April 8, 2016

Are You Getting These Nutrients? - Part 12


I would urge you to read the first blog above as to write more would duplicate that blog.

With that, I will move to the next nutrient – Niacin or Vitamin B3.

Vitamin B3 is one of eight B vitamins. It is also known as niacin (nicotinic acid) and has 2 other forms, niacinamide (nicotinamide) and inositol hexanicotinate, which have different effects from niacin.

All B vitamins help the body convert food (carbohydrates) into fuel (glucose), which the body uses to produce energy. These B vitamins often referred to as B-complex vitamins, also help the body use fats and protein. B-complex vitamins are needed for a healthy liver, healthy skin, hair, and eyes, and to help the nervous system function properly.

Niacin also helps the body make various sex and stress-related hormones in the adrenal glands and other parts of the body. Niacin helps improve circulation, and it has been shown to suppress inflammation.

You can meet all of your body's needs for B3 through diet. It is rare for anyone in the developed world to have a B3 deficiency. In the U.S., alcoholism is the main cause of vitamin B3 deficiency.

Symptoms of mild B3 deficiency include – indigestion, fatigue, canker sores, vomiting, poor circulation, and depression. Severe deficiency can cause a condition known as pellagra. Pellagra is characterized by cracked, scaly skin, dementia, and diarrhea. It is generally treated with a nutritionally balanced diet and niacin supplements. Niacin deficiency also causes burning in the mouth and a swollen, bright red tongue.

The best food sources of vitamin B3 are – beets, brewer's yeast, beef liver, beef kidney, fish, salmon, swordfish, tuna, sunflower seeds, and peanuts. Bread and cereals are usually fortified with niacin. In addition, foods that contain tryptophan, an amino acid the body coverts into niacin include poultry, red meat, eggs, and dairy products.

Vitamin B3 is available in several different supplement forms:
  • Niacinamide
  • Niacin
  • Inositol hexaniacinate.

Niacin is available as a tablet or capsule in both regular and timed-release forms. The timed-release tablets and capsules may have fewer side effects than regular niacin. However, the timed-release versions are more likely to cause liver damage. Regardless of which form of niacin you are using, doctors recommend periodic liver function tests when using high doses (above 100 mg per day) of niacin.

Generally, high doses of niacin are used to control specific diseases. Such high doses must be prescribed by a doctor who will increase the amount of niacin slowly, over the course of 4 to 6 weeks. Take niacin with meals to avoid stomach irritation.

Daily recommendations for niacin in the diet of healthy individuals are:
  • Men, 19 years and older: 16 mg (RDA)
  • Women, 19 years and older: 14 mg (RDA)
  • Pregnant women: 18 mg (RDA)
  • Breastfeeding women: 17 mg (RDA)

Because of the potential for side effects and interactions with medications, you should take dietary supplements only under the supervision of a knowledgeable doctor. Side effects may include diarrhea, headache, stomach discomfort, and bloating.

High doses (50 mg or more) of niacin can cause side effects. The most common side effect is called "niacin flush," which is a burning, tingling sensation in the face and chest, and red or flushed skin. Take an aspirin 30 minutes before the niacin may help reduce this symptom.

At very high doses, used to lower cholesterol and treat other conditions, liver damage and stomach ulcers can occur. Your doctor will regularly check your liver function through a blood test.

People with a history of liver disease, kidney disease, or stomach ulcers should not take niacin supplements. Those with diabetes or gallbladder disease should do so only under the close supervision of their doctors.

Stop taking niacin or niacinamide at least 2 weeks before a scheduled surgery.
Niacin and niacinamide may make allergies worse by increasing histamine.

People with low blood pressure should not take niacin or niacinamide because they may cause a dangerous drop in blood pressure. DO NOT take niacin if you have a history of gout.

People with coronary artery disease or unstable angina should not take niacin without their doctor's supervision, as large doses can raise the risk of heart rhythm problems.

Taking any one of the B vitamins for a long period of time can result in an imbalance of other important B vitamins. For this reason, you may want to take a B-complex vitamin, which includes all the B vitamins.

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