Niacin and its Benefits/Side effects

Vitamins are organic compounds that are mandatory for the overall health and well-being of our bodies. A balanced diet fulfills almost all the necessary daily vitamin needs. These compounds are needed for several biological functions and hence are indispensable. Like all other vitamins, it has its significance and role to play in the body.  

What is Niacin?

Niacin is a B vitamin or more precisely speaking is a form of vitamin B3. It occurs naturally in plants and animals and can also be consumed in the form of supplements. It is a water-soluble vitamin & hence is not stored in the body & is required regularly. A distinguishing feature of niacin is that it is also produced in the body from tryptophan which is an amino acid found in protein-rich foods. The two chief chemical forms of niacin are nicotinic acid and niacinamide.

Functions 

Niacin plays several diverse functions within our body. The function for which this vitamin is mainly known for is the conversion of food into usable energy. It is also involved in cellular metabolism as a coenzyme in the form of NAD and NADP. Apart from this niacin is also an important antioxidant and plays part in cell signaling and formation and wellbeing of DNA.

Inadequate amounts of niacin hinder the beneficial role of niacin. Niacin deficiency is characterized by various symptoms such as memory loss, weariness, depression, headache, upset stomach, and skin rashes.

Health Benefits of Niacin

Like every other vitamin, Niacin intake brings along an array of health benefits. These include the following:

  • Lowers the levels of LDL commonly referred to as bad cholesterol. It can lower levels by almost 5 to 20 percent.
  • An adequate intake of it increases HDL cholesterol levels by 15 to 35 percent. HDL is the good cholesterol that is required for maintaining good health.
  • Reduces the number of triglycerides in the body. This primarily occurs by stopping the enzyme that is involved in the formation of triglycerides.
  • It has been suggested that it reduces the risk of developing type 1 diabetes mellitus. This is because it has the ability to lower blood sugar levels and maintain them.
  • A decrease in cholesterol levels helps to prevent heart diseases. Moreover, atherosclerosis or hardening of blood vessels is prevented by the reduction of oxidative stress and inflammation.
  • Our brain also needs niacin for its proper functioning. This is because as a part of NAD and NADP it fulfills the energy needs of our brain thus keeping it healthy.
  • Believed to protect skin against sun damage and it also prevents the development of some forms of skin cancer.
  • Severe niacin deficiency is linked to pellagra which can be prevented by niacin intake.

Consuming the Right Amount 

Apart from naturally being produced in our body, niacin can be obtained from a variety of food sources. These include meat, poultry, tuna, nuts, legumes, peanuts, and lentils. It can be found in several dietary supplements. The recommended daily intake for adults is 14 mg for women and 16 mg for men.

Supplementation

A number of over the counter niacin supplementations are widely available. Niacin can be found in multivitamin supplements or stand-alone supplements. Furthermore, niacin is also available as a prescription medicine to treat the common ailment of high cholesterol levels.

Mild Side Effects 

In most cases, it’s safe for human consumption. Inappropriate dosage can lead to mild as well as severe side effects. Common mild side effects include burning, itching, headache, chills, insomnia, and muscle pain.

Severe Side Effects 

If niacin intake is not adequate for a prolonged period of time and left untreated it can lead to severe complications. These side effects include uneven heartbeats, swelling, jaundice, fainting, shortness of breath, allergic reactions, and dark-colored urine. Needless to say you don’t any of that.

The Takeaway:

Niacin is an essential B vitamin that is involved in almost every body function. Luckily, you do not have to worry about niacin intake as all needs are fulfilled through a healthy and balanced diet. However, if adequate amounts of this nutrient are not being met supplements should be consumed regularly.