Vitamin B3 is an essential nutrient for humans that has many specific forms. The pure form of vitamin B3 has the chemical formula C6H5NO2, which is also known as niacin and nicotinic acid. Additional forms of vitamin B3 include nicotinamide and a variety of other related amides and esters. Nicotinic acid and nicotinamide have the same vitamin activity, although their pharmacological effects are different. In particular, nicotinamide doesn’t have the same lipid modifying effects as nicotinic acid.
Niacin and nicotinamide are precursors for nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD) and nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate (NADP), which are the forms of vitamin B3 that are used in the body. NAD and NADP are both coenzymes for many reactions involving the transfer of hydrogen atoms between compounds. NAD is required for the catabolism of calorie sources such as carbohydrates, fats and proteins. NAPD is primarily used in the synthesis of cholesterol and fatty acids. Additional biological roles of vitamin B3 include the synthesis of hormones in the adrenal gland and DNA repair.
The most common dietary sources of vitamin B3 include animal protein, especially organ meats. Plant-based sources primarily include whole cereal grains and legumes, especially peanuts. Additional sources of vitamin B3 include mushrooms, nuts and dates.
Cholesterol management is one of the most common reasons for taking vitamin B3 as a health supplement. Other uses include joint health, the support of cognitive functions and skin health.
All forms of vitamin B3 may be able to support cognitive functions, especially in older people. Functions in this category include thinking skills and memory.
Niacin may help to maintain a healthy cholesterol profile and is often combined with omega-3 fatty acids for effective cholesterol management.
Oral supplements of vitamin B3 may help to manage specific skin conditions such as acne, granuloma annulare and bullous pemphigoid.
Oral supplements of vitamin B3 may support joint health by maintaining normal flexibility and helping to manage joint discomfort.
The first signs of a vitamin B3 deficiency usually affect the skin and intestines due to their high rate of cell replacement. These signs primarily include lesions in the skin and mouth. The high energy requirements of the brain mean that a niacin deficiency can also cause neurological symptoms such as headaches and fatigue.
Niacin, nicotinic acid, nicotinamide
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