Niacin is an essential B-vitamin. Supplementation results in improved cholesterol and triglyceride levels. However, since a side-effect of supplementation is increased insulin resistance, niacin supplementation only provides benefits for cardiovascular health if precautions are taken.
Vitamin B3 is most often used for
Vitamin B3 refers to the molecule commonly called nicotinic acid, or niacin, though it may also refer to the other vitamin B3 vitamer, called nicotinamide. Vitamin B3 is necessary to support the function of many enzymes.
Niacin supplementation is very effective at normalizing blood lipid levels. Supplementation increases HDL-C levels and decreases LDL-C and triglyceride levels. This makes niacin look like a great cardioprotective supplement on paper. Unfortunately, niacin supplementation does not reliably result in a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, possibly because it also increases insulin resistance, which could negate the benefits niacin provides for blood lipid levels.
Niacin supplementation is theorized to benefit cognition and longevity. This is because niacin supplementation increases cellular nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD+) levels. Preliminary evidence suggests increased NAD+ levels may result in the above benefits, but much more research is needed to determine if this effect actually occurs.
Topical application of nicotinamide is sometimes used for skin health, though it is not as effective as vitamin A. Nicotinamide is used for topical application because it does not result in the flushed skin that niacin supplementation can cause.
Current evidence suggests prolonged niacin supplementation increases insulin resistance because it hinders the ability of insulin to suppress glucose synthesis in the liver. This causes an increase in blood glucose levels, which leads to lowered insulin sensitivity over time, since the relevant receptor is eventually desensitized to the elevated glucose levels in the blood.
The flush caused by niacin supplementation is a temporary effect. Though it may be uncomfortable, it is not harmful. There are many case studies describing people overdosing on niacin in an effort to pass a urine test. Niacin overdose results in multiple organ failure and is not effective at masking a urine test.
Most of the benefits from niacin supplementation occur after doses of at least one gram. This is approximately 5,000% the recommended daily intake.
Recent evidence has linked B vitamins (specifically B6 and B12) to an increased risk of lung cancer in men, especially in smokers. Here, we analyze the study and interview the lead author, Dr. Theodore Brasky.