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Niacin: Vitamin B3

Niacin, vitamin B3, nicotinic acid all point to an organic compound that is found to be a pyridine derivative. It has the functional group carboxylic acid and a nicotinamide. Niacin acts as a precursor to several substances that are essential in the metabolic processes in cells. These include NADH, NAD, NAD+, and NADP. It is found to play a role in steroid hormone production that occurs in cells of the adrenal gland. The repair of DNA also needs niacin to push through. Xenochemicals in the body are removed by vitamin B3, niacin.

At first known to be vitamin PP, vitamin B3 got its name for being the third B-Vitamin discovered. It was also named niacin after several studies done by Conrad Elvehjem on nicotinic acid vitamin which needed to be differentiated from nicotine.

Vitamin B3, niacin can be synthesized by the body via the liver, through tryptophan, an amino acid. It takes around 60mg tryptophan to produce about a milligram of niacin. It can also be had from other sources such as various animal products that include chicken, beef, tuna, salmon, eggs, milk, liver, kidney, heart, leafy vegetables, carrots, asparagus, sweet potatoes, avocados, tomatoes, broccoli, nuts, legumes, mushrooms and brewer’s yeast.

Another use of niacin is seen in people with a high lipid profile. A huge dose of niacin can halt fat metabolism in those adipose cells, which in turn affects the levels of lipids in the body. When this happens, very-low-density-lipoproteins or VLDLs decrease in number, therefore affecting also a decrease in LDL or low-density-lipoproteins, which are also known as the bad cholesterol. Free fatty acid levels are also lowered in the blood leading to a decrease production and secretion of VLDL and cholesterol in liver cells. In turn, niacin also triggers an increase in the high-density-lipoproteins which are the good cholesterols. This may be a reason why vitamin B3 is good for patients who have an elevated risk of having a heart attack.

Very low levels of niacin can cause pellagra to occur, while just a slight decrease in its levels can lower down the tolerance to cold. These deficiencies often take place in vicinities where corn is eaten as staple food instead of rice. For normal functions to occur, the average human body needs to have a recommended daily allowance of about 2 to 16mg of niacin daily, even more for women with child or breastfeeding.

When a niacin deficiency is present, the natural course in order for it to go up to reach normal levels is to take niacin supplements. But sometimes, they need to take in large doses of niacin and therefore experiencing several conditions such as dyspepsia, dry skin, itching and flushing of the face, skin rashes, hepatic failure, cardiac arrhythmias and hyperglycemia. It can also cause birth defects in pregnant women therefore making it a contraindication. Extremely high doses of niacin can even lead to blindness.

Vitamin B3 niacin is one of the essential B-vitamins that the body needs to have in order to function well. Always make sure you have it in your body.