Vitamin B3, or niacin, is present in various forms. Nicotinamide, also known as niacinamide, is one form of vitamin B3, while nicotinic acid is another form of vitamin B3. These names can understandably be a handful! Your body can convert niacin to niacinamide when there are excess levels in your bloodstream.
An overview of the drug niacinamide, as well as its benefits, applications, and potential side effects, is provided in this article.
What is Niacinamide?
Niacinamide is a derivative of vitamin B3 (niacin), one of the body’s eight B vitamins.
For your body and cells to function properly, vitamin B3 is required to convert food into usable energy .
Because it is a water-soluble vitamin, your body does not store it, and any excess consumed will be excreted into your urine! Hence, you should consume nicotinic acid or niacinamide on a daily basis to maintain adequate levels of this vitamin.
Nicotinic acid, a form of vitamin B3, can be found in animal-based products like poultry and meat, as well as in plant-based food sources like leafy green vegetables, seeds, and nuts .In addition to refined grain products, such as cereals, niacinamide is added to a variety of other foods .
Why is vitamin B3 crucial for good health? Well, vitamin B3 deficiency causes pellagra, which is characterized by the four D’s: dementia, dermatitis, diarrhea, and ultimately death if the condition is not treated . In countries such as the United States, pellagra is rare . Nevertheless, vitamin B3 confers a host of benefits unrelated to the treatment of pellagra!
In this article, we will explore the symptoms of niacin deficiency, as well as the effects and benefits of niacin supplementation for our skin, blood sugar levels, heart, and kidneys!
Signs and Symptoms of Niacin Deficiency
The following are some of the signs and symptoms of niacin deficiency :
- Loss of appetite
- Memory loss
- Constipation or diarrhea
- Bright red tongue
- Skin rash or discoloration
Although the deficiency is extremely rare in the majority of Western countries, it does occur in some areas. One of the most vulnerable groups is undernourished, which can be caused by HIV/AIDS, anorexia nervosa, liver failure, excessive alcohol consumption, or other medical problems .
Benefits and Uses
Here are some benefits and uses of niacinamide supplementation.
Boosts brain function
Due to its role as a component of the coenzymes NAD and NADP, niacin is required for the brain to obtain energy and function properly.
Indeed, niacin deficiency has been linked to mental fog and even psychiatric symptoms in some cases [6,7].
Preliminary research suggests that it may also be beneficial in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, as it appears to help maintain the health of the brain. Nonetheless, these findings are inconclusive [8, 9, 10].
May Help to Lower Blood Pressure
In addition to its many benefits, niacin stimulates the release of prostaglandins, which are chemicals that help your blood vessels widen, thereby increasing the amount of oxygen and blood flowing through them. The vitamin may therefore be beneficial in the prevention or treatment of high blood pressure (hypertension) .
The researchers discovered that increasing daily niacin intake by 1 mg resulted in a 2% reduction in the risk of developing high blood pressure. The lowest overall risk of developing high blood pressure was found to be between 14.3 and 16.7 mg per day of niacin consumption [11,12].
Despite these findings, further research is warranted before niacin can be recommended to treat hypertension.
Reduces blood lipids levels
Niacin may help you lose weight by lowering your blood cholesterol levels in the ways listed below:
- Reducing your triglyceride levels
- Reducing your bad cholesterol (LDL)
- Increasing your good cholesterol (HDL)
This may result in a decrease in the likelihood of developing cardiovascular disease in the future [13,14].
Several studies, however, have found no link between niacin supplementation and a reduced risk of developing heart disease or cardiovascular events. Furthermore, it takes a high dose of niacin, typically 1,500 mg or more amount of niacin, to see significant reductions in fat levels in the blood, increasing the likelihood of experiencing unpleasant or potentially harmful side effects .
As a result, niacin is not recommended as a first-line treatment for high cholesterol in the majority of cases. Instead, it is primarily used to treat high cholesterol only in individuals who cannot tolerate statin medications .
Could Potentially Delay the Progression of Type 1 Diabetes
Type 1 diabetes is a condition in which the body attacks and destroys the beta cells in the pancreas, which are responsible for insulin production.
Among those at risk for type 1 diabetes, niacinamide helps to protect and preserve beta cells, thereby preventing or delaying the onset of the disease [17,18,19].
Although research states that niacinamide cannot prevent type 1 diabetes, it could be effective in delaying the progression of the disease by maintaining beta-cell function and blood glucose levels [20,21,22,23].
According to researchers, while these findings are promising, more clinical trials are needed before niacinamide supplements can be recommended for type 1 diabetes.
Beneficial For Individuals With Chronic Kidney Disease
Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is a progressive deterioration of kidney function that impairs your body’s ability to cleanse and filter blood as well as regulate blood pressure and other bodily functions.
This can lead to a dangerous buildup of chemicals in your blood, such as phosphate, which can be harmful .
Niacinamide, which inhibits phosphate absorption, may be beneficial in lowering phosphate levels in people who have kidney dysfunction [25, 26, 27, 28].
In the absence of such interventions, phosphorus levels are typically controlled through dietary changes, medication, or dialysis, depending on the severity of the accumulation .
May Help Prevent Melanoma
Melanoma is a serious form of skin cancer that develops in the cells responsible for producing melanin, the pigment that gives your skin its color. Because melanoma can spread quickly, it is the deadliest form of skin cancer.
When you are exposed to ultraviolet radiation, whether from the sun or tanning beds, the DNA in your cells is gradually damaged, and this is strongly associated with melanoma.
Oral supplements containing niacinamide have been shown to improve DNA repair in humans with UV-damaged skin, which is attributed to its role in cellular health [30, 31].
Therefore, niacinamide is a promising supplement that may provide protection against melanoma, particularly in high-risk populations such as those who have had non-melanoma skin cancers in the past [32, 33, 34, 35].
Beneficial for a Variety of Skin Conditions
Niacinamide is a vitamin that is essential for maintaining healthy skin.
In the cosmetics and skincare industries, it has become a widely used additive.
When applied topically to the skin or taken orally as a supplement, niacinamide has been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects on the skin’s surface and thus, used to treat skin conditions such as acne, skin ulcers, and rosacea, a facial skin disorder characterized by redness and flushing [36, 37].
Consequently, niacinamide is increasingly being used as an alternative to oral or topical antibiotics for the treatment of acne and rosacea in both adults and children [38, 39].
Supplement Forms and Types
Nutritional supplements containing vitamin B3, in the form of nicotinic acid or niacinamide, are readily available and can be taken alone or in combination with other vitamins and minerals in doses ranging from 14 to 1,000 mg per serving.
Aside from that, vitamin B3 can also be found in B-complex supplements, which contain a combination of all eight B vitamins.
Pre-workout supplements may contain niacinamide; however, nicotinic acid, the form that causes skin flushing, is preferred because it gives the consumer the impression that the pre-workout has kicked in as a result of the skin flushing.
When it comes to facial moisturizers and products marketed for the treatment of acne or rosacea, niacinamide is a common ingredient.
The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for niacin varies depending on the individual’s age and gender. When it comes to children 7 months and older, it is expressed in milligrams of niacin equivalents (NE). NE is equal to one milligram of niacin .
- 0–6 months: 2 mg/day*
- 7–12 months: 4 mg NE/day*
*These figures represent the Adequate Intake (AI), similar to the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) but based on observation and approximations of healthy populations rather than scientific evidence  .
- 1–3 years: 6 mg NE/day
- 4–8 years: 8 mg NE/day
- 9–13 years: 12 mg NE/day
Adolescents and adults
- Women over the age of 14: 14 mg NE/day
- Men 14 years of age and older: 16 mg NE/day
- Breastfeeding women: 17 mg NE/day
- Pregnant women: 18 mg NE/day
Because excess amounts of niacin are excreted in the urine, niacinamide is generally well tolerated at the recommended doses .
The tolerable upper limit for vitamin B3 is 35 milligrams per day. Nicotinic acid has been shown to cause flushing, redness, itching, and tingling of the skin at lower doses. Niacinamide, on the other hand, has not been shown to cause these adverse effects .
According to some reports, the use of nicotinamide has been associated with the development of minor side effects, including stomach upset, ulcers, nausea, and headaches.
Aside from that, nicotinamide has been suggested to increase insulin resistance, which is a defining feature of type 2 diabetes, but the evidence for this claim is conflicting .
If you are taking niacinamide — or any supplement, for that matter, it is recommended that you consult with your healthcare provider first to assess your individual risk for serious side effects before taking the supplement.
Should You Consider Supplementation?
The vast majority of people can obtain adequate amounts through diet alone!
Nevertheless, your doctor may recommend a supplement if you are deficient or have another condition that would benefit from one.
Niacin supplements are particularly recommended for those who have high cholesterol and risk factors for heart disease but are unable to take statins for various reasons.
Because of the numerous potential side effects or toxicity associated with high doses of niacin, it is recommended that you consult a healthcare professional before taking this supplement. It’s also important to remember that the FDA doesn’t regulate supplements in the same way that it does pharmaceuticals or medical devices .
The Bottom Line
Niacinamide is a vitamin B3 derivative that is required for proper energy metabolism and cell health. It is also known as niacin or niacinamide. It may have beneficial effects on skin and cancer prevention, chronic kidney disease, and type 1 diabetes.
Niacinamide is generally available to purchase as dietary supplements and can be commonly found in skincare products. At lower doses, niacinamide supplements are less likely to cause side effects.
Disclaimer: This article is only a guide. It does not substitute the advice given by your own healthcare professional. Before making any health-related decision, consult your healthcare professional.