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Niacin (Vitamin B3) Benefits, Side Effects, Uses & Warnings

Niacin (Vitamin B3) Benefits, Side Effects, Uses & Warnings
Dr. Constance Odom, MD Picture of Dr. Constance Odom, MD

Medically reviewed by

Written by our editorial team.

Last Edited 8 min read

Niacin (or Niacinamide), or Vitamin B3, is one of the many important water-soluble B-vitamins the body needs, to ensure proper function. It is found in many foods you consume daily, and it can be supplemented for those who follow a restrictive diet or live in an area where they don’t have access to certain foods, or deficiencies are common. Foods like tuna, organic meats, fish, mushrooms, and seeds, are typically high in levels of Niacin.

Niacin is a member of the Vitamin-B Complex family (B1, B2, B3, etc.). It has been studied extensively, and positive results have been shown in high volumes in those test subjects. It is beneficial in treating several recurring health conditions and problems, making it a prominent vitamin in the health community, and an all-natural solution to treating certain ailments and conditions.

Niacin (Vitamin B3) & How it works on your body

Niacin is important for helping maintain optimal cardiovascular health and strength. It helps metabolize the foods you consume as well. It is imperative in balancing blood cholesterol levels, ensuring you get sufficient levels of the good cholesterol, while keeping down the levels of bad cholesterol the body shouldn’t consume in such high quantities.

Niacin is also important in helping maintain healthy skin, healthy nails, and hair. It helps promote healthy skin formation, and it has also been linked to helping treat diabetes in some cases.

Possible Side Effects of Niacin (Vitamin B3)

In research conducted, which indicated the many health benefits of taking a niacin supplement, certain side effects were complained of by test subjects. This, however, was typically when the supplement was taken at higher dosage levels. Some of the complained of side effects were nausea, dizziness, headaches, and low blood pressure, among other side effects. These again, were in cases where niacin supplements were taken at the higher dosage levels in test subjects.

Doctors and researchers suggest that it is best to incorporate a niacin supplement only when it is prescribed by a doctor. There are many known possible side effects, and because of this, it should be taken carefully, and should be taken at the properly prescribed dosage levels. When monitored by a doctor or specialist, it is safe to consume, and should not result in negative or adverse side effects by those who are taking the niacin supplement on a routine basis.

Among the most highly reported side effects by those who are on a niacin rich diet or are consuming a supplement of the B-Vitamin Complex include: nausea and vomiting, skin reactions, possible rashes or reddening of the skin, headaches, dizziness, and allergic reactions or outbreaks. Heart problems have also been reported, but this is when extremely high levels were taken.  Niacin might possible increase blood sugar levels, so it can be dangerous for diabetics to consume, especially if they are not being monitored by a doctor or specialist. Gallbladder or liver disease can be worsened when incorporating the supplement. Problems controlling blood sugar levels after surgery, have also been reported after using a niacin supplement.

Because of the known risks, and reported side effects, it is highly advised that a Vitamin B3 supplement is only taken when being monitored or administered by a doctor or specialist. Not only to ensure the proper levels and dosage, but also so your doctor can monitor you in the event of these side effects and determine whether or not it is safe for you to continue using the supplement.

There are also certain medications which are high in niacin levels. In these cases, patients complain of muscle contractions, pain and weakness, digestive problems, muscle damage, gout, skin ulcerations, serious skin conditions, and other adverse reactions. If these are present, or if you are taking a medication which contains niacin, incorporating a supplement is not advised, and should further be discussed with a doctor or a specialist, before you do so.

Are you deficient in Niacin (Vitamin B3)?

Spotting a niacin deficiency is similar to spotting deficiencies in other B-Family vitamins. There are certain symptoms and signs which are commonly noted in those who are deficient in niacin levels. Malnutrition, is a major contributing factor to deficiencies; and, in some countries, and underdeveloped areas, lack of quality foods and foods which are rich in niacin, is common.

Some of the common symptoms include:

-          Diarrhea and upset stomach.

-          Skin rashes.

-          Dementia.

-          Pellagra (which is characterized by skin inflammation, hallucinations, and digestive distress).

-          Swelling of the mucus membrane.

-          Edema, increase in salivation, ulcers, and other skin symptoms including lesions.

-          GI or digestive problems.

-          Brain impairment, difficulty thinking, difficult remembering trivial tasks/information.

Although these are not the only symptoms, and are not present in every case, if one or more are present, and prominently reoccurring, it is possible that a deficiency exists and has to be treated.

Common problems of disorientation, mania, confusion, or even depression, which remain the same or worsen over time, might also be an indication of a deficiency in niacin levels. If these are noted, discussing the proper steps and supplementation with your doctor, is the first way to go about treating the problem.

What are the benefits of Niacin (Vitamin B3)?

So, you’re eating a diet which is rich in foods which contain niacin, or you’ve discussed a supplement with your doctor. You are no longer deficient; but, what benefits are you going to realize when you begin taking your supplement? Some of the noted benefits include:

-          Healthy cholesterol levels: A decrease in overall cholesterol, increase in good, and decrease in bad cholesterol, are all commonly reported benefits by those who take a niacin supplement. It helps reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, improve triglyceride levels, and help treat conditions where extremely high levels of cholesterol (bad) are present.

-          Heart attack, stroke, heart disease (risks): Using a niacin supplement has been proven to be beneficial where individuals are at risk of heart disease, stroke, or heart attacks. This is namely linked to high levels of LDL, and low levels of HDL (the good cholesterol) the body needs to survive. By helping strike the proper balance, studies suggest those who are at a risk for certain heart conditions, will lessen those risks with the proper supplementation.

-          Inflammation reduction: niacin is known to help reduce inflammation and production of histamine, which is a chemical compound capable of dilating the blood vessels. By improving levels of circulation naturally, not only is the amount of inflammation going to be reduced, but overall health and cardiovascular functions will improve as well when incorporating a niacin supplement into the diet.

-          Treating diabetes: since it can help to balance blood sugar levels when taken at proper dosage levels, niacin has also been linked, in numerous studies, to helping treat diabetes in some cases. Diabetic patients can also help better control blood sugar levels when taking niacin, to avoid outburst or other adverse side effects which are commonly associated with being a diabetic.

-          Healthy skin maintenance: Niacin is known to effectively treat acne. It is also prescribed as a natural skin remedy and can be used in a topical solution or oral form. Flare ups, redness, swelling, and inflammation are all naturally reduced with niacin. Because of this, it is a natural remedy in treating many skin conditions.

Niacin has been linked to helping improve overall brain function as well. It has been used in Alzheimer’s patients to help them treat the cognitive disease as well as other disorders. It has been linked to helping improve memory retention, avoid memory loss, and can treat many problems which are age-related, causing decrease in cognitive functions.

Joint mobility and arthritis can also be treated in part using niacin. Since it helps with inflammation and swelling, it will not only help increase the membrane fluids in the bones/joints, it will naturally serve to help your body move easily and avoid the aches/pains which are commonly linked to inflammation and arthritic conditions. Some studies also suggest that it can help prevent impotence, ED, or reduced levels of sexual-drive.

Many studies suggest that when taken by women who are pregnant (at proper levels, prescribed by a doctor) it can also help reduce the possibility of certain birth defects. The benefits of increased blood flow, improved circulation, and reduced risks of heart disease, are all beneficial for mothers who are pregnant as well.

Not everyone who uses the supplement or consumes foods which are rich in niacin are going to experience these benefits. And, in most cases, every individual is going to have a different experience when using this, and other B-Vitamins and supplements. It is important to note that the levels of improvement, when experienced, are also going to vary for each person.

For those who suffer from certain conditions, the incorporation of a niacin supplement can prove extremely beneficial. Not only in improving overall cardiovascular and heart health, but also helping promote other health bodily functions. With the proper dosage levels, the right diet, and monitoring from a doctor, niacin can prove extremely beneficial for those who are unhealthy and want to change their lifestyle, as well as for those who simply want to live a healthy, balanced life.

Niacin (Vitamin B3) Dosage

When taking a niacin supplement, it is important to follow the recommended daily dosage. For children 2-16, the dosage will vary based on age. Men should consume up to 16 mg daily and women up to 14 mg daily. Women who are nursing/pregnant can safely consume 17-18 mg daily.

Ideal dosage levels are not the same for every individual. It is important to note the types of foods you are consuming, and the current levels of niacin which are present, so that your doctor can better tailor the proper dosage when prescribing you a supplement. It is also important to note that not everyone is going to react similarly to the levels which they are prescribed. Therefore, it is important to discuss use, symptoms, interactions, and other concerns you have with your doctor, to ensure the proper dosage levels are prescribed when they do prescribe a niacin supplement to you.

Your diet, lifestyle, other supplements you take, and other factors, will contribute to the benefits, the dosage, and how you are going to feel and react, when a niacin supplement is prescribed. Your doctor will be the best indicator, and should prescribe the supplement to you, in order to ensure the safest use, and to ensure you are going to realize the highest-levels of benefits possible, when you are incorporating a Vitamin B3 supplement into your diet.

What else should you consider when taking Niacin (Vitamin B3)?

If you are taking other B-Vitamins, you should discuss this with your doctor, to ensure proper dosage levels are prescribed. Additionally, other medications, certain prescriptions, and if you suffer from different conditions or ailments, you should speak to your doctor before you begin using a Vitamin B3 supplement. Because every individual is different their suggestions are going to vary in each case, so you shouldn’t compare the results with others who are taking a supplement.

There are many benefits to taking a Vitamin B3 supplement. However, there are also many known and reported side effects. For this reason, it is imperative to speak with your doctor before you begin a dosage cycle. This is the only way to ensure safe use, consumption, and also to ensure the benefits you are going to derive from use, are the optimal benefits achievable, based on your personal health and situation.

Because no two people are alike, it is impossible to compare your personal experience to that of others. Knowing and weighing the risks, the benefits, and advice which you are given by a doctor or a specialist, is the best way to determine when to begin, and how often to take the supplement. Based on this information, you can better determine if a Vitamin B3 supplement is right for you, and how to go about getting the sufficient dosage levels daily in your diet, not only in the form of a supplement, but also from the food sources you consume on a daily basis.

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your physician about the risks and benefits of any treatment. Nu Image Medical may not offer the medications or services mentioned in this article.