Welcome to the next in the series on nutrients the body needs to be health and today another B Vitamin that works with other B Vitamins but also has its own role to play in the body.
Vitamin B3 is also known in different forms as Niacin, Nicotinic Acid, Nicotinamide and Nicinamide.
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.
Breaking down food for energy.
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.
Detox and anti-oxidant assistance
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.
Supporting enzymes in the body.
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.
Maintaining a healthy cholesterol balance
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.
B3 has also been shown to relieve acne, reduce migraines, IBS symptoms, gout, menstrual problems, multiple sclerosis, Osteoarthritis, vertigo, memory loss and gastric problems.
Deficiency of 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?
One of the diseases associated with a deficiency of Vitamin B3 is Pellegra. It is a multi-symptomatic illness which includies inflamed skin, usually where it has been exposed to sunlight, which becomes stiff, much darker and peels off. There may also be sores in the mouth, diarrhea and in extreme cases the onset of dementia.
There are two kinds of Pellegra.. one which is the primary form of the disease is a result of a deficiency in both niacin and tryptophan in the diet. I will cover tryptophan later in the series. The second form of the disease is when the body is unable to absorb Vitamin B from the diet and this is often the result of alcoholism or long term gastric problems which results in the malabsorption of most nutrients.
If the disease is identified then treatment is with either B3- Niacin or in tis nicotinamide form in supplements. Diet also needs to be improved to include all the B vitamins but particular B3. The disease is more common in developing countries where diet is very restricted due to famine or lack of varied diet.
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.
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, lamb, beef, 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 such as wholegrain rice, pasta, cereals and breads..
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 (getting red in the face after taking and feeling flushed). 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.
I hope that you have found this useful.. more about B vitamins next week. In the meantime you can check out the others in the series so far and all the other health column posts:
©Sally Cronin Just Food for Health 1999- 2018
A little bit about me nutritionally.
A little about me from a nutritional perspective. Although I write a lot of fiction, I actually wrote my first two books on health, the first one, Size Matters, a weight loss programme 20 years ago. I qualified as a nutritional therapist and practiced in Ireland and the UK as well as being a consultant for radio. My first centre was in Ireland, the Cronin Diet Advisory Centre and my second book, Just Food for Health was written as my client’s workbook. Here are my health books including a men’s health manual and my anti-aging book.
All available in Ebook from: http://www.amazon.com/Sally-Cronin/e/B0096REZM2
And Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Sally-Georgina-Cronin/e/B003B7O0T6
Comprehensive guide to the body, and the major organs and the nutrients needed to be healthy 360 pages, A4: http://www.moyhill.com/html/just_food_for_health.html
Thank you for dropping in and if you have any questions fire away.. If you would like to as a private question then my email is firstname.lastname@example.org. I am no longer in practice and only too pleased to help in any way I can. thanks Sally