Rediscovering Vitamin B3: Niacin and Niacinamide

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Tuesday, February 4, 2014


MOST people have heard or read about the many different vitamins such as vitamins A, D, E, K and C.

Likewise, most vitamin supplements contain these typical types of vitamins.

B Vitamins, on the other hand, are also earning popularity these days, especially those that play vital roles in maintaining the integrity of the nerves.

More specifically, these are what we call the Vitamin B-complex.

Before going any further, allow me to share some of the basics of the B Vitamins, which are actually a group of water-soluble vitamins (meaning, they are dissolved well when combined with water).

These B Vitamins are believed to have important roles in cell metabolism.

Originally thought to be a single vitamin, eventually later research has shown that different B vitamins coexist to include: B1 (thiamine); B2 (riboflavin); B3 (niacin or niacinamide); B5 (pantothenic acid); B6 (pyridoxine); B7 (biotin); B9 (folic acid); and B12 (cyanocobalamine).

While much has been published about the B vitamins, there is little comprehension over what B3 is about.

Vitamin B3 is actually composed of two structures: niacin and niacinamide/nicotinamide.

According to literatures, niacin can help lower cholesterol level probably due to its role in energy transfer reactions in the metabolism of glucose, fat and alcohol.

It is also useful for the following conditions: circulation problems; migraine headaches; dizziness; and cholera-induced diarrhea.

Lastly, niacin is thought to have beneficial effects on blood clotting helping people with heart problems.

Although controversial, some scientists suggest that niacin has the ability to mask a positive urine test for certain illegal or prohibited substances or drugs.

On the other hand, niacinamide or nicotinamide has shown to be effective in reducing blood sugar levels and in ‘pellagra,’ a condition that causes skin irritation, diarrhea and dementia.

Pellagra is believed to affect both sides of the body that is characterized by hyperpigmentation and thickening of the skin, inflammation of the tongue and mouth and digestive disturbances.

Furthermore, studies have shown that niacinamide has antioxidant properties that inhibit free-radical formation.

Other studies also support that niacinamide has been used to treat several types of dermatologic pathologies including cutaneous (or skin) hyperpigmentation (or darkening) and inflammatory acne vulgaris.

As a matter of fact, it was found in a number of clinical trials that a five percent niacinamide moisturizer could provide 35 to 68 percent inhibition of melanosome (pigment) transfer from melanocytes to keratinocytes, making it an effective skin-whitening agent.

This fact is best exemplified by a good number of skin-lightening creams and lotions containing vitamin B3 in the market.

Food sources of the B-Vitamins including those of the niacin and niacinamide are the following: whole grain products; potatoes; bananas; chili peppers; beans; fish; eggs; green vegetables and cereal grains.

While niacin and niacinamide/nicotinamide hold promising benefits, the following have been reported when intake of the said B vitamins are in excess: nausea; heartburn; flushing or reddening of face and skin of the arms and chest; mild burning sensation of skin; vomiting; flatulence; and in worst cases, liver toxicity.

Meanwhile, deficiency of niacin and niacinamide may cause pellagra; dermatitis; insomnia and weakness.

The recommended daily intake or allowance (RDA) for niacin and niacinamide is 20 mg per day for adults.

Sources: National Academy of Sciences-Institute of Medicine, Food & Nutrition; BR J Dermatol; Analytical Biochem; WebMD.

[Email to comment: polo.medical.sociologist@gmail.com]

Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on February 04, 2014.

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