Your Food and You: Vitamin B3 (Niacin)

For this month’s instalment of Your Food and You, we will be finishing our exploration of the Vitamin B Complex. We’ll be breaking down this month’s Your Food and You into three parts, so be sure to check back throughout the week to learn about Vitamin B5 and Vitamin B12!

Vitamin B3 or Niacin is a water-soluble vitamin that can be found in food or made in the body from the amino acid, tryptophan, with the help of vitamin B6. Vitamin B3 is involved in over 200 chemical reactions in the body including:

  • Production and breakdown of glucose, fats, and amino acids
    • These are the building blocks for everything in the body from bones to hormones
  • Used to develop and maintain
    • Skin
    • Intestinal lining
    • Stomach
    • Nervous system
    • DNA (the substance that makes up our genes)

Not getting enough? Deficiency is rare because it is found primarily in protein rich foods. However, deficiency may be of concern for vegetarian or vegans. Deficiency can be caused excessive alcohol intake because alcohol can reduce the body’s ability to absorb Vitamin B3.


  • Early signs of deficiency:
    • Pellagra (fatigue, loss of appetite, irritability, tiredness, weakness, mild diarrhea)
    • Anxiety and depression
    • Inflammation of the tongue and mouth
  • Advanced signs:
    • Sever diarrhea
    • Skin rash
    • Delirium
    • Death if not treated

Who should consider a supplement?

  • Vegetarian and vegans
  • People who drink alcohol excessively

Supplementation can be harmful if excessive amounts are taken. Under medical supervision, studies have shown that 1-3g of supplementation has successfully reduced blood cholesterol levels, dizziness, ringing in the ear, premenstrual headaches, and depression. Supplementation may improve cholesterol and triglyceride levels, but increased insulin resistance can be a side effect of supplementation. Speak to your Doctor or Registered Dietitian to see if this is an option for you, as niacin supplementation only provides benefits for improving cardiovascular health if the right precautions are taken.

Here’s our Fact Sheet below on how much you need, what that means in terms of food, and meal ideas to get vitamin B3 in your diet!

Download our PDF version here.

April 28, 2015
Revive Wellness