What is Niacin?

In a nutshell

In a nutshell

  • Niacin decrease "bad" cholesterol and increase "good" cholesterol in the blood.
  • B3 is beneficial in the relief of atherosclerosis, and in the improvement of blood circulation.
  • Contrary to urban legend, niacin cannot help to prevent a positive drug test.
Key sources:





Beef liver



Peanut butter

Peanut butter

Essential for:
Cholesterol build-up

Prevention of cholesterol build-up

blood vessels

Blood circulation









Niacin (vitamin B3)
Niacin or vitamin B3, like other B vitamins, plays a vital role in energy metabolism (breaking down and transforming the foods we eat into energy). Other names for this vitamin are nicotinic acid and vitamin PP. Like other B vitamins, Vitamin B3 is water soluble, meaning it is not stored in large amounts in the body, so it must be obtained regularly through the diet.
Contrary to urban legend, niacin cannot help to prevent a positive drug test, and taking it in large quantities may be dangerous.
Vitamin B3 is used as a food additive E375. It helps to keep a typical red color of meat products.
Vitamin B3 health benefits

It has been shown that niacin decreases "bad" cholesterol and increases "good" cholesterol in the blood. It is beneficial in the relief of atherosclerosis and in the improvement of blood circulation - thus, vitamin B3 helps to prevent future heart attacks in former sufferers. This nutrient is also needed for healthy hair, skin, and eyes. B3 is necessary for healthy nerves function, as well.

Niacin deficiency

Those who are deficient in this nutrient may feel very weak or have muscle weakness. These individuals may develop more skin infections and digestive problems and have a loss of appetite. The disease pellagra, with symptoms of dermatitis, diarrhea, and dementia, often occurs due to deficiency in this nutrient, as well as due to deficiency of other B vitamins.
People who are most likely to develop a deficiency in this essential nutrient are those who have:
• Eating disorders;
• Disease of malabsorption;
• Poor nutrition or malnutrition;
• Little or no sources of meat in the diet;
• Certain medical conditions and take certain medications.

Vitamin B3 overdose

It is difficult to overdose on this vitamin from natural food sources, though it may occur with supplement use. Safe upper limits are set at 35 mg per day for the general population to reduce the risk of certain side effects, such as flushing. Overdose symptoms may include nausea and vomiting, as well as dizziness and itching. Other potentially dangerous side effects include feeling faint, difficulty breathing, irregular heartbeat, and symptoms that resemble the flu.
Certain medications may interact with Vitamin B3, so special care should be taken, especially with drugs for cholesterol, blood thinning, high blood pressure, or heart problems. It is okay to take supplements higher than the upper limit of 35 mg per day under the advice and supervision of your physician, but notify your health care provider of any noticeable side effects.

Daily Recommended Intake

Recommended daily allowance for this vitamin:
• Infants 2 mg – 4 mg;
• Children 6 - 12 mg;
• Teenagers and adults 14- 16 mg;
• Pregnant and breastfeeding women 17 mg.

Sources of vitamin B3

The following foods have high amounts of vitamin B3:
Yeast extract (100g) - 125 mg;
Red Salmon (smoked) (100g) -22.7 mg;
Tuna (cooked)(100g) - 18.7;
Pink salmon (cooked) (100gr)-9.6 mg;
Liver (beef- cooked) (100g) - 17.5 mg;
Peanuts (oil roasted) (100gr) - 13.8 mg;
Poultry food products (cooked) (100g) -9 mg;
Sunflower Seeds (100gr) - 8.3 mg;
Beef, pork (cooked) (100gr) - 8 mg;
Portobello mushrooms (grilled) (100gr) -6.3mg;

Other important sources of Niacin:
• Avocado, Green peas, leafy vegetables, broccoli;
• Whole grain products, nuts;
• Dates;
• Dairy products.

Why "Niacin"?
Why "Niacin"? This compound was named Vitamin B3 since it was the third B vitamin to be isolated. Once the importance of this nutrient was determined, it was essential making a distinction between nicotine and nicotinic acid so that people would not think nicotine contained vitamins or vice versa. The name "Niacin" came from taking the first two letters of the words "nicotinic" and "acid" and combining them with the last two letters of the word "vitamin".
In 1873, this nutrient was described by Hugo Weidel in studies with nicotine, so it was referred to as nicotinic acid. It was first isolated by Casimir Funk when he was searching for the specific vitamin now known as thiamine in his research on the diseases of pellagra and dermatitis. Further research showed this vitamin's significance and relationship to other B vitamins that had been discovered. In 1937, biochemist Conrad Elvehjem extracted the compound from livers and later identified its active ingredient.