Vitamin B-3 (Niacin): Overview
Vitamin B-3 (a.k.a. niacin) is one of the B-complex vitamins which also includes biotin, choline, folic acid, inositol, vitamin B-1, vitamin B-3, vitamin B-5, vitamin B-6 and vitamin B-12. Niacin can be found in red meat, poultry, fish, nuts, and whole grains.
Vitamin B-3 is involved in a wide variety of biological processes, including the production of energy, and the metabolism of fatty acids, cholesterol and other substances. Niacin is a primary precursor for the energizing compound NADH. Niacin can be found in many cholesterol support formulas, some brain formulas, all multivitamins and B-complex supplements.
Types of Niacin: The Niacin Flush
Niacin supplements are available in several different forms. Niacin is the most common and most widely-studied form. Niacin supplements produce a harmless and temporary flushing reaction at first, which may last 45 minutes to an hour and is characterized by reddening and warming of the skin along with some mild itching. This effect is harmless and is due to a histamine release caused by the niacin. When niacin is used on a regular basis the flushing effect disappears after a few days, or when the dose is increased. The niacin flush is not harmful and is not an allergic reaction, in fact, many believe it to be good for the skin as it dramatically increases blood flow to skin increasing oxygenation and nutrient delivery. Niacin is the best form to use for cholesterol support.
Niacinamide is another form of niacin which has most of the same nutritional properties and does not produce a flushing effect, but is not as useful for cholesterol support.
Inositol hexanicotinate is another form of niacin in which it is bound to another B-vitamin, inositol. Inositol hexanicotinate is metabolized much more slowly than niacin and does not produce a flushing effect, but has not been shown to be as effective for cholesterol-support as niacin.
"No-flush niacin" or "Flush-free niacin" can refer to either time-release niacin, niacinamide, or inositol hexanicotinate. Check the product label to determine which form is used.
Niacin deficiency is uncommon. Most people take niacin for its positive impact on health rather than preventing deficiency. Though sufficient amounts of B-3 are consumed through a healthy diet, those that suffer from conditions such as alcoholism, malabsorption and cirrhosis are more likely to require supplementation to ensure adequate amounts for health.
Niacin's Health Benefits
One of the best-known uses of niacin supplements is to support healthy cholesterol levels. Studies have shown niacin to help lower LDL (bad) cholesterol levels while increasing HDL (good) cholesterol levels, while used as part of an overall approach to cholesterol management. The doses used for this purpose can be quite high, so users are advised to use niacin under a doctor's supervision is using it for cholesterol support. Niacin is also used to support memory and mood. Niacin is also needed for the release of histamines which are involved in the arousal response and orgasm.
Take niacin with a meal to reduce flushing and consider beginning with very small dose and increasing it incrementally. Consult your physician before using vitamin B-3 if you are currently taking any medications.