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Vitamin B3 (Niacin, Nicotinic Acid, Nicotinamide)

Vitamin B3, also known as Niacin, Niacinamide, or Nicotinic Acid, is one of eight water-soluble B vitamins. All B vitamins help the body to convert carbohydrates into glucose (sugar), which is "burned" to produce energy. These B vitamins, often referred to as B complex vitamins, are essential in the breakdown of fats and protein. B complex vitamins also play an important role in maintaining muscle tone along the digestive tract and promoting the health of the nervous system, skin, hair, eyes, mouth, and liver.

Vitamin B3 is required for cell respiration, helps in the release of energy and metabolism of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins, proper circulation and healthy skin, functioning of the nervous system, and normal secretion of bile and stomach fluids. It is used in the synthesis of sex hormones, treating schizophrenia and other mental illnesses, and a memory-enhancer.

Vitamin B3 (in the forms of Niacin and Niacinamide) is used by the body to release energy from carbohydrates. It’s also needed to form fat from carbohydrate and to process alcohol. Niacin is helpful in regulating cholesterol. Pellagra is a disease caused by Vitamin B3 deficiency. It is rare in Western societies. Symptoms include loss of appetite, skin rash, diarrhea, and digestive and emotional disturbances. Vitamin B3 also is effective in the treatment of anxiety, acting similarly to Valium.1 It makes an excellent bridge when stopping Valium treatments, easing the withdrawal symptoms. Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) is necessary for mitochondrial metabolism. It also appears to reduce the severity and frequency of migraines by at least 50%. One form of Vitamin B3, niacinamide, appears to increase joint mobility, improve muscle strength, and decrease muscle and joint fatigue in osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis patients.7 250 mg taken at least four times daily appears to show results in three to four months. Vitamin B3 (niacin) taken during the first trimester of pregnancy has been connected with larger and healthier babies at birth.

Vitamin B3 comes in two basic forms—niacin (also called nicotinic acid) and niacinamide (also called nicotinamide). A variation on niacin, called inositol hexaniacinate, is also available in supplements. Because it has not been linked with any of the usual niacin toxicity in scientific research, inositol hexaniacinate is sometimes prescribed by European doctors for those who need high doses of niacin. Nicotinic acid (but not nicotinamide) given in drug dosage improves the blood cholesterol profile, and has been used to clear the body of organic poisons, such as certain insecticides. People report more mental alertness when this vitamin is in sufficient supply. Niacin and Niacinamide (or Nicotinic Acid) work basically the same, but may be used differently. For example, Niacinamide is used to treat osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, insomnia, migraine headaches, and insulin-dependent diabetes. Vitamin B3 (Niacin) increases good cholesterol (HDL) and lowers bad cholesterol (LDL). Niacin may enhance the effectiveness of some medications prescribed to lower cholesterol (check with a medical professional prior to combining Niacin with prescription medication).

Vitamin B3 plays an important role in ridding the body of toxic and harmful chemicals. It also helps the body make various sex and stress-related hormones in the adrenal glands and other parts of the body. Niacin is effective in improving circulation and reducing cholesterol levels in the blood. Niacin needs can be partially met by eating foods containing protein because the human body is able to convert tryptophan, an amino acid, into niacin.

Dietary deficiency of niacin tends to only occur in areas of the world where people eat corn as a staple and don't use lime in fertilization. Corn is the only grain that is low in niacin. Lime releases tryptophan which, again, can be converted to niacin in the body. Symptoms of mild deficiency include indigestion, fatigue, canker sores, vomiting, and depression. Severe deficiency of both niacin and tryptophan can cause a condition known as pellagra. Pellagra is characterized by cracked, scaly skin, dementia, and diarrhea. It is generally treated with a nutritionally balanced diet and niacin supplements. Niacin deficiency also results in burning in the mouth and a swollen, bright red tongue In the United States alcoholism is the prime cause of Vitamin B3 deficiency.