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Niacin (Vitamin B3) Supplement Benefits and Dosage

Read more about niacin (vitamin B3) and its importance for braincare.

Sophie Medlin
Sophie Medlin
Head of Nutritional Research
April 13, 2020
5 min read

Also known as vitamin B3, niacin is one of the eight essential B vitamins we need to survive. It helps release energy from the food we eat, lowering cholesterol, easing arthritis and boosting brain function. It is also known to help improve the nervous system and lead to healthier skin.

Article breakdown

What is Niacin?

Niacin can be found mainly in two chemical forms, nicotinic acid niacinamide (sometimes called nicotinamide). It is most commonly found in foods and supplements that are essential for converting food into energy.  Niacin is good for helping to break down fats and protein, converting food into energy and cellular metabolism. It is water-soluble, so your body does not store it, which also means that your body can excrete excess amounts of the vitamin through urine if they are not needed. 

Where can we find niacin?

The primary source of niacin is found in the food we eat in our diet. While our bodies create small amounts, the leading source mostly comes from animal sources, so those on a plant-based diet might benefit from supplementation. In addition, niacin helps optimise the release of energy and is best consumed with other B vitamins.

Some of the foods Niacin can be found in:

  • beef

  • chicken

  • liver 

  • oily fish 

  • eggs 

  • bread

  • fortified cereals

  • potatoes

  • broccoli

  • asparagus

  • mushrooms 

  • avocados

How much niacin (vitamin B3) do I need?

The recommended Nutrient Reference Value (NRV) is 16mg per day. In every dose of Heights Smart Supplement, there is 30mg (equal to 3 chicken breasts or 12 medium baked potatoes), so 188% of the NRV. Your body cannot store niacin, so it needs to be a part of your everyday diet and supplement taking.

Are there side effects to taking niacin?

Vitamin B3 is a bit of a superstar, and in recommended amounts, it is likely safe for most adults to take. However, high doses of niacin can cause severe skin flushing (niacin flush), rapid heartbeat, itching, nausea and diarrhoea. Although very unlikely to happen when taken in the correct dosages, consult a physician if any of these symptoms appear. 

What if I’m deficient in niacin (vitamin B3)?

A vitamin B3 deficiency can result in pellagra, a systemic disease characterised by brain fog, psychiatric symptoms and even dementia. Niacin deficiency is uncommon, but signs of a defect may include:

  • A rash when exposed to sunlight

  • Brain fog 

  • Headache

  • Irritability

  • Fatigue 

  • Disorientation

Braincare and benefits of niacin (vitamin B3)

An antioxidant with an essential role in cell signalling and DNA repair, niacin is vital for a normally functioning nervous system and brain function. 

  • It is vital for energy release. Like other B vitamins, niacin helps the body break down carbohydrates, fats and proteins into energy. Niacin works with enzymes to metabolize food calories and absorb nutrients which are spread throughout the organs and muscles of the body, providing them with continual energy.

  • Niacin can also be used to help keep skin healthy. It takes preventative action against future cell damage by boosting hydration in the skin and a cell's ability to retain water. It may help prevent certain types of skin cancer as well, as studies found that participants who took niacin twice a day had reduced rates of nonmelanoma skin cancer compared to the control group. Niacin can also be applied topically, helping protect skin cells from sun damage.

  • In addition, niacin plays a role in stimulating cell DNA repair. By helping the production of healthy cells that replace damaged ones, niacin increases cell turnover, leading to wound healing, decreased hyperpigmentation and even has been shown to slow signs of ageing.

  • Niacin has also been associated with playing an important role in the proper function of the nervous system, particularly in neurodevelopment and survival. 

The brain requires niacin— coenzymes NAD and NADP—to get energy and function properly. Preliminary research indicates that niacin treatment could help with it could also help keep the brain healthy in cases of Alzheimer’s disease. It is currently in trials to improve cognitive function and synaptic plasticity, aiming to improve brain health in people with Alzheimer’s Disease.

Also linked to helping cholesterol, type 1 diabetes and lowering blood pressure, there is still a lot to be learnt about the importance of making niacin part of our everyday diets.

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Evidence

Here’s a handful of relevant scientific studies on vitamin B3 (niacin).

  • Xu, X. J., & Jiang, G. S. (2015). Niacin-respondent subset of schizophrenia–a therapeutic review. Eur Rev Med Pharmacol Sci, 19(6), 988-997.

  • Wang, W., & Liang, B. (2012). Case report of mental disorder induced by niacin deficiency. Shanghai archives of psychiatry, 24(6), 352.

  • Kennedy, D. O. (2016). B vitamins and the brain: mechanisms, dose and efficacy—a review. Nutrients, 8(2), 68.

  • Gong, B., Pan, Y., Vempati, P., Zhao, W., Knable, L., Ho, L., ... & Pasinetti, G. M. (2013). Nicotinamide riboside restores cognition through an upregulation of proliferator-activated receptor-γ coactivator 1α regulated β-secretase 1 degradation and mitochondrial gene expression in Alzheimer's mouse models. Neurobiology of aging, 34(6), 1581-1588.

  • National Institutes of Health: Niacin Fact Sheet for Health Professionals.

  • National Library of Medicine: Why Nicotinamide riboside restores cognition through an upregulation of proliferator and mitochondrial gene expression in Alzheimer’s mouse models.

  • Nation Library of medicine: Effects of homocysteine-lowering with B vitamins on cognitive ageing: a meta-analysis of 11 trials with cognitive data on 22,000 individuals.

    NHS: B vitamins and folic acid.

  • Niacin, an Old Drug, has New Effects on Central Nervous System Disease.

  • Niacin in the Central Nervous System: An Update of Biological Aspects and Clinical Applications.

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