Vitamin B3 Deficiency

General text about the lack of vitamins can be found here.


Vitamin B3 is the name given to substance known as niacin (nicotinic acid). Like the other B-complex vitamins niacin is also important for the metabolism of essential nutrients and energetic metabolism. It is found in yeast, offal, fish, and nuts. Vitamin B3 given in high doses lowers high cholesterol level.


Vitamin B3 deficiency is usually associated with chronic alcoholism and malnutrition. Higher risk is reported in people with anorexia nervosa and patients with malabsorption of nutrients in the digestive tract.


Vitamin B3 deficiency manifests with general and vague symptoms such as fatigue, depressive mood, loss of appetite and vomiting. Severe deficiency leads to development of a disease known as pellagra. The pellagra is also called as “Triple D disease” as it manifests with Dementia (confusion, hallucinations), Dermatitis (skin inflammation with rash) and Diarrhea. However, fully manifesting pellagra is virtually absent in developed countries.


Lack of B vitamins, including niacin, should be expected in all patients with the above-mentioned risk factors (see Causes) and appropriate supplementation should be given before occurrence of the symptoms.


The best solution is to increase the intake of niacin in the diet. When this is not possible, we can administer the vitamin as a dietary supplement. However, higher doses of niacin (given over 50 milligrams a day) may have side effects such as burning and redness of the face and very high doses have been reported to cause liver damage with elevated liver tests and occurrence of peptic ulcers. This is also the reason, why niacin did not become the hypolipidemic drug of first choice.


Jiri Stefanek, MD  Author of texts: Jiri Stefanek, MD
 Sources: basic text sources