What Are the Benefits of Niacin?

Sunflower seeds are a natural source of niacin.
Salmon is a natural source of niacin.
Niacin and other B vitamins can help improve the functioning of the heart.
Legumes, like beans, contain niacin.
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  • Written By: Karyn Maier
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 14 November 2014
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Niacin, also known as nicotinic acid, is a water-soluble nutrient that belongs to the vitamin B family. As such, it is commonly referred to as vitamin B3. There are numerous health benefits of niacin, not the least of which is playing a key role in cellular metabolism since it is a building block of several enzymes and coenzymes. However, there are more niacin benefits to appreciate, such as contributing to the manufacture of adrenal hormones, producing energy from protein and carbohydrates, and repairing DNA.

One of the primary activities of niacin is to assist other B vitamins in metabolizing fats and converting carbohydrates into glucose to provide fuel for energy. In terms of intracellular metabolism, niacin in received by G protein-coupled receptors where it is converted into nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide and ultimately into nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate. These events are the metabolic pathways which enable cells to receive signals from each other and engage in enzymatic activity. Niacin is also required for normal nervous system functioning and for healthy hair, skin, and nails.

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Other health benefits of niacin include the regulation of cholesterol and serum triglyceride levels. In fact, there is sufficient evidence to suggest that niacin may be more effective at increasing HDL cholesterol (the “good” kind) than many prescription medications. However, supplementation without the supervision of a physician is not recommended. For one thing, long-term, high doses of niacin can damage the liver. For another, niacin increases levels of homocysteine, which has been linked to an increased risk of developing heart disease.

Some benefits of niacin come from another form of this nutrient—niacinamide. At least one preliminary study indicates that this form of niacin may improve symptoms associated with arthritis, as well as reducing the need for anti-inflammatory medications. Other studies show that niacinamide may help to reduce insulin resistance in diabetes type I. Additional studies suggest that niacin and its derivatives may play a role in preventing Alzheimer’s disease.

Although niacin is involved in the above processes and more, it is one of the essential nutrients. This means that the body is unable to synthesize this nutrient to an adequate degree to be rewarded with all of the benefits of niacin. Instead, it must be obtained from food sources and/or dietary supplements. However, the liver can manufacture small amounts of niacin from tryptophan, an amino acid found in proteins contained in milk, eggs, cheese, soybeans, and meat. Otherwise, the best natural sources of niacin include beef, beef liver and kidneys, poultry, salmon, legumes, beets, brewer’s yeast, peanuts, and sunflower seeds.

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anon330297
Post 5

Flush free niacin doesn't provide therapeutic or cholesterol benefits. Supplementing doesn't require a doctor, but what I do is I take 500mg niacin every other day, or at least a couple of times a week, but not every day. I take it at bedtime, or when I know I will be home for a couple of hours.

anon248942
Post 4

@anon154095: All of the Niacin tablets I have found do provide the "flush" warning and many brands are now "flush free".

anon154095
Post 3

I have started on Niacin having heard convincing evidence that it may help with my high cholesterol and other problems I have but I do think there should be a warning on the bottle about "Niacin Flush". It happened to me and I was seriously alarmed while it lasted and very, very relieved to find on the net that it is a perfectly normal reaction. Worth being aware of, I think.

sherlock87
Post 2

@afterall, I have also known vegetarians who have had benefits from taking a niacin supplement, although it is important to ensure that you balance supplements with a healthy diet, as many nutrients are absorbed best directly from food.

afterall
Post 1

Niacin is a vitamin that, like iron, many people believe vegetarians cannot get enough of in their diets. I do eat a vegetarian diet that I believe has sufficient levels, because I try to include things like legumes, eggs, cheese, and nuts on a daily basis. it is certainly possible to eat sufficient niacin without consuming meat.

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