|Vitamin B3 is used by the body to release energy from carbohydrates. Vitamin B3 or niacin comes in two basic forms: one is called nicotinic acid and the other is called nicotinamide (nicotinamide is also called niacinamide). Niacin (nicotinic acid, nicotinamide) is a water-soluble vitamin whose requirement is partly met by conversion in the body of the essential amino acid
tryptophan to niacin. It's also needed to form fat from carbohydrate and to process alcohol. Niacin is helpful in regulating cholesterol. The body uses the water-soluble vitamin B3 in the process of releasing energy from carbohydrates. It is needed to form fat from carbohydrates and to process alcohol. The niacin form of vitamin B3 also regulates cholesterol, though niacinamide does not.
Vitamin B3 contributes to more than 50 vital bodily processes. Among them, vitamin B3 helps convert food into energy, it helps build red blood cell count, synthesizes hormones, fatty acids, and steroids. Vitamin B3 helps maintain skin, nerves, and blood vessels, supports the gastrointestinal tract, and detoxifies certain drugs and chemicals. It is also widely believed in the research community that vitamin B3 helps regulate blood sugar levels. Vitamin B3 has a powerful, almost drug-like effect, on the lowering of cholesterol levels and triglycerides, dilating blood vessels to improve circulation, and alleviating depression, insomnia, and hyperactivity. A lack of this vitamin can affect every cell in the body. It is carried in the blood and found in all the tissues with the greatest concentrations found in the liver, kidneys, heart, brain and muscle.
Because of its unique relationship with energy production, vitamin B3 deficiency is often associated with general weakness, muscular weakness, and lack of appetite. Skin infections and digestive problems can also be associated with niacin deficiency. Symptoms of mild deficiency include indigestion, fatigue, canker sores, vomiting, and depression. The most common symptoms of niacin deficiency involve the skin, digestive system, and the nervous system. In the skin, a thick, scaly, darkly pigmented rash develops symmetrically in areas exposed to sunlight. Niacin deficiency also results in burning in the mouth and a swollen, bright red tongue In the United States alcoholism is the prime cause of Vitamin B3 deficiency. Severe niacin deficiency causes pellagra, a disease characterized by mouth sores, skin rashes, diarrhea, and dementia.
A niacin deficiency often leads to a chronic illness called pellagra, characterized by gastrointestinal problems, lesions of the skin, and dementia. Pellagra is characterized by cracked, scaly skin, dementia, and diarrhea. Primary pellagra results from inadequate niacin and/or tryptophan in the diet (mainly in developing countries or poverty stricken areas). Secondary pellagra occurs when there is enough niacin in the diet but something prevents its absorption and processing. It is generally treated with a nutritionally balanced diet and niacin supplements. Niacin deficiency or pellagra may result from inadequate dietary intake of niacin and/or tryptophan. Other nutrient deficiencies may also contribute to the development of niacin deficiency. Patients with Hartnup's disease, a hereditary disorder resulting in defective tryptophan absorption, have developed pellagra. Carcinoid syndrome, a condition of increased secretion of serotonin and other catecholamines by carcinoid tumors, may also result in pellagra due to increased utilization of dietary tryptophan for serotonin rather than niacin synthesis. Prolonged treatment with the anti-tuberculosis drug, Isoniazid, has also resulted in niacin deficiency.
If left untreated, death is the usual outcome of pellagra. It occurs as a result of niacin (vitamin B-3) deficiency. Niacin is required for most cellular processes. Since tryptophan in the diet can be converted to niacin in the body, both of these need to be deficient for pellagra to develop. Vitamin B3 deficiency is rare, but can occur in alcoholics, individuals with poor or irregular diets (particularly the elderly, pregnant women and infants), and in individuals with medical conditions causing malabsorption from the intestinal tract. Dietary deficiency of niacin tends to only occur in areas of the world where people eat corn as a staple and don't use lime in fertilization. Niacin deficiency can generally be avoided by regularly including sources of niacin in the diet, including legumes, lean meats, and whole-grain or enriched breads and cereals. Some protein-rich food items that are poor sources of niacin, such as eggs and milk, can also help reduce the risk of niacin deficiency because they contain tryptophan, an amino acid that can be converted into niacin through bacterial action in the body.