Last updated: August 20, 2020

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Surely you are tired of hearing that the only way to live a healthy life is through your diet. However repetitive this statement may seem, it is the truth. The increase in life expectancy and the lower frequency of certain diseases is largely due to better nutrition.

Vitamin B3 is one of those nutrients that is easy to overlook in the search for the perfect supplement. Lack of vitamin B3 can cause all kinds of physical and mental ailments. However, if you think deficiency is a thing of the past, you may be in for a surprise. Keep reading to find out more!

Key Facts

  • Vitamin B3 is a water soluble compound. It is considered an essential nutrient, so it can be obtained through food.
  • Vitamin B3 deficiency can lead to a life-threatening disease known as pellagra.
  • If you are going to purchase a vitamin B3 supplement, you should take into account the vegan and vegetarian options and the possible presence of allergens such as gluten. You can choose products according to the frequency of adverse effects, packaging type, and according to their value for money.

Our Selection: The Best Vitamin B3 Supplements on the U.S. Market

Supplements with high doses of vitamin B3 should be used exclusively under medical supervision. For this reason, our recommendations contain multivitamins with limited doses that do not require expert control. These supplements will provide you with a sufficient amount of B3 without dangerous excess.

The Best Slow-release Vitamin B3 Supplement

This supplement slowly releases over 6-8 hours to provide a steady balanced stream of B vitamins (Vitamin B2, B3, B6, B9, B12). This helps to maintain healthy energy levels throughout the day. Note, this supplement is not only B3, but an array of B vitamins. The extra strength formula contains all the essential B Vitamins in just one tablet. This is a great option if you’d rather take your B Vitamins (like B 12 & 6) together to maximize the benefits.

Bronson Super B Vitamin B Complex’s claim to fame is real, lasting natural energy!

The Best Vitamin B3 Powder

If you prefer taking your supplements in a powder form, then this product by Bulksupplements might be perfect for you. This is a great option if you enjoy drinking smoothies, as the powder can dissolve in almost any liquid. You get all of the benefits of a vitamin B3 supplement, such as supporting the brain and aiding memory & cognitive function, in the convenience of a powder!

The Best Value for Money

These vitamin B3 capsules by Divine Beauty are made up of only pure ingredients with no harmful additives. Simply the full B-Complex plus the combo of Inositol and Choline, two naturally occurring close cousins to the B Vitamin family, that can help boost memory, motivation, focus, and overall cognitive function.

Their capsules are non GMO, soy free, gluten free and have no preservatives, stearates, silicone dioxide or artificial ingredients. Not only do they have a high potency formula, each bottle contains 90 B Complex capsules, making it one of the best value vitamin B supplements available.

Shopping Guide: Everything You Need to Know about Vitamin B3 Supplements

Vitamin B3 is a water-soluble nutrient that is an essential part of enzymatic reactions that prevent premature oxidation of the body. Its deficiency causes pellagra, a disease with neurological, cutaneous and digestive symptoms that can be fatal if not treated in right away.

old woman with doctor

Severe vitamin B3 deficiency can cause pellagra.
(Source: Raths: 20921548/ 123rf.com)

What is vitamin B3?

Vitamin B3, or niacin, is a necessary compound for the proper functioning of the body, regulating the homeostasis (balance) of various bodily processes. Niacin cannot be synthesized from simpler substances and can be obtained from food. This is why it is considered an essential nutrient (1).

The term vitamin B3 encompasses molecules with slight variations in their structure, such as nicotinic acid or niacinamide. These forms will be metabolized in the human body regardless of their biochemical structure and transformed into molecules with antioxidant capacity. Thus, vitamin B3 allows the correct development of the following processes (2):

System Function of vitamin B3
Endocrine Metabolism of carbohydrates, fats and proteins

Energy production

Hormone synthesis

Growth and development

Neural Transmission of nerve impulses

Protection of neurons

Cardiovascular Control of cholesterol levels
Skin Maintenance of skin elasticity

What foods contain vitamin B3?

Niacin is a water-soluble vitamin (it dissolves in water and repels fat). For this reason, it cannot be stored in the body as efficiently as fat-soluble vitamins (A, E and K) and requires daily intake. In the following table you can find the main food sources of this nutrient (3):

Food Milligrams of B3 per 100 grams
Tuna 22
Peanut or groundnut 14
Chicken 10
Pork 8
Veal 6
Mushrooms 6
Whole grains 3
Avocado 2
Peas 2
Sweet potato 1

As you can see, there are several plant and animal sources of vitamin B3. By choosing fresh products and avoiding overcooking food, you can ensure that your dishes maintain the most amount of nutrients possible during their preparation.(2).

What are the consequences of vitamin B3 deficiency?

The recommended daily amount, or CDR, of vitamin B3 depends primarily on the sex and age of the individual. As a general rule, an adult should take an amount of vitamin B3 that ranges from 14 to 16 milligrams (mg) a day. You will find the exact CDR for each population group in the following table (3):

Population group CDR of vitamin B3 (mg/day)
Babies (up to 6 months) 2
Babies (up to 12 months) 4
Boys and girls 1-3 years 6
Boys 4-8 years 8
Adolescents 9-13 years 12
Boys 14-18 years 16
Girls 14-18 years 14
Men over 18 years of age 16
Women over 18 years of age 14
Pregnant women 18
Lactating women 17

Meat, fish, eggs, a large number of vegetables and even milk contain vitamin B3. This makes niacin deficiency a frankly rare occurrence in modern times. (2.4):

  • Malnutrition: People with eating disorders who undergo very low-calorie diets may experience a deficiency of vitamin B3.
  • Individuals suffering from intestinal malabsorption: Pathologies such as Crohn’s disease, which affect the absorption of nutrients in the digestive tract, can cause a niacin deficiency. Surgical resections (such as those performed in obesity surgery) can also cause this deficit.
  • Alcoholism: Alcohol addiction can cause a malnutrition process that leads to a niacin deficiency. In the western world, alcoholism is the first recognized cause of vitamin B3 deficiency.

An insufficient amount of vitamin B3 will impede the proper functioning of the body’s antioxidant metabolism. This situation will make the cells of the body vulnerable, which will suffer irreparable damage to their genetic material. The integrity of the skin, the digestive system and the neuronal structure will be affected, including(2):

  • Diarrhea
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Memory problems
  • Mental confusion
  • Hallucinations
  • Dry skin
  • Alterations in skin pigmentation
  • Skin peeling
  • Depression
  • Increased chance of cancer

Severe vitamin B3 deficiency is known as pellagra (5). This disease is characterized by diarrhea, dementia and dermatitis, causing the death of the individual if it is not resolved in time. Although this type of malnutrition is very rare today, specific cases have been described in overcrowded refugee centers.

cereal

Vitamin B3 is essential for the functioning of antioxidant enzymes.
(Source: Corner: 43680781/ 123rf.com)

What are the consequences of having too much vitamin B3?

Vitamin B3 deficiency can be fatal. However, excess niacin can also be harmful. The maximum daily amount of this nutrient is 35 mg per day for a healthy adult. We have put together a table so that you can check for yourself the maximum daily amounts of niacin depending on age and sex (3):

Population group Maximum amount of vitamin B3 (mg/day)
Babies (up to 6 months) Not established
Boys and girls 1-3 years 10
Boys and girls 4-8 years 10
Adolescents 9-13 years 15
Boys 14-18 years 30
Girls 14-18 years 30
Men over 18 years of age 35
Pregnant women 35
Lactating women 35

Fortunately, the adverse effects of excessive niacin consumption do not appear if this vitamin is obtained through diet. However, a misuse of vitamin B3 supplements can cause hypervitaminosis that produces undesirable symptoms. The following section describes the main consequences of excess niacin (6):

  • Skin redness: Known as “flushing”, it is the result of vasodilation of the capillaries that supply the skin on your face and arms. It appears about 30 minutes after the intake of a vitamin supplement that contains amounts of B3 greater than 30 mg.
  • General discomfort: Supplementation with doses of vitamin B3 greater than 30 mg can also cause headaches, dizziness and a drop in blood pressure. If hypotension is severe enough, it can lead to falls and accidents.
  • Glucose intolerance: The consumption of very high doses of vitamin B3 (1000 – 3000 mg / day) can interfere with the correct metabolism of carbohydrates. This side effect is especially dangerous for diabetics or for those who have difficulties in keeping their plasma glucose within normal limits.
  • Liver damage: If high doses of niacin are consumed for months or years without interruption, liver damage may occur. Liver damage can manifest itself as fatigue and loss of appetite, leading to liver failure in its most severe forms.

Is vitamin B3 supplementation recommended?

The importance of vitamin B3 as part of a balanced diet is irrefutable. However, you cannot ignore the unpleasant (and even dangerous) adverse effects that excess niacin can cause. Knowing that balance is the key in vitamin B3 supplementation, you can distinguish two types of nutritional supplements for this vitamin:

  • Supplements with vitamin B3 as the sole ingredient: These products generally contain capsules, powder or liquid with high concentrations of niacin. These items are used to regulate cholesterol levels in people resistant to other treatments. However, we do not recommend its use without medical supervision.
  • Multivitamin supplements with vitamin B3: In this case, you can find products that include various nutrients. Supplements will tend to contain CDR equal or similar niacin doses for this vitamin (14-18 mg). This property makes them the ideal nutritional supplements for fans of supplementation on their own.

There is no doubt that vitamin B3 supplementation is effective. Numerous good quality clinical trials are available showing that niacin administration is capable of lowering blood cholesterol levels (7). However, this product may also predispose to the onset of diabetes and cause long-term liver damage .

If the dietary or pharmacological measures you have taken to lower cholesterol levels have proven ineffective, vitamin B3 may help you. However, this alternative treatment must be previously approved by a doctor. This warning is especially important for diabetics and liver disease patients (liver disease) (6).

Nutritional supplements that contain multiple vitamins (including niacin) are much more recommended. These products will be useful if you cannot follow a balanced diet for any reason. In these cases, a multivitamin with niacin will help you preserve your immune, metabolic and intellectual function.

chemical form

Mixing alcohol and vitamin B3 supplements is not recommended.
(Source: Zerbor: 32270049/ 123rf.com).

Buyer’s Guide

If you have decided to get a vitamin B3 supplement, we recommend that you read this part of our article carefully. In the following section, we will help you choose a nutritional product that allows you to take niacin safely and effectively.

Vegan or Vegetarian Diet

It will not be difficult for you to find a vitamin B3 supplement capable of adapting to a cruelty-free diet. Most nutritional supplements, both niacin alone and multivitamins, will be suitable for vegans and vegetarians. If you are going to buy a supplement in capsules, make sure that the capsule itself does not contain gelatin.

Tuna, avocado and brown rice are foods rich in vitamin B3.
(Source: Subbotina: 14649214/ 123rf.com)

Gluten and Other Allergens

Vitamin B3 supplements may contain gluten, soy, and nuts, among other allergens. If you suffer from any type of food intolerance, remember to look on the label of your supplement for guarantee stamps that ensure a product free of these substances. The list of ingredients in the article should be in English and be perfectly legible.

Flushing

If your doctor has given you the go-ahead to use a supplement that contains high doses of vitamin B3, remember that you can suffer from flushing. If this reddening of the face bothers you, there are anti-flushing preparations that minimize this effect. Of course, the cost of these items will be slightly higher than the rest.

Conservation and Expiration

The effectiveness of vitamin B3 supplements may be progressively reduced once the expiration date is exceeded. Fortunately, consuming these expired supplements will not be toxic most of the time. You can extend the shelf life of these items by keeping them in a cool, dry place, away from aggressive odors and temperatures.

Dr. Sherry RossWomen’s Health Expert at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California

“Niacin has a role in producing certain hormones in the adrenal glands and helps remove harmful chemicals from the liver”.

Price-Performance Ratio

Supplements with niacin have a cheap price that depends, for the most part, on the rest of the ingredients that are part of the final product. A container of 60 capsules will have an average cost of $15. You can also find some with more than 200 capsules for less than $15.

Summary

Vitamin B3 is one of the most important nutrients for our well-being. Following a balanced diet that includes meat, fish and legumes will provide us with enough niacin to preserve a healthy metabolism. A deficiency can have devastating consequences for your health and must be avoided under all circumstances.

A niacin supplement and the strict supervision of a dietary expert can help you control cholesterol levels resistant to conventional treatment. For your day-to-day, however, we advise you to seek balance in vitamin B3 supplementation, avoiding deficiencies while avoiding excesses. The key is in balance!

(Source of featured image: Baibakova: 133826552/ 123rf.com)

References (8)

1. Kelly JJ, Lawson JA, Campbell L V., Storlien LH, Jenkins AB, Whitworth JA, et al. Effects of nicotinic acid on insulin sensitivity and blood pressure in healthy subjects. J Hum Hypertens [Internet]. 2000 Sep 6 [cited 2019 Dec 24];14(9):567–72.
Source

2. Villines TC, Kim AS, Gore RS, Taylor AJ. Niacin: The evidence, clinical use, and future directions. Curr Atheroscler Rep. 2012 Feb;14(1):49–59.
Source

3. Niacin: Drug Uses, Dosage & Side Effects - Drugs.com [Internet]. [cited 2019 Dec 24].
Source

4. Savvidou S. Pellagra: a non-eradicated old disease. Clin Pract [Internet]. 2014 Apr 28 [cited 2019 Dec 24];4(1).
Source

5. Villines TC, Kim AS, Gore RS, Taylor AJ. Niacin: The Evidence, Clinical Use, and Future Directions. Curr Atheroscler Rep [Internet]. 2012 Feb 27 [cited 2019 Dec 24];14(1):49–59.
Source

6. Niacin — Health Professional Fact Sheet [Internet]. [cited 2019 Dec 24].
Source

7. Peechakara B V., Gupta M. Vitamin B3 [Internet]. StatPearls. 2019 [cited 2019 Dec 24].
Source

8. H. Stipanuk M, A. Caudill M. Biochemical, physiological, and molecular aspects of human nutrition. 3rd editio. Elsevier; 2013. 948 p.
Source

Why you can trust me?

Ava Kirk Journalist
Ava has specialized in medical journalism and not only writes about the human body, but also knows her way around food supplements. She also studied sports science in college.
Kelly JJ, Lawson JA, Campbell L V., Storlien LH, Jenkins AB, Whitworth JA, et al. Effects of nicotinic acid on insulin sensitivity and blood pressure in healthy subjects. J Hum Hypertens [Internet]. 2000 Sep 6 [cited 2019 Dec 24];14(9):567–72.
Go to source
Villines TC, Kim AS, Gore RS, Taylor AJ. Niacin: The evidence, clinical use, and future directions. Curr Atheroscler Rep. 2012 Feb;14(1):49–59.
Go to source
Niacin: Drug Uses, Dosage & Side Effects - Drugs.com [Internet]. [cited 2019 Dec 24].
Go to source
Savvidou S. Pellagra: a non-eradicated old disease. Clin Pract [Internet]. 2014 Apr 28 [cited 2019 Dec 24];4(1).
Go to source
Villines TC, Kim AS, Gore RS, Taylor AJ. Niacin: The Evidence, Clinical Use, and Future Directions. Curr Atheroscler Rep [Internet]. 2012 Feb 27 [cited 2019 Dec 24];14(1):49–59.
Go to source
Niacin — Health Professional Fact Sheet [Internet]. [cited 2019 Dec 24].
Go to source
Peechakara B V., Gupta M. Vitamin B3 [Internet]. StatPearls. 2019 [cited 2019 Dec 24].
Go to source
H. Stipanuk M, A. Caudill M. Biochemical, physiological, and molecular aspects of human nutrition. 3rd editio. Elsevier; 2013. 948 p.
Go to source