Niacin, or vitamin B3, also known as nicotinic acid, is a member of the B-complex, the group of vitamins so important for countering the effects of stress. In its raw form it is a white, crystalline vitamin that dissolves readily in water. Niacin is essential for a healthy nervous system, healthy skin, production of sex hormones by the adrenal glands, and normal function of the stomach and intestinal tract.
Niacin is required by all living cells, and a deficiency affects every cell of the body. It is an important component of two coenzymes, niacinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD) and niacinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate (NADP). These coenzymes are responsible for metabolism of carbohydrates, lipids and proteins, releasing energy in tissues and cells.
The late stage of severe niacin deficiency is known as pellagra, a disease that causes weakness, fatigue, anorexia, indigestion, and skin lesions. The term pellagra comes from the Italian, meaning rough or raw skin. Symptoms include diarrhea, dermatitis, dementia and death—thus its mnemonic: "the disease of the four D's."
Niacin can be found in meats, poultry, wheat germ, red-fleshed fish (e.g., tuna and salmon), eggs, legumes, nuts, and brewer’s yeast.
Benefits of niacin