Niacin is somewhat unique in the vitamin world. It does occur naturally in many foods, it is easily obtainable as a supplement to holistically treat certain ailments, and in addition it is also prescribed by medical professionals to treat conditions other than a clinical vitamin deficiency. This points to Niacin as a true powerhouse that can really benefit you.

What Is It?

Also sometimes called vitamin B3, niacin [1] is part of the b-vitamin complex. Water-soluble, this vitamin is found in a fairly wide range of foods and is responsible for several aspects of your well-being.

What Is Its Biological Role?

Niacin is available in several forms, each having slightly different effects on the body. Cholesterol can be regulated by niacin, for example. It helps to raise LDL cholesterol significantly, and also has a small part in lowering HDL cholesterol. Certain forms of niacin also have anti-inflammatory properties.

This makes it beneficial for anyone suffering from joint pain or arthritis. The niacin can help the inflammation that is sometimes responsible for joint pain, and can limit the severity of arthritis symptoms. Another common use related to its anti-inflammatory properties is to heal the skin; niacin is used both holistically and medically to treat certain types of acne that are characterized by painful inflammation.

Interestingly, one of the side effects of high-dose niacin, a process called flushing that causes blood to rush to certain parts of the body, is being utilized as a holistic treatment for erectile dysfunction [2].

Most commonly, flushing causing a rush of blood to the face and neck which can be unpleasant; however, it also increases blood flow to the genital area which can alleviate the issues caused by ED.

How Does It Help Bodybuilders and People Who Work Out?

The anti-inflammatory properties of niacin that make it so beneficial to those suffering from arthritis and chronic pain may also hold benefit for fitness enthusiasts. The muscle damage that precedes muscle growth also causes swelling in the muscle, this is what contributes to protracted periods of soreness.

Niacin in higher doses may help alleviate some of that muscle pain and result in shorter recovery times after particularly intense workouts. This effect would enable the user to get back into the gym just a little bit sooner--and with less pain--than they otherwise would have.

What Foods Contain It?

Some examples of niacin-rich foods are meats, particularly liver, tuna, mushrooms, and peanuts. Incorporating some or all of these foods into your life as part of a varied and wholesome diet will help ensure that you get the level of niacin you need.

How Much Of It Do You Need?

Recommended daily intake amounts of niacin [3] vary for small children, but stabilizes for those aged 14 and over. For this group, males are recommended 16mg per day while females are recommended 14mg per day.

Women who are breastfeeding are recommended to increase their intake to 17mg per day, while women who are pregnant are recommended to increase their intake to 18mg per day. If you are considering supplementing doses higher than this to holistically treat an ailment, it may be beneficial to speak with your doctor before starting the supplement.

Are There Risks Associated With Consuming Too Much Of It?

Niacin consumed in very high doses causes the body to produce more histamine, the substance in your body that causes allergic reactions. If you already suffer from allergies, this effect has the potential to make them more severe.

Also, because Niacin can lower blood pressure and raise blood sugar, individuals who already suffer from these conditions may experience particularly severe reactions. Taking niacin in conjunction with certain prescription medications can worsen these symptoms, so again it is important to consult your doctor before significantly increasing your niacin intake.

Are There Risks Associated With Consuming Too Little Of It?

Niacin deficiency occurs most frequently in individuals who are also extremely malnourished, primarily areas that suffer from intense poverty. The symptoms resulting from a niacin deficiency are commonly categorized as the 3 D’s: dementia, diarrhea, and dermatitis.

More explicitly, a lack of niacin causes extreme skin irritation, digestive complications including diarrhea, and cognitive problems affecting memory. A niacin-deficient condition called pellagra occurs when these symptoms become chronic. If left untreated for a moderate amount of time, pellagra is fatal.

Utilized properly, Niacin is one of the few vitamins that is widely recognized by medical professionals as having definitive beneficial properties when ingested in higher doses via supplements. 

After all, most of us could use better cholesterol, slightly lower blood pressure, and decreased inflammation. With it offering so many benefits, and such unpleasant side effects if you don’t get enough, you’ll want to be sure to change your habits if necessary so that you can ensure you’re getting enough of this helpful vitamin.


[1] WebMD. Niacin (Vitamin B3) Uses, Effects (Niacin Flush) and More., 2015.

[2] Williams, Sarah. Vitamin B Battles Erectile Dysfunction., 2011.

[3] The Mayo Clinic. Niacin (Vitamin B3, Nicotinic Acid), Niacinamide Dosing., 2013.