Vitamin B3 is also known in different forms as Niacin, Nicotinic Acid, Nicotinamide and Nicinamide. When the vitamin was first discovered it was called nicotinic acid but there was a concern that it would be associated with nicotine in cigarettes, leading to the false assumption that somehow smoking might provide you with nutrients. It was decided to call it Niacin instead.
It works with other nutrients, particularly B1, B2, B5, B6 and biotin to break the carbohydrates, fats, and proteins in food down into energy. B3 itself is essential in this process and it goes further by aiding in the production of hydrochloric acid in the stomach to aid the digestion of food. It is actually involved in over 40 metabolic functions which shows how important it is in our levels of energy on a daily basis.
We are at the mercy of toxins and harmful chemicals in the body that need to be eliminated efficiently to prevent build up and illness. B3 works with the body and other nutrients to achieve this. Additionally when we are under attack from bacteria and viruses that we have not managed to eliminate fast enough, B3 will also assist in the antioxidant processes within the body to help us heal faster.
Enzymes in the body are unique substances that speed up chemical reactions in the body. They are responsible for producing the energy we need, the breakdown of dietary fats, the production of certain hormones and cholesterol. In addition they are needed for the processing of genetic material (DNA) and the growth and healthy maturing of cells. B3 is essential for the efficiency of many of these enzymes.
One of the areas that B3 is used therapeutically is in the lowering of cholesterol. B3 actually lowers LDL (lousy cholesterol) and raises HDL (healthy cholesterol). In tests, supplemented B3 proved more effective than many of the normal cholesterol lowering drugs although there have been instances of side effects in the form of excessive flushing. To prevent this you can take time release tablets and also begin on a low dose, gradually building up to the therapeutic level.
High dosage of any vitamin therapy should only be undertaken with the supervision of a medical professional and there are a number of different forms of B3 supplementation that can be used to minimise side effects whilst still acting to reduce LDL and raise HDL.
Niacin improves circulation by relaxing arteries and veins. This benefits sufferers of Raynaud’s disease and other circulatory problems such as varicose veins. In Raynaud’s the worst symptom is the numbness and pain in the hands and feet in cold weather. Niacin increases blood flow to them reducing the symptoms. People who suffer from muscle cramps may also be obtaining too little B3.
It is rare in the Western world for anyone to be deficient in Niacin. But, since B3 in its various forms has been shown to help improve symptoms of some of our most common ailments it does pose the question as to whether we are actually obtaining sufficient of the vitamin from our diet or not. If we do, are our digestive systems not working efficiently enough to process and utilise it?
Normally the body manages to absorb enough niacin from our daily diet to accomplish its tasks. Apart from digestion it is needed to keep the skin and nerves healthy and to help stabilise blood sugar levels. They body can also convert niacin from tryptophan the amino acid found in eggs, milk, poultry and fish which means that there is a wide range of foods available to us that provide the vitamin. It reacts with tryptophan to form serotonin and melatonin in the brain, both of which affect our moods and general feeling of well- being.
B3 has also been shown to relieve acne, reduce migraines, IBS symptoms, gout, menstrual problems, multiple sclerosis, Osteoarthritis, vertigo, memory loss and gastric problems.
For those of us interested in maintaining our brain health and avoiding dementia conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, B3 could be an important ally as we get older. Here is a quite useful guide to the scientific studies into specific health problems. http://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements/niacin–niacinamide/evidence/hrb-20059838
With a healthy balanced diet it is unlikely that a deficiency will develop but as we get older our digestive system is not as efficient as it should be and here are some of the symptoms to keep an eye on. General weakness or muscle weakness, depressed appetite, skin infections and digestive problems.
Where to find a good source of B3 in food.
B3 is water soluble and therefore needs to be replenished daily from your diet it is found in liver, chicken, Turkey, salmon, swordfish, tuna, venison, eggs, cheese and milk. Plant sources include green leafy vegetables such as Asparagus, broccoli, carrots, dates, mushrooms, peanuts, potatoes, tomatoes, spinach, sunflower seeds and wholegrains.
Whilst I always recommend that you look to your diet first before supplements, there are times in our lives when we need a little more help. Always buy high quality supplements. In the case of B3 look for time release and start on a low dose and build up to the recommended dose over a week or ten days to help prevent flushing. Many cheaper versions are mainly filler and may not provide you with the dosage of the specific nutrient you require.
If you are suffering from Raynaud’s disease, arthritis, elevated LDL cholesterol levels or depression you may find that taking a B-complex supplement of help. There is sufficient B3 in most quality supplements to augment the dietary B3. Brewer’s yeast is a good source of all the B vitamins you can take in tablet form.
This week I will update and post the article on cholesterol. This substance is essential in the body for a number of vital functions including the production of our hormones and our brain function. It has been demonised for the last twenty years and resulted in the Fat Free fad that swept the western world. Millions gave up eating eggs and healthy fats resulting in the White Fat diet of today which is so harmful.
This is one of the recipes that supplies a good amount of all the B-Vitamins and is easy to make and delicious.
You will find the other minerals and vitamins in this series here.
I hope you have found useful and if you have any questions please do not hesitate to ask.