewhat differently, both having beneficial effects.

Measuring vitamin B3 levels requires a little more work than a simple blood test. Blood tests for niacin are often unreliable, so special urine tests need to be performed. Like so many nutrients, it is important to remember that diet must be the number one method of obtaining proper nutrition. It is also critical to understand that each nutrient is just like a key instrument in a symphony. And just like a symphony does not work when one instrument does not play correctly, the same is true in nutrition.

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