Vitamin B3 - Why is Vitamin B3 (Niacin) Essential For Kids?
Posted on June 04 2021,
Vitamin B3, also known as niacin, is a water-soluble vitamin used by our bodies to turn food into energy. Along with its principal function to help us produce energy, it supports our nervous system, digestive system and skin. Niacin also helps metabolize cholesterol and fats inside the body, create and repair DNA, and exert antioxidants. (1)
Nicotinic acid and nicotinamide are the two common forms of niacin. These forms are found in niacin-rich foods and supplements. An amino acid (building block of a protein) known as tryptophan also converts itself to nicotinamide. Niacin is a "helper molecule/substance" that aids in more than 400 enzymatic functions in the body for a range of reactions.
Kids usually obtain adequate niacin with a healthy diet of niacin foods, like peanuts, fortified vegan breakfast cereals, quinoa, muesli, Marmite/Vegemite, wild rice, wholemeal spaghetti, corn on the cob, brown rice, acorn squash, tortillas and cereal grains.
Some children may experience vitamin B3 deficiency symptoms, including lapses in memory and potentially skin irritation; therefore, it is important to introduce niacin-rich foods from a young age. Vitamin B3 deficiency can be caused by inadequate weaning practices as infants and improper introduction of food for vitamin B3 intake. Read more about the function, benefits, signs of deficiency, dosing recommendations, food sources and risks of vitamin B3 for your child below!
How Does Vitamin B3 (Niacin) Function in Your Child’s Body?
Small amounts of vitamin B3 are absorbed into the stomach, and rapid absorption occurs in the small intestine, which is a major site of absorption and niacin function in the body. Nicotinic acid and nicotinamide are absorbed from the intestine through the portal vein before entering into the body's general circulation. Once niacin is absorbed in the small intestine, the major amounts are metabolized and turned into energy; the rest goes into the bloodstream and is excreted via urine after performing their functions.
Niacin, or vitamin B3, is a crucial nutrient that prevents skin irritation, irritability and low attention span in your child. However, any protein containing sufficient amounts of the amino acid tryptophan can prevent similar issues. Tryptophan is an essential amino acid that needs to be consumed in a balanced diet.
A child who gets adequate protein in their diet (as most people in developed nations) will likely not be deficient in niacin. Healthy, plant-based diets and naturally-derived vitamins/supplements can function as vitamin B3 sources. The average intake requirement for males aged 3 to 15 years is 16 mg/day, and for females aged 3 to 15 years is 14 mg/day. (2)
What Is Vitamin B3 Good for?
Here are some of the many benefits of vitamin B3 for your child:
- Promotes metabolism
- Increases energy
- Cardiovascular health
- Cognitive health
- Boosts brain function
- Improves joint mobility
- Improves skin
- Treats pellagra and associated conditions
Cardiovascular health: Around the US, doctors have been prescribing nicotinic acid to treat a risk factor for cardiovascular diseases known as dyslipidemia (abnormal amounts of lipid in the blood). This condition is characterized by high total cholesterol and high LDL ("bad") cholesterol levels, low HDL ("good") cholesterol, and elevated triglycerides. Having the right amount of niacin reverses these problems. As an extended-release drug, B3 allows for better absorption and reduces chances of toxicity. It has been found that a combination of niacin and a medicine called Statin (which lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease by increasing "good" cholesterol) proved to be vital in reducing the risk of heart disease. This combination therapy has also been found to lower "bad" (LDL) cholesterol levels. (1)(3)
The active metabolite forms of vitamin B3, the pyridine dinucleotides NAD+ and NADP+ are essential to cellular processes of energy metabolism, cell protection and biosynthesis. Cellular adaptations include stimulation of mitochondrial biogenesis, which is fundamental to adjusting cellular and tissue physiology to reduce nutrient availability and increase energy demand. (1)
Cognitive health: Dementia and memory loss, including memory loss in the elderly, have been found in those with severe niacin deficiency. Vitamin B3 is known to protect brain cells from harm. Although there are not many studies on adolescents regarding dementia, if you have noticed your kids experiencing lapses in their memory, it might be good to have their vitamin B3 levels checked by their pediatrician. (1)
A large prospective study of 3,718 men and women ages 65 and older was conducted in which the subjects were followed for six years and consistently administered dietary questionnaires and cognitive assessments. A protective effect from Alzheimer's disease and cognitive decline was found when comparing the highest to lowest intakes of niacin/vitamin B3. (1)
Boosts brain function: The brain of both an adult and a child needs niacin for gaining energy to work. A sufficient niacin level can protect against brain fog, the presentation of Schizophrenia, and numerous other psychiatric problems by reversing the damage to brain cells. (4)
Recent growing research has indicated that vitamin B3 plays a key role in neuronal health. It has emerged that niacin bioavailability is crucial for neuronal survival and functions. In fact, vitamin deficiency has been recognized as a pathogenic factor for neurological deficits and dementia and neuronal injury and psychiatric disorders. (4)
Improves skin: Is vitamin B3 good for skin? Yes! Using niacin-based skin care products like lotion and sunscreen and even consuming niacin through diet protects our outer dermal layer against sun damage via UV rays and other damaging effects.
Recent research suggests niacin may help prevent some types of skin cancer. A study found that taking 500 mg of nicotinamide (a form of niacin/vitamin B3) twice daily reduced rates of non-melanoma skin cancer among high-risk individuals.
In the United States, pellagra is infrequently reported. Yet this disorder does occur among malnourished persons. The typically robust response of the disorder to physiologic doses of niacin can assist in confirming the diagnosis. (5)
What are the Symptoms of Vitamin B3 Deficiency?
Below are common signs and symptoms of vitamin B3 deficiency in kids and adults:
- Psychological disorders (mental depression)
- Tumor formation
- Congenital malformation
- Abdominal pain
- Diarrhea and upset stomach
- Flaky skin rash (dermatitis rash) where exposed to sunlight
- Loss of memory
- Smooth, bright red or black tongue
Psychological disorders : Deficiencies of niacin may contribute to neuropsychiatric and neurodegenerative disorders. Vitamin B deficiency has been linked to adult and child depression. While niacin and depression may not be directly correlated, niacin supplementation may be considered in patients with inadequate diets who are also treated with antidepressants. (6)
“Niacin is important for the maintenance of cellular integrity and energy production and is involved in more than 500 intracellular reactions. Patients who develop nutritional deficiencies as a result of poor dietary intake, especially inadequate intake of proteins and vitamins, could potentially suffer from niacin deficiency and NAD depletion.” (3)
Tumor formation: Human epidemiology suggests that niacin deficiency enhances cancer risk. Research using animal models compared to human biology has indicated that niacin deficiency can lead to an increased predisposition to cancer development. (7)(8)
"Niacin deficiency has been linked to genomic instability largely through impaired function of the poly ADP-ribose polymerase (PARP) family of enzymes. In various models, niacin deficiency has been found to cause impaired cell cycle arrest and apoptosis, delayed DNA excision repair, accumulation of single and double-strand breaks, chromosomal breakage, telomere erosion and cancer development." (7)
Pellagra: Pellagra is a disease of niacin deficiency that initially appeared in Europe in the 1700s when corn from the New World became a primary food source. During the early 1900s in the US, pellagra devastated lives throughout the South and Midwest. It wasn't until after hundreds of thousands of cases of pellagra had occurred that the condition was known to be caused by a vitamin B3 (niacin) deficiency. (9)
The disease still occurs among poorly nourished people living in low-income and developing urban areas, and particularly among those with alcohol addiction. Pellagra is also still common in parts of Africa and Asia. Its symptoms are known as the four "Ds": diarrhea, dermatitis, dementia, and, ultimately, death. (9)
Congenital malformation: Congenital malformation is a physical defect that can be present in babies at birth. This defect involves multiple parts of the newborn's body, including the intestinal tract, heart, lungs, liver, bones, and brain. While congenital malformation can be due to genetics, it can also happen from exposure to substances like alcohol while in the womb, which can lead to malnutrition of vitamins like niacin. Congenital malformations are a problem globally, with it being the leading cause of infant mortality in the US and other developed countries. Ensuring that you are also getting proper nutrition while pregnant is one way that you can contribute to your child’s health even before they enter the world! (8)
"Major congenital malformations occur in at least 2% of human births. There are relatively few identified causes. The origins of most malformations have been difficult to determine and probably involve genetic and environmental factors or gene–environment interaction. Disruption of NAD synthesis caused a deficiency of NAD and congenital malformations in humans and mice. Niacin supplementation during gestation prevented malformations in mice. Benefits of niacin supplementation have been observed in experimental models of cancer, cardiovascular disease, skin health, mental health, and oxidant lung injury." (8)
How much Vitamin B3 should Your Child take per Day?
Dosing recommendations for vitamin B3 are provided in the Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) developed by the Food and Nutrition Board (FNB). DRI is the optimal amount of nutrients that a person needs per day.
So, your question is, "How much B3 should I take?" Well, the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for this vitamin is provided for all age groups in micrograms (mcg) below: (10)
|Ages||Recommended Daily Amount in milligrams (mg)||Upper Daily Limit|
|Children 1-3 years||6 mg||10 mg|
|Children 4-8 years||8 mg||15 mg|
|Children 9-13 years||12 mg||20 mg|
|Teens 14-18 years*||16 mg (males)/14 mg (females)||30 mg|
|Adults 19+ years*||16 mg (males)/14 mg (females)||35 mg|
*These amounts are the same for people who are pregnant and lactating, although consultation with a doctor or healthcare professional is always recommended
Should Your Child Take Vitamin B3 Supplements?
Finding niacin in food through healthy, plant-based diets is possible; however, naturally derived vitamins/supplements can also function as niacin sources. Nicotinic acid and nicotinamide are the supplemental forms of niacin. Niacin is found in multivitamin/multimineral supplements, such as B-complex vitamins, and niacin-specific dietary supplements. Some supplements contain high doses of niacin. Therefore, individuals should consult with a physician to determine how much niacin per day is necessary and how much niacin is too much, while also factoring in a healthy diet. If taken in excess, the supplement may cause harm to the skin and the inner body functions dependent on niacin. (11)
What Is Vitamin B3 Found In?
Foods that are niacin (vitamin B3) rich are listed below.
|Food Name||Serving Size||tbsp||mg||mg/tbsp||
% DV* in 1 tbsp
|Dry Roasted Peanuts||1 oz
|Ginkgo nuts, dried||1 oz||2||3.3||1.65||20.63%|
|Hemp seeds||1 oz||2||2.6||1.3||16.25%|
|Chia seeds||1 oz||2||2.5||1.25||15.63%|
|Sunflower seeds, dried||1 oz||2||2.3||1.15||14.38%|
|Fiddlehead ferns||100 grams||6.67||5.0||0.75||9.37%|
Portobellos (exposed to sunlight or UV light)
|1 cup sliced||16||7.6||0.475||5.94%|
|White button mushrooms, cooked||1 cup chopped||16||7.0||0.438||5.47%|
|Yellow passion fruit juice||1 cup||16||5.5||0.344||4.30%|
*DV = Daily Value
Niacin (Vitamin B3) Risks and Side Effects
Is vitamin B3 safe to take daily? Yes, niacin should be taken daily because it is a water-soluble vitamin. However, it should be taken at recommended amounts as overdosing niacin can lead to negative side effects. Excessive niacin intake is responsible for red flushing on the skin, which may be accompanied by an itching or burning sensation, especially when one starts to take supplements of niacin, which typically contain high doses of the vitamin. It is suggested by physicians to start taking the supplement in smaller doses before gradually increasing to higher doses if needed. Some other vitamin B3 side effects include diarrhea and stomach pain. Higher doses also cause liver problems, altered blood glucose levels, stomach ulcers, low blood pressure, damage to muscles, and some heart health imbalances. It is advisable to consult with a medical health care provider before you start taking niacin (vitamin B3) supplements.
Niacin supplements, like most other supplements, do have positive and negative interactions with other substances. Taking a niacin supplement along with tuberculosis drugs can interfere with the body's ability to convert tryptophan into niacin, thus reducing the total levels of niacin (vitamin B3) in the body. Additionally, these supplements can interact with diabetes drugs, thyroid hormones, medicines for blood pressure and antibiotics. Niacin supplements may also interact with herbal supplements and antioxidants. People with gout should not take niacin supplements. Although it has been found that the use of niacin alongside Statin may reduce risk for heart disease, it is always recommended that a healthcare provider or medical professional monitor regularly for possible negative interactions among any of the above substances and supplements.
Many researchers have studied the uses of niacin in reducing the risks of heart attack events and stroke from the nicotinic acid form. "Bad" cholesterol can be lowered, and "good" cholesterol can be increased by consuming 100 times more niacin than the average recommended amount; however, this increased amount cannot reduce cardiovascular problems like stroke, sudden death, or heart attack.
Maintaining a well-balanced diet with enough fruits and vegetables ensures an adequate supply of niacin (vitamin B3). The use of natural vitamin supplements can also help ensure that children receive niacin benefits. If an adolescent takes more than 30mg of nicotinic acid, they can experience niacin side effects like tingling and burning sensations on the face, arms and chest.
How much vitamin B3 is too much?
There are risks involved with consuming an excess amount of niacin (vitamin B3). Severe side effects can be experienced when niacin levels exceed 1000 mg/day and include:
- Impaired vision
- Low blood pressure
- High blood glucose levels
- Abdominal pain
- Liver failure and Hepatitis
Inadequate niacin intake in the early years of life or niacin deficiency due to various diseases and conditions can lead to adverse health consequences in one's adult life. A diet rich in healthy plant-based foods, like fruits and vegetables, can help children safely get the appropriate vitamins they need. Children need to maintain a sufficient level of niacin from an early age to benefit from positive effects on physical and mental health and wellbeing. Supplements in the form of vitamins can aid in healthy intake of vitamin B3 for children and adults, particularly if children are not getting enough vitamin B3 in food. Avoiding vitamin B3 overdose can prevent harmful side effects in children and adults, such as skin irritation.
- Book: Nutrition: concepts and controversies. 2012.
- Book: Nutrition: concepts and controversies. 2012.
Disclaimer: The content of this blog post is intended for informational purposes only. It is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should not use this information for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing any medication or other treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider before taking any medication or nutritional, herbal or homeopathic supplement and with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.