Vitamin B3Skip to the navigation
The body uses the water-soluble vitamin B3 in the process of releasing energy from carbohydrates. It is needed to form fat from carbohydrates and to process alcohol. The niacin form of vitamin B3 also regulates cholesterol , though niacinamide does not.
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Our proprietary "Star-Rating" system was developed to help you easily understand the amount of scientific support behind each supplement in relation to a specific health condition. While there is no way to predict whether a vitamin, mineral, or herb will successfully treat or prevent associated health conditions, our unique ratings tell you how well these supplements are understood by the medical community, and whether studies have found them to be effective for other people.
For over a decade, our team has combed through thousands of research articles published in reputable journals. To help you make educated decisions, and to better understand controversial or confusing supplements, our medical experts have digested the science into these three easy-to-follow ratings. We hope this provides you with a helpful resource to make informed decisions towards your health and well-being.
3 Stars Reliable and relatively consistent scientific data showing a substantial health benefit.
2 Stars Contradictory, insufficient, or preliminary studies suggesting a health benefit or minimal health benefit.
1 Star For an herb, supported by traditional use but minimal or no scientific evidence. For a supplement, little scientific support.
This supplement has been used in connection with the following health conditions:
How It Works
How to Use It
In part because it is added to white flour, most people generally get enough vitamin B3 from their diets to prevent a deficiency. However, 10-25 mg of the vitamin can be taken as part of a B-complex or multivitamin supplement. Larger amounts are used for the treatment of various health conditions.
Where to Find It
The best food sources of vitamin B3 are peanuts, brewer's yeast , fish, and meat. Some vitamin B3 is also found in whole grains.
Pellagra, the disease caused by a vitamin B3 deficiency, is rare in Western societies. Symptoms include loss of appetite, skin rash, diarrhea , mental changes, beefy tongue, and digestive and emotional disturbance.
Best Form to Take
Vitamin B3 occurs naturally in two forms: niacin (or nicotinic acid) and niacinamide (or nicotinamide). There are important differences between the forms when it comes to effectiveness and side effects. In very large doses (more than 3 grams a day), both forms may cause reversible hepatotoxicity (liver damage). However, niacinamide does not appear to have the other side effects associated with niacin, such as skin flushing, itching, and urticaria. Time-release niacin may reduce the risk of skin flushing, but such preparations raise even greater concerns about hepatotoxicity. Niacin improves serum lipid levels, whereas niacinamide does not. Niacinamide is used more often than niacin for conditions that respond to vitamin B3, because of its lower toxicity profile.1
Interactions with Supplements, Foods, & Other Compounds
Interactions with Medicines
Certain medicines interact with this supplement.
Types of interactions: Beneficial Adverse Check
Replenish Depleted Nutrients
Reduce Side Effects
Potential Negative Interaction
The Drug-Nutrient Interactions table may not include every possible interaction. Taking medicines with meals, on an empty stomach, or with alcohol may influence their effects. For details, refer to the manufacturers' package information as these are not covered in this table. If you take medications, always discuss the potential risks and benefits of adding a supplement with your doctor or pharmacist.
Niacinamide is almost always safe to take in amounts of 1,000 mg per day or less, though rare liver problems have occurred at amounts in excess of 1,000 mg per day. Niacin, in amounts as low as 50-100 mg, may cause flushing, headache, and stomachache in some people. Doctors sometimes prescribe very high amounts of niacin (as much as 3,000 mg per day or more) for certain health problems. These large amounts can cause liver damage, diabetes , gastritis , damage to eyes, and elevated blood levels of uric acid (which can cause gout ).2 Symptoms caused by niacin supplements, such as flushing, have been reduced with sustained-release (also called ‘time-release') niacin products. However, sustained-release forms of niacin have caused significant liver toxicity in some cases and, rarely, liver failure.3 , 4 , 5 , 6 , 7 One partial time-release (intermediate-release) niacin product has demonstrated clinical efficacy without flushing, and also with much less of the liver function abnormalities typically associated with sustained-release niacin formulations.8 However, this form of niacin is available by prescription only.
In a controlled clinical trial, 1,000 mg or more per day of niacin raised blood levels of homocysteine , a substance associated with increased risk of heart disease .9 Since other actions of niacin lower heart disease risk,10 , 11 the importance of this finding is unclear. Nonetheless, for all of the reasons discussed above, large amounts of niacin should never be taken without consulting a doctor.
The inositol hexaniacinate form of niacin has not been linked with the side effects associated with niacin supplementation. In a group of people being treated alternatively with niacin and inositol hexaniacinate for skin problems, niacin supplementation (50-100 mg per day) was associated with numerous side effects, including skin flushing, nausea, vomiting and agitation.12 In contrast, people taking inositol hexaniacinate experienced no complaints whatsoever, even at amounts two to five times higher than the previously used amounts of niacin. However, the amount of research studying the safety of inositol hexaniacinate remains quite limited. Therefore, people taking this supplement in large amounts (2,000 mg or more per day) should be under the care of a doctor.
1. Gaby, AR. Nutritional Medicine. Concord, NH: Fritz Perlberg Publishing, 2011.
2. Goldie C, Taylor AJ, Nguyen P, et al. Niacin therapy and the risk of new-onset diabetes: a meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials. Heart 2016;102:198-203.
3. McKenney JM, Proctor JD, Harris S, Chinchili VM. A comparison of the efficacy and toxic effects of sustained-vs immediate-release niacin in hypercholesterolemic patients. JAMA 1994;271:672-7.
4. Knopp RH, Ginsberg J, Albers JJ, et al. Contrasting effects of unmodified and time-release forms of niacin on lipoproteins in hyperlipidemic subjects: clues to mechanism of action of niacin. Metabolism 1985;34:642-50.
5. Gray DR, Morgan T, Chretien SD, Kashyap ML. Efficacy and safety of controlled-release niacin in dyslipoproteinemic veterans. Ann Intern Med 1994;121:252-8.
6. Rader JI, Calvert RJ, Hathcock JN. Hepatic toxicity of unmodified and time-release preparations of niacin. Am J Med 1992;92:77-81 [Review].
7. Knopp RH. Niacin and hepatic failure. Ann Intern Med 1989;111:769 [letter].
8. Goldberg A, Alagona P Jr, Capuzzi DM, et al. Multiple-dose efficacy and safety of an extended-release form of niacin in the management of hyperlipidemia. Am J Cardiol 2000;85:1100-5.
9. Garg R, Malinow M, Pettinger M, Upson B, Hunninghake D. Niacin treatment increases plasma homocyst(e)ine levels. Am Heart J 1999;138:1082-7.
10. Brown WV. Niacin for lipid disorders. Postgrad Med 1995;98:185-93 [review].
11. Guyton JR. Effect of niacin on atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease. Am J Cardiol 1998;82(12A):18U-23U [review].
12. Welsh AL, Ede M. Inositol hexanicotinate for improved nicotinic acid therapy. Int Record Med 1961;174:9-15.
Last Review: 06-01-2015
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The information presented by Healthnotes is for informational purposes only. It is based on scientific studies (human, animal, or in vitro), clinical experience, or traditional usage as cited in each article. The results reported may not necessarily occur in all individuals. For many of the conditions discussed, treatment with prescription or over the counter medication is also available. Consult your doctor, practitioner, and/or pharmacist for any health problem and before using any supplements or before making any changes in prescribed medications. Information expires December 2017.
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