Niacin, or vitamin B-3, is part of the B complex of vitamins, and all of these work to process the food you consume. Without niacin, your body would not be able to convert protein, carbs and fat into usable energy. However, unless you are deficient in B-3, taking more will not likely boost your energy levels, and it may even pose risks to your health. Talk to your doctor about the proper intake of niacin.
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The primary function of niacin relates to the production of energy, and this process is essential for the health of your skin, eyes, hair and liver as well. But niacin benefits your body in other ways, too. It aids your digestive system and promotes proper nerve functioning. Your adrenal glands also rely on this vitamin to create sex and stress hormones, and B-3 also promotes healthy blood circulation. It can even lower your blood cholesterol levels.
RDA and Sources
In the developed world, it is rare for a person to not get enough niacin, and you can meet your body’s needs for this vitamin by consuming a balanced diet. The RDA for female adults is 14 milligrams, and it is 16 milligrams for male adults. Salmon, swordfish, beef liver, beets, peanuts, tuna and eggs are all good sources of this vitamin, as are fortified cereals and grain products.
Dangers of Too Much and Too Little
While niacin is essential for energy and other bodily functions, having too much or too little of it can have negative repercussions. Consuming more than 50 mg of niacin a day can result in skin rashes, ulcers, liver damage and an increased blood sugar level. You may also experience skin flushing, which is a common side effect of even normal amounts of niacin. A niacin deficiency is rare, but it can lead to symptoms such as fatigue, vomiting, depression and indigestion. If the deficiency becomes severe, you can develop pellagra, which is characterized by dementia, diarrhea and cracked skin.
Your doctor may prescribe higher levels of niacin to treat certain conditions, such as high cholesterol, but it is imperative that you do not exceed the RDA without first discussing it with her. If you are experiencing an unusual lack of energy, seek medical attention, as you may be deficient in niacin or other nutrients, or you may have an underlying medical condition. Also keep in mind that it is not advisable to take only one of the B complex vitamins on its own. Rather, it is best to take a B complex supplement to avoid developing a B vitamin imbalance.