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Health Benefits of Niacin (Vitamin B3) in the Diet


You may have been hearing in the news recently that vegemite might be able to prevent miscarriage.

Australian researchers in Sydney have published work in the New England Journal of Medicine, confirming a link between niacin (vitamin B3) deficiency and an increased risk of miscarriage and birth defects… In the developing fetus, a low B3 level leads to a deficiency in NAD or Nicotinamide Adenine Dinucleotide, a critical molecule in living cells. NAD synthesis is needed for cells energy production, communication and DNA repair…Vitamin B3 is found in meat, vegetables and yes, in vegemite.’

(Women’s Health Melbourne 2017)

What Other Health Benefits Exist for a Diet with Adequate Vitamin B3 (Niacin)?

For starters, Qin et al. (2017) reveal in their study that improved cognitive function in midlife may result from a higher intake of B Vitamins in young adulthood.

Eintenmiller et al.  (2008) describe that ‘marginal niacin deficiency’ leads to: insomnia, decreased appetite, weight loss, strength loss, sore tongue, sore mouth, indigestion, abdominal pain, burning sensations, vertigo, headaches, numbness, nervousness, mental confusion, distractedness, forgetfulness, and apprehension. ‘Frank niacin deficiency’ (Eitenmiller et al. 2008) can result in: dermatosis, dementia, and diarrhoea.

According to Eintenmiller et al., niacin is well known to lower serum cholesterol; elevating good cholesterol HDL levels, lowering triglyceride levels, and somewhat lessening bad cholesterol LDL levels (WebMD, n. d.). WebMD (n. d.) also convey that niacin prevents cardiovascular risks such as atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), and possibly even prevention of a second heart attack for those that have already had one heart attack.

Medline Plus (2016) also convey that niacin can be taken orally for a range of conditions (with varying effectiveness from ‘possibly’ to ‘insufficient evidence’), such as:

  • Muscle spasms
  • Depression
  • Motion sickness
  • Oedema
  • Acne
  • Protection from toxins or pollutants
  • Preventing premenstrual headaches
  • Arthritis
  • Lowering blood pressure
  • Promoting relaxation

What is Niacin?

Niacin is a form of B3 that is generated via tryptophan in protein-containing foods (MedlinePlus n. d.).

How Much Niacin do We Supposedly Need?

WebMD indicate:

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

(2017)

Dietary Sources of Niacin can include:

  • Poultry
  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Green vegetables
  • Other Meat
  • Most people apparently get adequate niacin from dietary sources; however, some people may be prescribed niacin supplements from their doctors

Risks of Overdose

WebMD (n. d.) convey that some of the risks of taking niacin can be:

  • Liver problems
  • Stomach ulcers
  • Glucose level alterations
  • Muscle damage
  • Low blood pressure
  • Changes to heart rhythm
  • And other health issues

It is essential that any person seek medical advice from a medical officer/doctor before utilising niacin supplements, and that no person tries to treat their own high cholesterol levels independently using over-the-counter niacin supplements (WebMD 2017).

Zeratsky (2017) and Weil (2017)  indicates that some signs of niacin overdose can involve:

  • Skin flushes, itching
  • Rapid heartbeat, diziness, nervousness
  • Nausea and vomiting, abdominal pain and cramping, diarrhoea
  • Gout
  • Liver toxicity,
  • Worsening of stomach ulcers

If you think you may have overdosed, seek medical attention immediately.

Interactions:

  • Alcohol (ethanol)
  • Allopurinol
  • Clonidine
  • Antidiabetes medications
  • Drugs for lowering blood pressure (bile acid sequestrants)
  • Statins
  • Probenecid
  • Sulfinpyrazone
  • Gemfibrozil
  • Aspirin
  • Nicotine patches
  • Beta-carotene
  • Chromium
  • Herbs and supplements that may affect the liver or blood pressure or blood clotting
  • Kombucha tea
  • Selenium
  • Tryptophan
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin E
  • Zinc
  • Hot drinks may exacerbate flushing and itching

For more information or elaboration on these interactions, and for information regarding other potential precautions and interactions, please visit https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/natural/924.html or consult a qualified health professional.

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