The most important role of Vitamin B3 is the conversion of energy from the carbohydrates, fats and proteins in our food. It is also an important substance required for the cell division process and its growth. On the top of that, Vitamin B3 is used inside the cell for the production of DNA (DNA replication) and also helps in repairing damaged DNA.
The adrenal glands need Vitamin B3 to produce sex hormones and stress hormones in order to secrete reproductive cells and regulate the breathing, heart beat and energy consumption respectively.
Vitamin B3 helps in processing the fats in the body, at the same time lowers the cholesterol level when there is an elevated cholesterol level. It also plays an important part in controlling the insulin and blood sugar level.
Vitamin B3 is required in our body on a daily basis since it is soluble in water and cannot be stored in our body. The daily dosage to be consumed depends on the age group. Infants should have a daily intake of 2 to 4 milligrams, children need to have 6 to 14 milligrams per day, and adult men and women should have 16 and 14 milligrams respectively. Pregnant and breastfeeding women need more dosage of Vitamin B3 than the rest, thus they should have a daily consumption of 17 and 18 milligrams, respectively.
The natural sources of Vitamin B3 are the beets, brewer’s yeast, beef liver, beef kidney, salmon, swordfish, tuna, sunflower seeds and peanuts. A daily diet with such varieties of food will keep our body healthy with sufficient amount of Vitamin B3. There are other sources of Vitamin B3 but they don’t actually contain the vitamin but have an amino acid known as tryptophan which is later converted into Vitamin B by the body. Such sources are poultry, red meat, eggs and dairy products.
The deficiency of Vitamin B3 in our body will cause the disease, pellagra. It has symptoms such as, delusion, diarrhoea, mental confusion, and dermatitis (skin inflammation). The lack of the vitamin might also cause burning sensation in the mouth and there will also be a bright red swollen tongue.
The need of Vitamin B3 can be figured out if one faces any of the following symptoms:
- Sores around the mouth which is white or yellow and surrounded by bright red.
- Muscular weakness
- Lack of appetite
- Skin infections
The main factor for its deficiency would be ingesting food that lacks Vitamin B3. Other than this, there also are some of our physical body conditions that deteriorate the amount of Vitamin B3 in our body. Chronic diarrhoea, inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel disease and deficiency of tryptophan reduce the niacin in our body. Even physical trauma such as, long term stress and excessive alcoholism depletes our body of Vitamin B3.
If there is excess amount of Vitamin B3 in our body, it might lead to the following disorders in the body;
- Flushing of the skin, where the skin becomes red with a warm and burning sensation
- Stomach upset
- Headache, dizziness, blurred vision
- There might also be a risk of liver damage
The major advantage of Vitamin B3, is that it delays or prevents the heart attacks or strokes. For people having heart diseases, intake of Vitamin B3 slows down the progression of atherosclerosis which starts blocking the arteries. With proper consumption of the prescribed dosage of Vitamin B3 by the doctor, people with heart disease and high cholesterol level will also have a lower risk of having the first stroke.