What Is Niacin, Vitamin B3?
By Tyler Woodward
Niacin is one of the eight B-Vitamins, but is technically not actually a vitamin. Similar to Vitamin D, niacin can be produced from within the body from the amino acid tryptophan.
- Types Of Niacin
- Discovery Of Niacin
- Functions Of Niacin
- Niacin Deficiency
- Best Dietary Sources Of Niacin
Types Of Niacin:
Niacin actually comes in a variety of forms including:
- Niacin/Nicotinic Acid
- Niacinamide/ Nicotinamide
- Nicotinamide Riboside
Niacin is also one of the precursors NAD+ (nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide) and NADP+ (nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate) . NAD+ and NADP+ are essential energy carriers similar to ATP and are essential molecules in the metabolism of glucose, fat, amino acids and alcohol.
Discovery Of Niacin:
Niacin was discovered in the pursuit of curing the disease Pellagra. Pellagra was a widespread disease that became popular upon the introduction of corn in Europe 1700s. Pellagra became a very serious condition affecting thousands of people across Europe, so much so that a special hospital in Italy was made just for Pellagra in 1774.
Pellagra is an extremely dangerous diseases resulting in the 4 D’s:
Pellagra became widespread in the US around the 1900s, following a shift in the method used to mill corn. The change from using coarsely ground to finely ground grain, resulted in a large portion of the vitamins being removed.
Niacin was originally discovered by Casimir Funk who also discovered Thiamin (Vitamin B1), but Funk disregarded Niacin as it did not cure Beriberi which was his intention. In 1915 Joseph Goldberger found what he would deem the “P-P Factor” or Pellagra preventive factor in milk and meat. Although it niacin itself wasn’t isolated until 1937 by American biochemist Conrad Arnold Evehje.
Read More: Does Your Multivitamin Suck?
Functions of Niacin:
Niacin & Energy
As precursors to NAD+ and NADPH are essential to all three of the main energy production pathways in our cells including glucose, fatty acids & amino acids. As a result, your cell's energy production will be limited by the amount of niacin available or its ability to synthesize niacin from tryptophan.
Niacin & The Brain
Niacin is a precursor to a number of neurotransmitters in the brain and is also used to release all of the neurotransmitters in the brain. Niacin status (whether you are deficient in it) has also been linked to three neurodegenerative diseases including:
- Parkinson’s Disease
- Alzheimer’s Disease
- Huntington’s Disease
Additionally, niacin deficiency has been linked to multiple mental health conditions like depression & schizophrenia .
Niacin & The Skin
Niacin and its derivative NAD+ & NADP+ function similarly to an antioxidant, helping to fight oxidative stress. The sun and its radiation induce a form of oxidative stress onto your skin in which you must recover from to heal your skin. By increasing your supply of niacin you increase the amount of antioxidants and help to prevent the reduction of glutathione, your body’s primary antioxidant.
In fact, one study found that nicotinamide (the other form of Niacin) was able to reduce the occurrence of skin cancer.
Niacin & The Intestines
Niacin and its derivatives are used to fuel the rapid regeneration of the cells that occur in the intestinal tract. The cells in the intestinal wall must regenerate constantly due to being exposed to food among other toxins that we consume. If these cells are not able to regenerate fast enough our ability to absorb nutrients from our food will be severely hindered.
Niacin & Blood Markers
Niacin has been shown repeatedly in higher doses to increase HDL cholesterol, the so-called “good cholesterol” and decrease LDL cholesterol, the “bad cholesterol”. While describing either form of cholesterol as either good or bad is a drastic oversimplification, it’s important that your ratio of HDL:LDL cholesterol remains relatively balanced or it can serve as a warning sign of inflammation, hypothyroidism among other symptoms.
Read More: Everything You Need To Know About Vitamin B1 (Thiamin)
Who Is At Risk Of A Niacin Deficiency?:
The people most likely to deficient in niacin are people who mostly consume corn, male alcoholics, those with anorexia nervosa, AIDS, Cancer, or anyone with malabsorption disorders like Crohn's Disease.
Best Sources Of Niacin:
Niacin is found in a number of foods including:
- Organ Meats - Particularly Liver
- Chicken Breasts
- Ground Beef
Additionally, many grains and seeds contain relatively high levels of niacin, but not in a bioavailable (absorbable) form. In order to make the niacin in these grains more absorbable a number of processes have been used:
- Corn can be processed with lime (alkalinized)
- Seeds can be sprouted
- Coffee can be roasted, the darker the roast the more niacin available
- The fermentation process involved in making sourdough
Consuming enough niacin daily is an essential piece in any healthy diet, so we decided to make it easy on ourselves and include it in our Daily B supplement. With 16mgs of Niacinamide included in each dose, Daily B ensures that you're getting enough Niacin and all 7 other B vitamins, so you don't have to worry about it. Click here to try out Daily B risk-free today!
My goal in writing this article, as always, is to provide you with logically-based principles that you can use to form your own conclusions regarding any information you may come across within this subject. I really hope you found this article interesting and if you have anything to add to this article, or any comments or criticism, feel free to reach out to me on our facebook groups or on Instagram @tylerwoodward_fit. Also, please feel free to share this article with anyone that might be interested.
Thanks for reading!
Until next time… be good