What is Vitamin B3 or Niacin and How Does it Benefit You?

The other name for Vitamin B3 is called Niacin. Vitamin B3 is an organic compound that is one of the most essential nutrients your body needs for optimum function. Although the terms Vitamin B3 and Niacin are used interchangeably, they both represent two different compounds – niacinamide and nicotinic acid respectively.

These two compounds have minor differences in terms of chemical structure but essentially have similar biochemical activity. Because Niacin was initially isolated during the oxidation of nicotine, it was given the name of nicotinic acid. However, it is not at all similar to nicotine in terms of molecular structure.

Vitamin B3 is one of the most stable of the B Vitamins and is resistant to:

  • heat
  • air
  • acid
  • alkali
  • and light

Niacin is a white crystalline compound that is readily soluble in water and alcohol. This compound is easily absorbed within your body from the small intestine.

Your body doesn’t really store much Niacin, barring small amounts that are stored in your liver but the bulk of the excess of Niacin is removed from your body through urine. This makes it necessary for you to consume foods that contain Vitamin B3 on a daily basis.

Nicotinic acid or niacinamide gets converted into active forms, known as nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD) and nicotinamide adenine dinuucleotide phosphate (NADP). NAD and NADP are responsible for several metabolic reactions. Their most important role is glycolysis – i.e. extracting energy from glucose, carbohydrates and proteins.

They are also involved:

  • in the production of fatty acids
  • in deamination of amino acids
  • and in production of steroids and RBC

It is interesting to note that your body can convert the amino acid, tryptophan, into vitamin B3. So if your diet is deficient in Niacin, it is important that adequate amounts of protein, containing tryptophan, is consumed. While a protein rich diet could make up for the lack of niacin in the foods you eat, if you have a deficiency of Vitamin B1, B2, B6, C and iron, then the conversion of tryptophan to niacin is much more difficult to convert.