Vitamin b3

Author: Prof. Dr. med. Peter Altmeyer

All authors of this article

Last updated on: 29.10.2020

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Niacin; Niacinamide; Niacinamide (INCI); Niacin (INCI); Nicotinamide; Nicotinic acid

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Vitamin B3 belongs to the water-soluble B vitamins. It is also called niacin. Niacin comes in two forms:

The organism can convert both forms into each other; furthermore, it can form niacin itself from the amino acid tryptophane (thus the. Niacinamide is part of the ubiquitous coenzyme nicotinamide-adenine-dinucleotide (NAD) and thus involved in all vital metabolic processes - including the synthesis of adenosine triphosphate (ATP). In contrast to nicotinic acid, the intake of niacinamide does not cause flush and does not lead to an increase in the uric acid level.

Vitamin B3 is sufficiently absorbed with the daily diet. It is mainly present in animal products such as meat, fish and offal (e.g. liver). Vegetable products contain only a small amount of nicotinic acid. Vegetarians can supplement their vitamin B3 requirements with cashew nuts, peanuts, dates, apricots, bananas and pulses.

Nicotinic acid is authorised in the EU under the number E 375 as a food additive.

Vitamin B3 daily requirement of the awakened person:

  • Women: depending on age 11mg - 13 mg
  • Men: depending on age 14mg - 17 mg
  • Nursing women: 16 mg

Field of application/use
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Topical effects of vitamin B3: The positive properties of vitamin B3 and its derivatives as an active ingredient in cosmetics are manifold and well documented. Topical concentrations of 2-5% are necessary for its effects. In cosmetology, vitamin B3 is used in 3 forms: niacinamide, nicotinic acid and nicotinic acid ester.

Niacinamide improves the barrier function of the skin. Topically applied, a 2-5% niacinamide cream reduces sebum production compared to placebo (Draelos ZD et al. 2006).

Niacinamide increases the synthesis of ceramides and other lipids in keratinocytes. Furthermore, it acts as a radical scavenger, anti-inflammatory and improves the skin texture (Bissett DL et al. 2004). Niacinamide promotes DNA repair and inhibits the melanosome transfer from melanocytes to keratinocytes and thus reduces skin pigmentation. Nictoinamide is a well-dosed candidate for bleaching creams (Drago F et al. 2816).

Niacin deficiency in yeast cultures leads to an upregulation of sirtuins and to increased DNA damage, an effect which is reversible by niacinamide and reversatol. Sirtuin activation also increases the sensitivity to UV damage.

In yeast cultures, it has been shown that a niacin deficiency leads to an upregulation of sirtuin 2 and sirtuin 4 and to increased DNA damage. Sirtuin activation further increases the sensitivity to UV damage. Nicotinamide and also resveratol inhibit sirtuin 1 activation (ZhaoY 2016, Bayerl C 2017).

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Vitamin B3 deficiency is very rare in our latitudes. Due to illness, a vitamin B3 deficiency must be considered in the following situations (homeless people, anorexia nervosa, alcoholism, inflammatory intestinal cramps, stomach cancer, hardup disease, INH therapy, various types of cancer) chemotherapeutics - Bayerl C 2017).

A persistent undersupply of vitamin B3 e.g. as a result of a permanently unbalanced, low niacin diet with untreated maize or millet products leads to the clinical picture of pellagra. With advanced symptoms, the so-called "4 Ds" dermatitis, diarrhoea, dementia and death.

An overdose of niacin (e.g. through dietary supplements) can lead to side effects such as reddening of the skin, sensation of heat, pruritus, hepatotoxicity and gastrointestinal complaints.

Remarkable is the (repeatedly confirmed) protective effect of vitamin B3 (2x 500mg) on UV-induced malignant epithelial tumours (Cheng AC et al. 2015). In a larger collective, actinic keratoses were reduced by 20% compared to the control group, basal cell carcinomas by 20% and squamous cell carcinomas by 30%.

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  1. Bayerl C (2017) Vitamin B3 in cosmetic dermatology. Act dermatol 43: 431-433.
  2. Bissett DL et al(2004) Topical niacinamide reduces yellowing, wrinkling, red blotchiness, andhyperpigmented
    spots in aging facial skin. Int J Cosmet Sci 26:231-238.
  3. Burnett C et al(2011) Absence of effects of Sir2 overexpression on lifespan in C. elegans and Drosophila. Nature 477:482-485.
  4. Chen AC et al (2015) A Phase 3 Randomized Trial of Nicotinamide for Skin-Cancer Chemoprevention. N Engl J Med 373:1618-1626.
  5. Chen AC et al (2014) Nicotinamide and the skin. Australas J Dermatol 55:169-175.
  6. Drago F et al (2016) Nicotinamide for Skin-Cancer Chemoprevention. N Engl J Med 374:789-790.
  7. Draelos ZD et al. (2006) The effect of 2% niacinamide on facial sebum production.
    J Cosmet Laser Ther 8:96-101.
  8. Mohler H et al (1979) Nicotinamide is a brain constituent with benzodiazepine-like actions. Nature 278:563-565.
  9. Polo V et al (1998) Nicotinamide improves insulin secretion and metabolic control in lean type 2 diabetic patients with secondary failure to sulphonylureas. Acta Diabetol 35:61-64.
  10. Zhao Y (2016) Nicotinamide for Skin-Cancer Chemoprevention. N Engl J Med 374:789.


Last updated on: 29.10.2020