Our body requires for its perfect functioning, elements and substances that are involved in many organic processes.

In this sense is niacin, which is an essential element belonging to the group of B complex vitamins.

The correct intake of this element will help prevent the appearance of organic and even psychological pathologies and consequently enjoy a healthy life.

Next, we explain the most important aspects that you should know in relation to niacin.

What is niacin?

Niacin is also called vitamin B3, nicotinic acid, or vitamin PP. It was isolated for the first time due to the oxidation process of nicotine that forms nicotinic acid and also called vitamin B3, because it is the third vitamin of the B complex to be discovered.

Its chemical formula is C₆H₅NO₂, it is hydrosoluble and forms part of the B complex. It acts in cellular metabolism as part of the NAD and NADP coenzyme. It is absorbed by passive diffusion, it is not stored and the excess is eliminated through the urine.

To highlight: German scientists demonstrated that nicotinic acid is present in yeast and rice polishing (1) . There he was isolated with the biochemist Casimir Funk (2) in 1912, while trying to find a cure for another disease known as beriberi (eating disorder caused by thiamine deficiency).

Another form of niacin is nicotinamide, the main form circulating in the blood and it is transported to the tissues to intervene in different metabolic processes, according to the needs of the cells (3) .

Note: It is also used by the body to produce the coenzymes nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD) (4) and nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate (NADP) (5) .

Niacin Characteristics

As a member of the complex, it has characteristics that define this group of vitamins . Next we will mention those of niacin:

It is a type of vitamin B

The B complex is a group of vitamins, which has the benefits of increasing cellular energy, analgesic effect against neuropathic pain and contributes to the prevention of pernicious anemia, because it helps the formation of red blood cells in the body, among others. Niacin makes up this vitamin complex.

It is water soluble

It is characterized in this way because it dissolves in water, so it can be transferred to the water used to wash or cook food. Many foods rich in this type of vitamin do not provide, at the end of cooking, the same amount that they initially contained.

The body produces it in tryptophan

Tryptophan is an amino acid necessary for normal growth in infants and for the production and maintenance of the body’s proteins, muscles, enzymes, and neurotransmitters .

It is an essential amino acid. This means that the body cannot produce it, so it must be obtained from the diet.

To highlight: The liver can synthesize niacin from this essential amino acid, but the process is very inefficient; 60 mg of tryptophan is required to synthesize 1 mg of niacin.

Some foods contain it

Vitamin B3 is present in the following foods: lean meats, fish, dried fruits (walnuts), fruits and vegetables, chicken, dairy products, eggs, cereals, brewer’s yeast , wheat germ, and bread.

These contain a sufficient amount of vitamin B3 to meet the minimum amounts of daily intake.

Can be found as a supplement

Niacin is found synthesized in multivitamin and multimineral supplements. It is also available in B-complex dietary supplements and supplements that contain only niacin.

The two main forms of niacin in dietary supplements are nicotinic acid and nicotinamide. Niacin (in the form of nicotinic acid) is also available as a prescription medication used to treat high blood cholesterol levels.

It should be consumed on a regular basis

The recommended daily allowance for niacin in adult men is 16 mg NE, 14 mg NE in adult women, 18 mg NE in pregnant women, and 17 mg NE in lactating women.

Niacin is taken by mouth to prevent vitamin B3 deficiency, possibly due to poor nutrition, and for conditions associated with vitamin B3 deficiency such as pellagra (niacin deficiency disease).

Noteworthy: Also taken by mouth to treat schizophrenia, hallucinations due to drugs, Alzheimer’s disease, and age-related loss of thinking ability, chronic brain syndrome, muscle cramps, depression, and dizziness.

It is necessary to maintain healthy cells

Niacin helps protect skin cells from sun damage. Some research suggests that the use of this vitamin can prevent various types of cancer, including skin cancer.

Its deficiency generates health disorders

Among the various consequences of vitamin B3 deficiency is pellagra, a disease associated with nutrition that offers low levels of niacin and/or tryptophan, resulting in changes in the skin, gastrointestinal tract, and nervous system.

Note: The classic triad of symptoms includes dermatitis, diarrhea and dementia, which can cause death.

Functions of niacin in the body

As the study of vitamin B3 has deepened, new beneficial applications have been found. Among the most relevant we have:

Contributes to the functioning of the nervous system

In the nervous system, the joint action of niacin and other vitamins from the same complex, such as riboflavin or pyridoxine , allow the proper functioning of this system, increasing brain function.

Note: In some diseases such as schizophrenia, controlled intake of vitamin B3 is recommended, as it helps to repair and undo the damage caused to the brain.

On the other hand, it is estimated that the consumption of niacin may be adequate in some Alzheimer’s processes, although the results are not conclusive.

Increases brain function

According to a study in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry , and which has been carried out mainly by researchers from the Rush University Medical Center in Chicago , they determined that a diet rich in niacin, especially when it is produced from natural sources, May reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and age-associated cognitive decline.

Prevents heart disease and circulatory system

The presence of niacin in the body reduces the risk of cholesterol accumulation in the arteries. This results in the prevention of heart disease and circulatory system.

Note: A combined supplementation between niacin and statins is recommended to reduce the risk of these diseases.

Nicotinic acid is a lipid-lowering agent. Nicotinic acid therapy increases high density cholesterol (HDL) concentrations, decreasing serum lipoprotein concentrations (6) . All these changes in the blood lipid profile are considered cardio-protective.

Regulates triglyceride levels

Another possible treatment for high triglycerides is niacin, as it is a nutrient that we can find in foods such as peas, fish, or nuts.

To highlight: In the treatment of triglycerides, supplementation with high doses of about 1,500 mg/day or more is used, which are capable of reducing triglyceride levels by up to 40%, and increasing cholesterol to the same extent. HDL.

This can be more or less effective depending on personal genetics, with people being more sensitive to supplementation with this substance. It should be noted that megadoses of this vitamin must be supervised by a doctor.

controls cholesterol

The presence of niacin in the body reduces the risk of cholesterol accumulation in the arteries, increasing the vasodilator function of the blood vessels, contributing to the reduction of blood pressure, guaranteeing the proper functioning of the circulatory system.

Controls blood sugar levels

Vitamin PP guarantees stable blood glucose levels. For this reason, niacin contributes to the treatment of type I diabetes.

In this sense, evidence from in vitro and animal research indicates that a high level of vitamin B3 protects pancreatic cells that produce insulin against inflammatory white blood cells or reactive oxygen species.

This is how nicotinamide could help delay the onset of insulin dependence in people with type I diabetes.

Contributes to the functioning of the digestive system

Niacin aids in the normal functioning of the human digestive system, stimulating a healthy appetite.

To highlight: According to a study carried out by Dr. Rafael Pila Pérez, titled Pellagra: ancient and current disease, “The digestive system is affected by the disease causing loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, dyspepsia and abdominal pain. Diarrhea, gastritis, decreased duodenal enzymes and achlorhydria occur in 50% of cases” (8) .

Let’s remember that the main disease caused by severe niacin deficiency is pellagra.

Eliminates toxins

The organism, having an efficient circulatory system, with excellent lipid levels thanks to a correct consumption of niacin through food, guarantees that the same circulatory system, through the renal tracts, correctly fulfills the detoxification of the blood from waste from the body. organic metabolism.

Convert food into energy

All the B complex vitamins are directly related to energy production.

Vitamin B3 participates in the metabolism of carbohydrates, proteins and fats as well as in the growth and functioning of the nervous system . Through its participation in the energy cycle of carbohydrates, it facilitates their conversion into energy, which is essential for every athlete.

Note: Athletes, due to their more intense physical activity, need a greater nutritional contribution than people with a more sedentary lifestyle.

Strengthens skin health

An additional function of this nutrient is the strengthening of the skin system, since it prevents the formation of skin conditions.

Niacin helps protect cells from sun damage and some research suggests that the use of this vitamin can prevent various types of cancer, including skin cancer.

How to consume niacin?

There are two ways to get niacin. Here we mention them:

in food

Some good sources of vitamin B3 are yeast, meat, oily fish, cereals, legumes and seeds. Milk, green leafy vegetables, coffee, and tea provide lower doses of niacin.

Note: In plants, especially in mature cereal grains such as corn and wheat, vitamin B3 may be bound to sugar molecules in the form of glycosides, which significantly decreases its bioavailability.

In supplements under medical prescription

Although it is true that in cases of vitamin B3 deficiency in the body it is necessary to resort to the use of supplements for its compensation, the recommendation is that it be done under medical supervision.

When taken as a supplement, niacin is often found in combination with other B vitamins.

Note: It is important to mention that the intake of niacin in higher than recommended doses can cause side effects and also this vitamin interacts with other medications.

For example, both clonidine and niacin lower blood pressure. Taking niacin with clonidine might lower your blood pressure too much. That is why before starting its consumption as a supplement, it is recommended to consult with a specialist doctor.

Key takeaways

  • Niacin is an essential element belonging to the B complex group of vitamins. It is also called vitamin B3, nicotinic acid or vitamin PP. It acts in the cellular metabolism forming part of the coenzyme NAD and NADP. It is absorbed by passive diffusion, it is not stored and the excess is eliminated through the urine.
  • Niacin contributes to the functioning of the nervous system, increases brain function, prevents heart and circulatory system diseases, controls cholesterol, regulates triglyceride and blood sugar levels, eliminates toxins, strengthens skin health, among others. Benefits.
  • Niacin can be consumed through foods such as yeast, meat, oily fish, cereals, legumes, and seeds. On the other hand, milk, green leafy vegetables, coffee, and tea provide lower doses of niacin.
  • Another way to consume niacin is through supplements, but it is important to note that this can only be done under the recommendation and supervision of a doctor, since niacin in doses higher than recommended can cause side effects and also has interaction with other drugs.

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