Why Your Blood Needs Vitamin B3 (Niacin)

Why Your Blood Needs Vitamin B3

We spend a lot of time thinking about what we eat and drink, but often neglect to consider the importance of what’s going into our blood.

The human body relies on a whole host of vitamins to function well. Vitamin B3 is one of the most important ones. Not only is it good for cardiovascular health, but it also boosts immunity and contributes to healthy skin.

Vitamin B3 is necessary for the metabolism of glucose and other nutrients.

If you are deficient in vitamin B3, it can lead to skin problems and more serious conditions like peripheral neuropathy.

In this article, you will know why your blood needs vitamin B3 and the symptoms you might show if you don’t have enough in your diet.

What is vitamin B3 and what does it do in the blood?

Vitamin B3 is a water-soluble vitamin that helps to release energy from the foods we eat, repair DNA and contribute to the stress response.

Vitamin B3 plays a positive role in lowering bad cholesterol and triglyceride levels in the blood.

Commonly known as niacin, sufficient levels of vitamin B3 are typically met by eating a balanced diet.

A sufficient intake of vitamin B3 helps the body to:

  • Convert food into glucose used to produce energy
  • Use niacin as coenzyme in redox reactions
  • Use NAD as a substrate in non-redox reactions
  • Produce fatty acids and cholesterol
  • Repair DNA
  • Keep the nervous system functioning
  • Maintain normal skin and mucous membranes

Why vitamin B3 is good for your blood

Eating foods containing vitamin B3 is good for the blood. Here are the reasons why your blood needs vitamin B3.

Cardiovascular diseases

Studies has shown that high doses of vitamin B3 in the form of nicotinic acid reduces LDL cholesterol and triacylglycerol levels, and increases HDL cholesterol in people with stroke and heart attacks.

In addition, health experts do not recommend high doses of nicotinic acid for people taking a statin medication.

Your doctor should approve and supervise the use of very high doses of nicotinic acid to treat atherosclerosis.


Type 1 diabetes mellitus results from the autoimmune destruction of insulin-secreting beta-cells in the pancreas. There is evidence that vitamin B3 may prevent diabetes. Clinical trials are in progress to investigate the effect of this vitamin.


A large case-control study found that, increased consumption of niacin, along with antioxidant nutrients was found to decrease incidence of cancers of the mouth, throat and esophagus.

What foods provides vitamin B3?

Vitamin B3 occurs widely in nature. Most of the niacin obtained from food are found in:

  • Yeast
  • Liver
  • Lean meats
  • Salmon
  • Almonds
  • Peas
  • Potatoes
  • Peaches
  • Tomatoes

Milk and green leafy vegetables contribute lesser amounts of vitamin B3.

How much vitamin B3 do you need?

The amount of niacin you need in your blood depends on factors, such as age and gender.

Below are the average daily recommended amounts listed in milligrams of niacin equivalents (NE).

  • Birth to 6 months: 2 mg
  • Infants 7–12 months: 4 mg NE
  • Children 1–3 years: 6 mg NE
  • Children 4–8 years: 8 mg NE
  • Children 9–13 years: 12 mg NE
  • Teens 14–18 years: 14 mg NE
  • Adults 19+ years: 16 mg NE
  • Pregnant women: 18 mg NE
  • Breastfeeding women: 17 mg NE

The mg NE is used because your body can also make niacin from
tryptophan, an amino acid in protein. Using mg NE accounts for both the niacin you consume and the niacin your body makes from tryptophan.

Are vitamin B3 dietary supplements available?

Single supplements of vitamin B3 are available in tablets, capsules and syrups. Multivitamin and B-complex vitamin infusions, tablets and capsules also contain niacin.

The two main forms of niacin in dietary supplements are nicotinic acid and nicotinamide.

Niacin is also available as a prescription medicine used to treat high blood cholesterol levels.

Absorption and body stores

Both the acid and amide forms of niacin are readily absorbed from the stomach and small intestine.

At low concentrations, the two forms of niacin are absorbed by sodium-dependent facilitated
diffusion, and at high levels by passive diffusion.

Niacin is present in the diet as NAD and NADP, and nicotinamide is released from the coenzyme forms by enzymes in the intestine.

The main storage organ, the liver, may contain a significant amount of vitamin B3, which is stored as NAD.

The niacin coenzymes NAD and NADP are synthesized in all tissues from nicotinic acid.

Are you getting enough vitamin B3 in your blood?

Most people get sufficient amounts of niacin from the foods they eat. Niacin deficiency is very rare. However, some people are more likely than others to have trouble getting enough niacin:

  • People with anorexia
  • People with inflammatory bowel disease
  • People with liver cirrhosis
  • People whose diet has too little riboflavin
  • People with hartnup disease
  • People with carcinoid syndrome

What happens if you don’t get enough vitamin B3 in your blood?

You can develop vitamin B3 deficiency if you don’t get enough niacin from the foods you eat.

Severe niacin deficiency leads to a disease called pellagra. Pellagra which is uncommon can have these effects:

  • Rough skin that turns red
  • Bright red tongue
  • Vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Headaches
  • Extreme tiredness
  • Aggressive behavior
  • Hallucinations
  • Apathy
  • Loss of memory

In it’s final stages, pellagra leads to loss of appetite followed by death.

Vitamin B3 deficiency symptoms

Symptoms of a marginal niacin deficiency include:

  • Insomnia
  • Weight and strength loss
  • Mouth sores
  • Abdominal pain
  • Burning sensations
  • Numbness
  • Nervousness
  • Apprehension
  • Confusion

Are there any interactions with vitamin B3 that you should know about?

Niacin dietary supplements interfere with certain medicines that you take, and can lower vitamin B3 levels in your blood. Here are some examples:

  • Tuberculosis drugs such as isoniazid and pyrazinamide interferes with the body’s ability to convert tryptophan to niacin. This interference can lower niacin levels in your blood.
  • High doses of nicotinic acid raises blood sugar levels and interferes with the effectiveness of diabetes medications.

Is vitamin B3 harmful to the blood?

Foods that contains vitamin B3 is safe in it’s natural form. However, dietary supplements with 30 mg and above has more nicotinic acid, high doses can make the skin on your face, arms, and chest turn red and burn, tingle, and itch.

These symptoms can also lead to headaches, rashes, and dizziness.
If you take nicotinic acid as a medication in doses of 1,000 mg/day, it can cause more severe side effects. These include:

  • Low blood pressure
  • Extreme tiredness
  • High blood sugar levels
  • Nausea
  • Heartburn
  • Abdominal pain
  • Blurred vision


Vitamin B3, is an essential vitamin that is necessary for producing energy, macromolecules, making DNA, and the growth and repair of cells in the blood.

Vitamin B3 is found naturally in foods such as legumes, in the form of nicotinamide, and can be stored in the body as nicotinic acid.

You should eat foods containing vitamin B3 to make sure your body gets the right amounts. Daily intakes of vitamin B3 may prevent several health problems including heart attacks, stroke, high blood pressure and cancer.

Consider taking vitamin B3 dietary supplements if you’re not getting enough from the diet. Don’t forget to share your health concerns with a health care provider before buying any vitamin B3 dietary supplement.

Related Post: Why Your Blood Needs Vitamin B2

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