B vitamins are thiamin (vitamin B1), riboflavin (vitamin B2), niacin (vitamin B3), pantothenic acid, vitamin B6, folic acid and vitamin B12. They all play different and important roles in the body, from healthy blood to making DNA.
Supporting research & information
Niacin and niacinamide are forms of Vitamin B3. Vitamin B3 is found in many foods including yeast, meat, fish, milk, eggs, green vegetables, beans, and cereal grains. Niacin and niacinamide are also found in many vitamin B complex supplements with other B vitamins.
Niacin or niacinamide is used for preventing vitamin B3 deficiency and related conditions such as pellagra. Each of these forms of vitamin B3 is used for schizophrenia, hallucinations due to drugs, Alzheimer’s disease and age-related loss of thinking skills, chronic brain syndrome, depression, motion sickness, alcohol dependence, and fluid collection (edema).
Some people use niacin or niacinamide for acne, leprosy, attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), memory loss, arthritis, preventing premenstrual headache, improving digestion, protecting against toxins and pollutants, reducing the effects of aging, lowering blood pressure, improving circulation, promoting relaxation, improving orgasm, and preventing cataracts.
Niacin, also known as vitamin B3, is an important nutrient. In fact, every part of your body needs it to function properly.
As a supplement, niacin may help lower cholesterol, ease arthritis and boost brain function, among other benefits.
Niacin is one of the eight B-vitamins, and it's also called vitamin B3.
There are two main chemical forms and each has different effects on the body. Both forms are found in foods as well as supplements.
Nicotinic acid: As a supplement, nicotinic acid is the form of niacin that's used to treat high cholesterol and heart disease (1).
Niacinamide or nicotinamide: Unlike nicotinic acid, niacinamide doesn't lower cholesterol. However, it can help treat type 1 diabetes, some skin conditions and schizophrenia (2).
Niacin is water-soluble, so your body doesn't store it. This also means that your body can excrete excess amounts of the vitamin if it's not needed.
Your body gets niacin through food, but also makes it from the amino acid tryptophan.
BOTTOM LINE:Niacin is one of eight water-soluble B vitamins. It's also known as nicotinic acid, niacinamide and nicotinamide.
How Does Niacin Work?
As with all of the B vitamins, niacin helps convert food into energy by helping enzymes do their job.
Specifically, niacin is a major component of NAD and NADP, two coenzymes that are involved in cellular metabolism.
Furthermore, it plays a role in cell signaling and making and repairing DNA, in addition to acting as an antioxidant (3).
You can get a sense of what a nutrient does by looking at what happens when you're deficient.
These are some of the symptoms of niacin deficiency:
- Memory loss and mental confusion
- Skin problems
That being said, deficiency is very rare in most Western countries.
Boosts Brain Function
Your brain needs niacin, as a part of the coenzymes NAD and NADP, to get energy and function properly.
In fact, brain fog and even psychiatric symptoms have been associated with niacin deficiency (15).
Some types of schizophrenia can be treated with niacin, as it helps undo the damage to brain cells that occurs as a result of deficiency (16).
And preliminary research shows that it could also help keep the brain healthy in cases of Alzheimer's disease. However, results have been mixed (17, 18).
Are there interactions with other medications?
Niacin can cause flushing and itchiness. Consuming alcohol along with niacin might make the flushing and itching worse. There is also some concern that consuming alcohol with niacin might increase the chance of having liver damage.
Allopurinol (Zyloprim) is used to treat gout. Taking large doses of niacin might worsen gout and decrease the effectiveness of allopurinol (Zyloprim).
Carbamazepine (Tegretol) is broken down by the body. There is some concern that niacinamide might decrease how fast the body breaks down carbamazepine (Tegretol). But there is not enough information to know if this is important.
Clonidine and niacin both lower blood pressure. Taking niacin with clonidine might cause your blood pressure to become too low.
Medications for diabetes (Antidiabetes drugs)
Long-term use of niacin and niacinamide might increase blood sugar. By increasing blood sugar, niacin and niacinamide might decrease the effectiveness of diabetes medications. Monitor your blood sugar closely. The dose of your diabetes medication might need to be changed.
Some medications used for diabetes include glimepiride (Amaryl), glyburide (DiaBeta, Glynase PresTab, Micronase), insulin, pioglitazone (Actos), rosiglitazone (Avandia), metformin (Glucophage), nateglinide (Starlix), repaglinide (Prandin), chlorpropamide (Diabinese), glipizide (Glucotrol), tolbutamide (Orinase), and others.
Medications used for lowering cholesterol (Bile acid sequestrants)
Some medications for lowering cholesterol called bile acid sequestrants can decrease how much niacin or niacinamide the body absorbs. This might reduce the effectiveness of niacin or niacinamide. Take niacin or niacinamide and the medications at least 4-6 hours apart.
Some of these medications used for lowering cholesterol include cholestyramine (Questran) and colestipol (Colestid).
Medications used for lowering cholesterol (Statins)
Niacin can adversely affect the muscles. Some medications used for lowering cholesterol called statins can also affect the muscles. Taking niacin along with these medications might increase the risk of muscle problems.
Some of these medications used for high cholesterol include rosuvastatin (Crestor), atorvastatin (Lipitor), lovastatin (Mevacor), pravastatin (Pravachol), fluvastatin (Lescol), and simvastatin (Zocor).
Primidone (Mysoline) is broken down by the body. There is some concern that niacinamide might decrease how fast the body breaks down primidone (Mysoline). But there is not enough information to know if this is important.
Probenecid is used to treat gout. Taking large doses of niacin might worsen gout and decrease the effectiveness of probenecid.
Sulfinpyrazone (Anturane) is used to treat gout. Taking large doses of niacin might worsen gout and decrease the effectiveness of sulfinpyrazone (Anturane).
Minor - Be watchful with this combination.
Aspirin is often used with niacin to reduce the flushing caused by niacin. Taking high doses of aspirin might decrease how fast the body gets rid of niacin. This could cause there to be too much niacin in the body and possibly lead to side effects. But the low doses of aspirin most commonly used for niacin-related flushing don't seem to be a problem.
Nicotine patch (Transdermal nicotine)
Niacin can sometimes cause flushing and dizziness. The nicotine patch can also cause flushing and dizziness. Taking niacin or niacinamide and using a nicotine patch can increase the possibility of becoming flushed and dizzy.