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Niacin is a type of vitamin B that has many health benefits. This vitamin keeps the heart in a good condition, regulates cholesterol levels, promotes intellectual performance, concentration and motivation. It also reduces inflammation and stimulates beautiful and healthy skin and hair.

Niacin, also known as vitamin B3, niacinamide or nicotinic acid is a water-soluble vitamin B that can not be stored by the body.

When the body does not use the niacin immediately, it is excreted through urine. To have the healthy levels of niacin that the body needs and obtain the health benefits, it is necessary to consume food products rich in niacin or take niacin supplements daily. Otherwise, the body may experience a deficiency of this vitamin.

Natural sources of niacin

There are many foods, both of animal and vegetable origin, that are considered to be sources of niacin.

Among the animal sources, we find beef, chicken, lamb and pork. Fish such as tuna and salmon are excellent sources of vitamin B3.

Milk and its derivatives like yogurt, cheese, etc as well as eggs are also rich in this vitamin.

Among the vegetable sources, we find beetroot, peanuts, oats, wheat, rice, peas, beans, asparagus, spinach, peppers, ginger and sunflower seeds.

Health benefits of niacin

  • Protects the health of the heart
  • Ensures optimal cholesterol level
  • Helps reduce the risk of Alzheimer's disease
  • Stimulates intellectual performance, motivation and concentration
  • Promotes the production of sex hormones
  • Helps the body use fats and proteins
  • Involved in the transformation into glucose of food to generate more energy in the body
  • Promotes healthy and beautiful skin and hair
  • Promotes eye health
  • It helps with blood circulation
  • Reduces inflammation (is very beneficial for people with arthritis)
  • It is used as a treatment for pellagra disease
  • It is used as a treatment in diabetes mellitus or type I diabetes

Symptoms of a niacin deficiency

The most frequent symptoms caused by a deficiency of this vitamin, are the following:

  • Fatigue
  • Indigestion
  • Disease
  • Circulation disorders
  • Depression

Recommended daily allowances (RDA) of niacin

The recommended daily amount of vitamin B3 varies according to the age, sex and individual circumstances of each person. Athletes or people with pathological conditions will need higher doses than the general population.

The niacin dose is expressed in micrograms (mcg).

  • Less than 6 months old: 5mcg
  • Between 6 months and 1 year old: 6mcg
  • Between 1 and 3 years old: 9mcg
  • Between 4 and 6 years old: 12mcg
  • Between 7 and 10 years old: 13mcg
  • Men from 11 to 14 years old: 17mcg
  • Men from 15 to 18 years old: 20mcg
  • Men from 19 to 50 years old: 19mcg
  • Men over 50 years old: 15mcg
  • Women from 11 to 50 years old: 15mcg
  • Women over 50 years old: 13mcg
  • Women during pregnancy: 17mcg
  • Women during lactation: 20mcg

Differences between niacin and niacinamide

Both niacin and niacinamide are two forms of vitamin B3. But in some ways they have different functions.

For example, niacinamide is often used instead of niacin to correct niacin deficiency because niacinamide does not cause redness.

However, niacin does reduce blood levels of bad cholesterol, whereas niacinamide has not been shown to have these effects.

Both niacin and niacinamide are available as a dietary supplement in capsules and tablets.

Niacinamide is also used to replace niacin in the form of topical skin care creams.

Inositol Hexaniacinate

Inositol Hexaniacinat is also part of the B3 vitamins, and we can find it in some dietary supplements.

Unlike niacinamide, inositol hexaniacinate lowers cholesterol just like niacin, but is free of ras.

Niacin and vitamin B complex

Niacin is part of the B vitamins complex.

In total there are 8 vitamins in the vitamin B group, among them the following: vitamin B1 (thiamine), vitamin B2 (riboflavin), vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid), vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), vitamin B7 (biotin), vitamin B9 (folic acid) and vitamin B12 (cobalamin).

These vitamins are soluble in water and are not stored in the body. The amount that the body does not use immediately, is excreted through the urine.

Each vitamin in the B complex has its own structure and a distinct function. Sometimes, several B vitamins are combined to perform specific functions in the body.

The lack of a certain B-complex vitamin, such as folic acid and vitamin B6, has been associated with degenerative diseases such as difficulties in perception, dementia and Alzheimer's.

Group B vitamins also play a role in the production of stress hormones and sexual hormones, along with the adrenal glands. They also relieve inflammation, improve blood circulation and slow down the onset of diabetes.

Niacin properties:

  • Reduces cholesterol and protects the heart: Niacin is known for its properties to prevent cardiovascular diseases. With a regular use of the recommended dosage, it is possible to decrease and excrete bad cholesterol (LDL), increasing good cholesterol (HDL), reducing the levels of triglycerides, preventing atherosclerosis (hardening and narrowing of the arteries) and avoiding the onset of cardiovascular diseases. Niacin is often prescribed in combination with statins (drugs) for the best results.
  • Prevent Alzheimer's: Niacin deficiency is associated with the onset and development of dementia. There are numerous clinical studies supporting the benefits of niacin dietary supplements to prevent Alzheimer's and other degenerative diseases, such as senile dementia. The most recent clinical study has been conducted on 3,718 people, and the conclusions have been that a diet rich in niacin or regular intake of niacin dietary supplements favours intellectual performance and prevents the onset of Alzheimer's.
  • Promotes the health and beauty of the skin: Niacin also helps to improve the health of the skin. This is because it stimulates blood circulation and allows the skin and hair to receive more nutrients and stay hydrated. Niacinamide is commonly used as an ingredient in skin care products as it is used as a treatment for several skin conditions and diseases such as acne and rosacea, as well as other symptoms associated with ageing, such as wrinkles and skin blemishes.
  • It is effective for treating pellagra disease: Pellagra is a disease derived from the lack of niacin in the consumed food products. It usually occurs when lots of maize products are consumed, when the diet is deficient or other health problems exist that prevent the absorption of niacin, as in the case of gastrointestinal diseases, alcoholism, HIV/AIDS, or other disorders, such as bulimia and anorexia. In these cases, taking niacin dietary supplement may cure pellagra. The most common symptoms of pellagra includes: Confusion and mental delirium, diarrhea, wounds and inflamed mucous membranes.

Who are niacin dietary supplements recommended for?

Anyone who wants to obtain the benefits of niacin can take the dietary supplements of this vitamin.

It is especially recommended to take a regular dose of niacin in the case of people who do not get it through their usual diet, for example, older people who do not normally ingest the necessary amount of this vitamin.

Pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers also need a niacin supplement. Also people subjected to a high physical or mental deterioration (athletes, students, etc.).

Niacin, niacinamide and inositol hexanicotinate are available as dietary supplements, either individually or combined as a Vitamin B complex. These supplements come in the shape of capsules or tablets. Since the composition and the dose may differ materially, it is advisable to always follow the indications of each product and always take the recommended dose.

Does niacin have side effects?

The side effects can come across as an intense skin tingling, especially on the face, neck, ears and chest area.

This is due to increased flow of the circulation, which can cause redness and heat in the skin, similar to a sunburn. There is no need to worry about this, since these side effects are harmless and obey a normal response of the body to the intake of niacin. Depending on the dose, these effects disappear after 30-60 minutes.

One way of mitigating the side effects is to take the niacin supplements immediately after eating. The most intense effects of niacin are seen when taken on an empty stomach or after consuming alcohol or a hot beverage.

When niacin is taken in high doses, it may cause side effects, such as:

  • Indigestion
  • Dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Blurry vision

When these effects occur we must stop the intake or reduce the dose.

Does niacin have interactions?

Niacin may produce interaction when it is taken along with some medications, such as:

  • Tetracycline (antibiotic)
  • Aspirin
  • Prescription medications for blood pressure
  • Anticoagulants
  • Cholesterol-lowering medications

Other names for niacin

Niacin is also known by other names such as: vitamin B3, nicotinic acid, niacinamide, nicotinamide.

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