Popularly known as vitamin B3, niacin is a naturally occurring acid that has a major role to play in metabolism, just like other complex B vitamins. It is instrumental in converting calories from food products into energy that powers your body, keeping the digestive system in order and regulating its chemical stability. Niacid's convertion has major implications for the nourishment and well-being of your skin, hair and a host of other organs, including your nerves. It is also important due to its contribution to repairing DNA and generation of hormones related to sex and stress. It can be found in a large array of common foods, from avocados, dates, tomatoes, eggs, certain types of meat and fish to seeds.
In the West, thanks to easy availability of most types of foods, cases of severe niacin insufficiency are extremely infrequent, reserved to pockets of chronic alcohol abuse usually coupled with poverty and malnutrition. A chronic lack of vitamin B3 in a diet leads to a condition known as pellagra, once very common among concentration and labor camp inmates. Symptoms of mild niacin deficiency include indigestion, vomiting, tiredness or apathy, mostly resulting from slower or incomplete metabolism.
Most importantly for modern consumers, niacin has been proven to help maintain healthy cholesterol levels and might help reduce levels of the so-called bad cholesterol (low-density lipoprotein) and fat triglyceride, while boosting the levels of HDL (high-density lipoprotein), beneficial cholesterol that plays a role in hardening artery walls. This makes this form of vitamin B3 an important ally in cholesterol management, as well as the prevention of arthrosclerosis, a disease that manifests itself in hardening of the arteries. Niacin's role in regulating cholesterol economy translates into considerably lowering the likelihood of a heart disease, a heart attack and other cholesterol-related conditions. People at risk from these adverse health developments (obesity, sedentary lifestyle, smoking, stress) can turn to niacin to correct their causes.
In the past, vitamin B3 has attracted quite a lot of criticism, especially in relation to a side effect that niacin supplements caused (hot flashes) and its toxic qualities when taken in doses exceeding recommended allowances. The first reservation has been largely overcome as new generation of supplements incorporated a technology that curbs shifts in body temperature. The second one can be dispelled by a simple, common-sense dictum: use only in moderation and after consultation with a physician or another qualified nutrition specialist.
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* These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.