Vitamin B3

Niacin (Vitamin B3), or its other form – niacinamide,  is one of the water-soluble vitamins, usually included in the Vitamin B Complex. Its main roles in our bodies are to aid in the metabolism of fats and to stabilize blood sugar.  Niacin is used therapeutically to reduce high cholesterol levels. Healthy men and women need about 15 mg of niacin per day.  Doses for children range from 2 – 16 mg/day according to age.  

People who may be at risk for deficiency include those who have intestinal problems, such as Inflammatory Bowel Disease or Irritable Bowel Syndrome.  Other people who may have higher requirements for Vitamin B3 include people who have diabetes, depression or osteoarthritis.

When taken as a supplement in the form of niacin, Vitamin B3 can cause an adverse reaction known as “flushing”.  The skin can become very red, hot, prickly or itchy, and the reaction, which is dose-dependent, may last for several hours.  The other form of Vitamin B3, niacinamide, does not cause this reaction.

Vitamin B3 interacts with a long list of medications and drugs, including:

  • alcohol
  • aspirin
  • oral anti-diabetics
  • medications for gout such as allopurinol
  • medications for high cholesterol such as statins
  • chemotherapy agents
  • medications for epilepsy

Niacin also reacts with a lengthy list of supplements, herbs and food, including:

  • chromium
  • zinc
  • kombucha tea
  • hot drinks (worsen the flushing effect)

Consult your MD, ND or pharmacist if you are on any of these types of medications before taking supplemental Vitamin B3.

The best food sources for niacin include chicken, tuna and mushrooms but it is found in many foods, such as milk, eggs, tomatoes, green vegetables, beans, and cereal grains.