Can Niacin B3 Treat Depression As Well

Niacin - Why Supplement?

What's behind the niacin advertisement?

According to advertising, niacin, also known as vitamin B3, is said to support heart health, lower cholesterol, promote mental energy, motivation, a good mood and concentration, and ensure healthy, beautiful skin and hair. But most of these advertising promises are not scientifically backed up.

After examination by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), the EU Commission has approved the following health-related claims:

  • Niacin contributes to normal energy-yielding metabolism
  • Niacin contributes to the normal functioning of the nervous system
  • Niacin contributes to normal psychological function
  • Niacin helps maintain normal mucous membranes
  • Niacin helps maintain normal skin
  • Niacin helps reduce tiredness and fatigue

The intake amount is reached or exceeded with the usual diet in Germany and an additional supplement usually does not bring any health benefits.

Nicotinic acid, another form of this vitamin, is also used to treat certain disorders of fat and cholesterol metabolism. However, these are drugs, not dietary supplements, and the therapeutic use of such drugs should be accompanied by a doctor.

Some - mostly advertised on the Internet - products should be used in the form of a cure for 6 weeks to "cleanse" the body. However, there is no scientific evidence for the health benefits of such a regimen. On the contrary: the daily dose of between 100 mg and 5000 mg of nicotinic acid recommended for a cure represents a health risk in the opinion of the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR).

B3 does not protect against COVID19 disease

At the beginning of April 2020, the University Medical Center Schleswig-Holstein (UKSH), Campus Kiel, carried out a nationwide study on treatment of COVID-19 diseases started with high-dose vitamin B3 (niacin). The aim is to investigate whether the administration of vitamins can alleviate the course of the disease in humans. That means Notthat this could prevent infection.

What should I look out for when using niacin?

Niacin is approved in the EU in two forms (compounds), as Nicotinic acid amide (Nicotinamide, niacinamide) and as Nicotinic acid. The Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) recommends no more than 4 mg nicotinic acid or 160 mg nicotinic acid amide or 4.4 mg inositol hexanicotinate (Inositol niacinate) per day. It is also recommended that dietary supplements with a daily dose of more than 16 mg nicotinamide carry a notice that pregnant women should refrain from using the product.

Excessive doses of nicotinic acid (daily doses of over 30 mg) can lead to health problems. Frequent overdose symptoms are so-called "flush symptoms". These include reddened skin, a feeling of heat "hot flash" and hives with very itchy wheals.

Danger: Regardless of the dosage, such symptoms are not a sign of effectiveness, as some sellers claim, but a warning signal to stop taking the product immediately.

Very high doses of several grams of nicotinic acid can cause diarrhea, nausea and vomiting. In the worst case, long-term consequences can even include jaundice, damage to the liver or problems with the glucose metabolism. Serious eye damage up to blindness (niacin-induced maculopathy), high blood pressure and increased blood lipid levels are known as (reversible) consequences. Therefore, according to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), the total intake of nicotinic acid should not exceed 10 mg daily. The consumer advice centers and the BfR consider food supplements with consumption recommendations of up to several grams per day to be unsafe - and therefore unsaleable - foods.

Conventional foods with natural vitamin B3 content do not carry the risk of overdosing on niacin. Interactions with drugs (e.g. with oral antidiabetic drugs or anticoagulant drugs) are also problematic. Therefore, at least when taking medication, you should always discuss the use of niacin-containing food supplements with your doctor beforehand.

What does the body need niacin for?

Niacin comprises various water-soluble compounds with similar chemical structure, including nicotinic acid and nicotinic (acid) amide. The body can produce niacin itself from the amino acid tryptophan, a protein building block.

Niacin is essential for many processes in the body. In addition to the build-up and breakdown of carbohydrates, amino acids and fatty acids, niacin is also involved in cell division and signal transmission. Niacin also plays a role in the functioning of the immune system.

Can I cover my daily niacin requirement with food?

Although niacin can be produced by the human body itself, the vitamin must be taken in with food to cover the daily requirement.

The German Nutrition Society recommends a daily intake of 11-17 mg niacin equivalents. In addition to niacin itself, this also includes compounds such as tryptophan, which the body can convert to niacin in the liver.

The daily intake of niacin recommended by the German Nutrition Society is usually reached and even exceeded. In Germany, a niacin deficiency only occurs as a result of diseases such as alcoholism, anorexia, chronic diarrhea or cirrhosis of the liver. Nutritional supplements are therefore usually unnecessary.

Niacin in food is relatively insensitive to heat and prolonged storage. However, since the vitamin passes into the water when it is boiled, we recommend that you continue to use the cooking water.

These vitamin compounds are approved for niacin in food supplements in Germany and other EU countries in accordance with EU Directive 2002/46 / EC, Appendix II (version dated March 9, 2021)

  • Nicotinic acid
  • Nicotinamide
  • Inositol hexanicotinate (inositol niacinate)
  • Nicotinamide Riboside Chloride (Novel)

Another vitamin compound is currently still in the approval process as a novel food ingredient.



BfR (2021): Updated maximum quantity proposals for vitamins and minerals in food supplements and fortified foods
Opinion No. 009/2021 of March 15, 2021

BfR (2021): Maximum amount proposals for niacin in food including food supplements

Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR): The intake of nicotinic acid in excessive doses can be harmful to health. Opinion No. 018/2012 of February 6, 2012

German Nutrition Society (DGE): Selected questions and answers about niacin. As of 2015, accessed on March 31, 2021

Hahn, A./Ströhle, A./Wolters, M. Nutrition. Physiological basics, prevention, therapy. Wissenschaftliche Verlagsgesellschaft mbH Stuttgart, 2nd edition (2006)

Max Rubner Institute. National Consumption Study II. Results Report, Part 2. (2008)

EFSA (2014): Scientific opinion for dietary reference value on Niacin. EFSA Journal (12) 7: 3759

Press release of the University Hospital Schleswig-Holstein from March 31, 2020: UKSH starts nationwide nutrition study to improve the course of COVID-19

LEE JG et al. (2019): Optical Coherence Tomography, Fluorescein Angiography, and Electroretinography Features of Niacin Maculopathy: New Insight Into Pathogenesis. Journal of Vitreo Retinal Diseases 3 (6)

EFSA (2019): Safety of nicotinamide riboside chloride as a novel foodpursuant to Regulation (EU) 2015/2283 and bioavailability of nicotinamide from this source, in the context of Directive 2002/46 / EC

EFSA (2017): Safety of 1-methylnicotinamide chloride (1-MNA) as a novelfood pursuant to Regulation (EC) No 258/97

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