Overview

Niacin is a form of vitamin B3. It is found in foods such as yeast, meat, fish, milk, eggs, green vegetables, and cereal grains. Niacin is also produced in the body from tryptophan, which is found in protein-containing food. When taken as a supplement, niacin is often found in combination with other B vitamins.

Do not confuse niacin with NADH, niacinamide, inositol nicotinate, IP-6, or tryptophan. See the separate listings for these topics.

Prescription forms of niacin are approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for high cholesterol and to increase levels of a specific type of good cholesterol, known as HDL. Niacin supplements and prescription products are also taken by mouth for preventing vitamin B3 deficiency and related conditions such as pellagra.

How does it work ?

Niacin is absorbed by the body when dissolved in water and taken by mouth. It is converted to niacinamide if taken in amounts greater than what is needed by the body.

Niacin is required for the proper function of fats and sugars in the body and to maintain healthy cells. At high doses, niacin might help people with heart disease because of its beneficial effects on clotting. It may also improve levels of a certain type of fat called triglycerides in the blood.

Niacin deficiency can cause a condition called pellagra, which causes skin irritation, diarrhea, and dementia. Pellagra was common in the early twentieth century, but is less common now, since some foods containing flour are now fortified with niacin. Pellagra has been virtually eliminated in western culture.

People with poor diet, alcoholism, and some types of slow-growing tumors called carcinoid tumors might be at risk for niacin deficiency.
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