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Vitamin B3 (niacin)

Like the other B complex vitamins, vitamin B3 is important for energy production.

What are its health benefits?

Vitamin B3 is also known as niacin. “Niacin” refers to several forms of vitamin B3. Nicotinic acid, the most common form of vitamin B3, is proven to help lower cholesterol over time.

This B vitamin is vital for:

  • Proper circulation
  • Healthy skin
  • Nervous system function
  • Cell respiration (the process of oxidising food molecules, like glucose, to carbon dioxide and water)
  • The normal secretion of bile and stomach fluids
  • For the synthesis of sex hormones, such as oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone
  • The metabolism of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins
  • It’s also used to synthesise starch that can be stored in muscles and the liver for eventual use as an energy source.

Do you have a deficiency?

Signs of a B3 deficiency include:

  • Skin irritations
  • Appetite loss
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • A loss of appetite
  • Digestive issues

Pellagra, characterised by dermatitis (inflammation of the skin), diarrhoea and dementia, is the classic niacin deficiency disease.

If you have diabetes, liver disease, or peptic ulcers be especially careful with niacin supplementation.

Find it in these foods

Vitamin B3 is water-soluble, which means that it’s not stored in the body. You need to eat foods rich in niacin every day. These include:

  • Lean meat
  • Leafy green vegetables
  • Yeast
  • Fish (salmon, tuna)
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Liver
  • Grains (brown rice, barley)

If you aren’t getting enough of it through your diet, vitamin B3 supplements are available at Clicks pharmacies.

Recommended dietary allowance (RDA)

Consult with your Clicks pharmacist first regarding the right dosage of daily oral supplements to make up for a vitamin B3 deficiency.

The general guidelines for the recommended daily dosage, according to your age group, is:

  • Children: between 2-16mg, depending on age
  • Men: 16mg
  • Women: 14mg
  • Women (pregnant): 18mg
  • Women (breastfeeding): 17mg
  • Maximum daily intake for adults of all ages: 35mg

Know the overdose risks

It’s difficult to get too much niacin from foods sources, but you can over-supplement.

Side effects of excessive use include:

  • Skin flushes
  • Itching
  • Liver damage
  • Gout
  • Abnormal heart rhythms
  • Worsening of stomach ulcers

Ensure you discuss dietary supplementation with your Clicks pharmacist to avoid the potential for side effects and adverse interactions with medications.

The accuracy of this information was checked and approved by Clicks' pharmacist Waheed Abdurahman in February 2015