Vitamin B3: Benefits, Sources, Deficiencies

Vitamin B3 plays a number of roles in the well being of one’s health. In the early 1900’s, when pellagra was a major concern in South America, doctors used brewer’s yeast for its cure. 

This brewer’s yeast contains Vitamin B3, and today it is an important constituent in treating mental illness and preventing heart diseases. Pellagra typified “the four D’s:” diarrhoea, dermatitis, dementia, and subsequently death.

Vitamin B3 is also water-soluble and is a part of the Vitamin B complex group. It is important to the metabolic processes in the body and is an essential component for growth.This vitamin can be obtained from the diet or produced in small quantities from the amino acid, tryptophan.

It was in 1937 that biochemist Conrad Elvehjem discovered nicotinic acid in fresh meat and yeast. This compound is Vitamin B3 and is also known as niacin.

Vitamin B3 boosts the metabolism of fats, thereby reducing cholesterol levels. It is the core for the chemical foundation of nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide, which is pivotal in oxidizing food molecules for energy.

Benefits of Vitamin B3

The oxidation of adrenochrome is prevented by vitamin B3. Adrenochrome is a neurotoxic chemical in the brain, which causes hallucinations. It is also proven that the niacin form of Vitamin B3 scales down the levels of cholesterol in the human body. 

A few of the health benefits of this vitamin are listed below:

a) Cholesterol – While Vitamin B3 has undeniable effects on other blood fats, it also brings down low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, very-low-density lipoprotein (VLDL) cholesterol, triglycerides and lipoprotein A

Each of these is linked to coronary artery diseases. Moreover, the vitamin augments the levels of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol.

b) Schizophrenia – Abram Hoffer and his colleagues found that the vitamin breaks down a neurotoxin named adrenochrome resulting in the prevention of hallucinations and delusions in patients affected with schizophrenia. It can also suppress hallucination in people consuming LSD or mind wavering drugs.

c) Alzheimer’s disease – On tracking the health of 3718 elderly men and women by the doctors of the Rush Institute for Healthy Aging in Chicago, it was observed that people who consumed Vitamin B3 most were 80% less prone to contract Alzheimer’s. A recent study on animals at the University of California has indicated that vitamin B3 improves memory.

d) Gene Repair – A vital DNA repair enzyme called poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase, or PARP, requires Vitamin B3 as a co-agent. The British Journal of Nutrition published the findings of a study showing that a supplemental with constituents of Vitamin B3 (50mg), B2 (10mg) and coenzyme Q10 (100mg) increases the PARP motion and is helpful in gene repairs in women affected by breast cancer.

Research has claimed that Vitamin B3 reduces atherosclerosis or the hardening of the arteries. Niacin lowers the risk of a second heart attack in people who have already suffered one. It is also an FDA-approved healing agent for pellagra and has also been effective in treating many other health issues.

Sources of Vitamin B3

Vitamin B3, or niacin, is an indispensable vitamin required for fat processing, reducing cholesterol levels and balancing blood sugar levels in humans. 

Niacin is available naturally in many foods, including meat, poultry, fish, eggs and green vegetables.

Avocado, sunflower seeds, fresh green peas, mushrooms, beef, peanuts, pork,

shrimp, sardines, tuna, salmon, turkey, brown rice, and kidney beans are classified as rich in vitamin B3. Many products come reinforced with niacin during manufacture.

Deficiencies of Vitamin B3

Not having food that is rich in vitamin B3 can have an adverse effect on the body, as it is vital for the overall growth and the nervous system. Deficiency of vitamin B3 can lead to spells of debility of the whole body and muscles. 

There may be a loss of appetite or problems related to digestion. Other symptoms that are associated with lack of vitamin B3 are skin lesions, diarrhoea, confusion, insomnia, vomiting, depression, fatigue, canker sores and pellagra.

Though this deficiency is rare today in most places, it is still prevalent in countries where corn is the major cereal, as it is low in tryptophan, and is not easily absorbed by the body. This is also prevalent where maize is eaten.

Precautions should be taken when treating the deficiency of Vitamin B3, as intake in large dosages may result in a rise in the sugar levels and liver enzyme levels, though it is a temporary state. It can also upset the stomach if not consumed as per the advice of an expert.

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