Vitamin B3

Vitamin B3 describes a group of molecules with very similar chemical structure. There are two principal forms: Niacin and Niacinamide. Once digested, both these molecules travel down very similar metabolic pathways and are converted to functionally equivalent biologically active compounds that are vital for health. 

Vitamin B3 is the crucial building block for two vital coenzymes in the human body: Nicotinamide Adenine Dinucleotide (NAD) and Nicotinamide Adenine Dinucleotide phosphate (NADP). In general, NAD and NADP play a paramount role in energy transfer. NAD routinely contributes to reactions that involve energy production from the breakdown of nutrients, such as carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. Conversely, NADP predominantly participates in reactions that build new molecules such as those found in the cartilage, bone, muscle, and tendon.

Vitamin B3 is water-soluble. SInce it is water-soluble, the body cannot store it the same way it can other types of nutrients. Without a way to store this vitamin for future use, the only time the body can get the health benefits of B3 is when we ingest it.

Musculoskeletal Health Benefits of Vitamin B3

1. Vitamin B3 Supports Joint health

Vitamin B3 end products NAD and NADP are crucial molecules that support cartilage DNA health, cartilage maintenance, and cartilage growth. In the presence of damaged cartilage cell DNA, enzymes that depend on vitamin B3 end products for optimal function, are activated to help initiate and manage the repair process.

In unhealthy joints, cartilage cells have significantly more DNA damaged compare to cells in healthy joints.  If inadequate amounts NAD and NADP are present, the DNA reparative process is hindered.

Moreover, oxygen for fuel is relatively scarce in cartilage due to cartilage’s limited blood supply. Vitamin B3 end products can help enhance non-oxygen dependent energy pathways ensuring that cartilage cells have enough fuel to maintain cellular health, repair, and growth.

2. Vitamin B3 Demonstrates Antioxidant Activity

Vitamin B3 derivatives help to neutralize dangerous free radicals that attack protein, good fat, and DNA. Free radical damage to cell structures has been associated with unhealthy joints, bones, muscle, and tendons.

Additionally, vitamin B3 derivatives promote a healthy immune response to injury. A chronic,unhealthy immune response to damaged tissue accelerates and magnifies cell injury and dysfunction.

Selected Evidence

To test the theory that greater consumption of niacinamide diminishes some symptoms of osteoarthritis researches from the National Institutes of Health performed a randomized, double blinded, placebo controlled study. Seventy-Two patients with an average age of 65 were randomly assigned to one of two groups. The treatment group received niacinamide supplementation 3000 mg/day for 3 months and the placebo group received a similar looking dummy pill for the same amount of time. At the end of 12 weeks the treatment group exhibited close to 30% improvement in their global arthritis impact scores. This scoring system measures overall function and pain. (Jonas et al. Inflamm Res 45:330-334)

Japanese scientists analyzed the dietary nutrient intake habits of over 500 Japanese women. They identified an association between low dietary vitamin B3 consumption and knee osteoarthritis. The average consumption value was 13.8 mg/day just below the Recommended daily allowance.  (Muraki et al. Mod Rheumatol. 2014 Mar;24(2):23642.)


Other Health Benefits

There are other conditions that vitamin B3 may assist, although more research is needed and for some conditions results to date have been mixed. Those include:

  • Supports healthy blood sugar
  • Supports healthy cholesterol levels
  • Boosts heart health
  • Supports blood vessel health
  • Promotes skin health

Natural sources of vitamin B3

Animal-derived foods are the richest sources of vitamin B3, including wild-caught fish, organic poultry, and grass fed meats. Good sources of vitamin B3 include legumes, root vegetables, leafy greens, nuts/seeds, and grains.

Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA)

The Food and Nutrition Board has published recommended dietary allowances (RDAs) for vitamin B3, based on age and gender. The values are:

  • Children: between 2 to 16 milligrams daily
  • Men: 16 milligrams daily
  • Women: 14 milligrams daily
  • Pregnant women: 18 milligrams daily
  • Breastfeeding mother: 17 milligrams daily


Vitamin B3 from natural foods is generally well tolerated. RDA amounts can usually be obtained from a balanced, healthful diet.

An upper limit of 35 mg/day has been set primarily to prevent the symptom of skin flushing. Other potential side effects of high dose supplementation are gastrointestinal disturbances and liver toxicity.

Any consideration a supplementation should be discussed with a qualified health professional familiar with your unique medical history.


(2017). Niacin. Micronutrient Information Center. Retrieved from

(2017). Vitamin B3 – niacin. The World’s Healthiest Foods. Retrieved from

Jonas, W. B., Rapoza, C. P., & Blair, W. F. (1996). The effect of niacinamide on osteoarthritis: A pilot study. Inflamm Res, 45(7), 330-4.

Muraki, S., Akune, T., En-yo, Y., Yoshida, M., Tanaka, S., Kawaguchi, H., & … Yoshimura, N. (2014). Association of dietary intake with joint space narrowing and osteophytosis at the knee in Japanese men and women: The ROAD study. Mod Rheumatol, 24(2), 236-42. doi:10.3109/14397595.2013.854055.

Otten, J. J., Hellwig, J. P., & Meyers, L. D. (Eds.). (2006). Dietary reference intakes: The essential guide to nutrient requirements. Washington D.C.: National Academy of Sciences.

Thorne Research, Inc. (2002). Niacinamide. Alternative Medicine Review, 7(6), 525-529.

Enhancing the inhibitory effect of nicotinamide upon collagen II induced arthritis in mice using N-acetylcysteine. Kröger H, Hauschild A, Ohde M, Bache K, Voigt WP, Ehrlich W. Inflammation. 1999 Apr;23(2):111-5.

Synergistic effects of thalidomide and poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase inhibition on type II collagen-induced arthritis in mice. Kröger H, Miesel R, Dietrich A, Ohde M, Rajnavölgyi E, Ockenfels H. Inflammation. 1996 Apr;20(2):203-15.

Nicotinamide phosphoribosyltransferase/visfatin expression by inflammatory monocytes mediates arthritis pathogenesis. Présumey J, Courties G, Louis-Plence P, Escriou V, Scherman D, Pers YM, Yssel H, Pène J, Kyburz D, Gay S, Jorgensen C, Apparailly F. Ann Rheum Dis. 2013 Oct;72(10):1717-24. doi: 10.1136/annrheumdis-2012-202403. Epub 2013 Jan 12.

Treatment of arthritis by nicotinic acid and nicotinamide. HOFFER A. Can Med Assoc J. 1959 Aug 15;81:235-8. No abstract available.

 Lucas J. Bader MD

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