What is Niacin?

Niacin, or vitamin B3, is a water-soluble essential nutrient crucial for human health. Present naturally in various foods such as meat, fish, poultry, and whole grains, niacin can also be obtained through supplements, sometimes used therapeutically for specific health conditions.

Niacin has diverse roles in the body, including:

1. Energy metabolism: It facilitates the breakdown of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins, aiding in the conversion of food into energy.

2. DNA repair: Niacin is vital for DNA repair, essential for proper cell function and growth.

3. Cholesterol regulation: Demonstrated to lower LDL ("bad") cholesterol and elevate HDL ("good") cholesterol, contributing to a reduced risk of heart disease.

4. Skin health: Essential for maintaining healthy skin by supporting the production of keratin, a key protein for skin, hair, and nail health.

While niacin deficiency is uncommon in developed countries due to its presence in various foods, severe deficiency can lead to pellagra, characterized by dermatitis, diarrhea, and dementia. Therapeutically, niacin has been employed to address high cholesterol, heart disease, and certain skin conditions.

What are the benefits of Niacin?

Niacin, or vitamin B3, offers several potential benefits, including:

1. Lowering cholesterol: Shown to decrease LDL ("bad") cholesterol and triglycerides while increasing HDL ("good") cholesterol, reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke.

2. Improving circulation: Enhances blood flow and circulation, potentially lowering the risk of cardiovascular issues.

3. Supporting healthy skin: Vital for maintaining healthy skin by aiding in the production of keratin.

4. Reducing inflammation: Possesses anti-inflammatory properties that may alleviate inflammation throughout the body.

5. Treating certain conditions: In therapeutic doses, niacin has been utilized for conditions like high cholesterol, heart disease, acne, and rosacea.

It's essential to note that high niacin doses may cause side effects like flushing, itching, and nausea, necessitating consultation with a healthcare professional before starting any new supplement regimen, especially for individuals with underlying health conditions or taking other medications.

What research is on Niacin?

Niacin, also known as vitamin B3, has been extensively researched in various areas:

1. Cholesterol and cardiovascular health: Some studies indicate that high niacin doses can enhance cholesterol levels, potentially reducing cardiovascular disease risk.

2. Skin health: Explored for its impact on conditions like acne and rosacea, with research suggesting potential benefits in reducing inflammation and improving skin appearance.

3. Cognitive function: Investigated for potential effects on cognitive function, especially in older adults, with some studies suggesting improved memory and cognitive performance.

4. Diabetes: Studied for potential effects on diabetes, including reducing insulin resistance and improving blood sugar control.

5. Cancer: Some research explores niacin's potential anti-cancer effects, particularly in reducing the risk of certain cancers.

While findings vary, more research is needed to comprehensively understand niacin supplementation's benefits and risks. Consulting a healthcare professional is crucial before starting any new supplement regimen, especially for those with underlying health conditions or taking other medications.

What is the mechanism of action of Niacin?

The mechanism of action of niacin, or vitamin B3, is intricate and not fully understood. However, several known ways illustrate how niacin affects the body:

1. Cholesterol metabolism: Niacin is believed to inhibit fat breakdown in the liver, reducing LDL ("bad") cholesterol and triglyceride production while increasing HDL ("good") cholesterol.

2. Blood vessel dilation: High niacin doses can widen blood vessels, enhancing blood flow and reducing the risk of blood clots.

3. Anti-inflammatory effects: Niacin's anti-inflammatory properties contribute to reducing inflammation throughout the body.

4. Insulin sensitivity: Demonstrated to improve insulin sensitivity, aiding blood sugar control in individuals with diabetes.

5. DNA repair: Essential for DNA repair and maintenance, supporting proper cell function and growth.

Despite ongoing research, the precise niacin mechanism of action remains under investigation, with researchers exploring its impact on the body.

What is the typical dosage of Niacin?

The typical dosage of niacin, or vitamin B3, varies based on the purpose:

1. Cholesterol management: High doses (1 to 2 grams per day) may be used to improve cholesterol levels, but medical supervision is crucial due to potential side effects.

2. Skin health: For improving skin appearance or treating conditions like acne and rosacea, doses around 500 milligrams per day may be employed.

3. Energy production: In B-complex vitamin supplements, around 20 milligrams per day is common for general health and well-being.

High niacin doses can lead to side effects, such as flushing, itching, and nausea. Consulting a healthcare professional is vital before starting any new supplement regimen, especially for individuals with underlying health conditions or taking other medications.

What foods are rich in Niacin?

Niacin, or vitamin B3, is present in various foods. Some rich dietary sources include:

1. Meat: Beef, pork, and chicken provide niacin, with a 3-ounce serving of beef liver containing over 80% of the recommended daily intake for adults.

2. Fish: Tuna, salmon, and other fish types offer niacin, with a 3-ounce serving of cooked tuna providing a substantial amount.

3. Whole grains: Wheat, barley, and oats are niacin-rich whole grains, with a cup of cooked brown rice offering a significant niacin content.

4. Legumes: Lentils, chickpeas, and other legumes contain niacin, with a cup of cooked lentils providing a notable amount.

5. Vegetables: Some vegetables like mushrooms, asparagus, and sweet potatoes contribute to niacin intake, with a cup of cooked mushrooms offering a substantial amount.

Maintaining a diverse diet that includes nutrient-rich foods is crucial to ensuring adequate niacin intake, along with other essential vitamins and minerals.


Tian, Bingren, and Jiayue Liu. “Resveratrol: a review of plant sources, synthesis, stability, modification and food application.” Journal of the science of food and agriculture vol. 100,4 (2020): 1392-1404. doi:10.1002/jsfa.10152