Vitamin B3 (Niacin) Deficiency Symptoms

The symptoms of Niacin Deficiency or Vitamin B3 deficiency include cognitive decline, low energy, depression, photosensitivity dermatitis, indigestion, fatigue, canker sores, vomiting and pellagra.

Causes of niacin deficiency

There are three causes of niacin deficiency:

  • Eating a diet low in niacin for a prolonged period
  • Inability to absorb niacin
  • Inability to absorb precursor of niacin- ‘tryptophan’

Niacin is required by the body for the proper functioning of the gastrointestinal system and nervous system, to boost energy levels and to enhance skin health.

Vitamin B3 (Niacin) Deficiency Symptoms

Below mentioned are the symptoms of niacin deficiency:

Cognitive Decline

Drop in the blood level of niacin is associated with an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease and poor cognition. Niacin plays various important roles in the brain, such as it serves as a potent antioxidant in the brain mitochondria, it protects the brain as well as nerve cells against damage and it helps in the transmission of messages. Without niacin all these important brain functions do not take place properly and this results in poor memory and thought process. (1)

Low Energy

Having too little of this vitamin in your body can be a cause of being tired frequently. Lack of niacin can impede normal metabolism in healthy individuals.

Without niacin the carbohydrates, protein and fat, which you get from your food do not get converted to energy. This creates a ‘low energy state’ in your body and you end up feeling tired and less active. Eating a diet rich in niacin can enhance your energy levels and make you more active.

Causes Depression

Not getting enough vitamin B3 or niacin can have mental consequences. Lack of serotonin, a brain chemical can impact the mood and social behavior negatively. It is further believed that a low level of serotonin is associated with depression.

Niacin plays a huge role in the production of serotonin. When your niacin level is low, the synthesis of serotonin is automatically affected, and it leads to depression. Eating niacin-rich foods or taking niacin supplements may benefit individuals with depressive disorders. (2)

Photosensitivity Dermatitis

Literature has found that deficiency of niacin induces photosensitivity dermatitis, which cause red rashes on the skin when exposed to the sunlight. A lot of inflammatory compounds are involved in this process which further enhance skin inflammation in the absence of niacin.

Niacin is required for the production of two coenzyme molecules that help in repairing skin damage. During niacin insufficiency, the synthesis of these two molecules is hampered and skin-repair does not take place. Replenishing your niacin levels can help you protect your skin against damage and prevent photosensitivity dermatitis. (3)

Digestive Problems

Deficiency of a B-vitamin niacin causes digestive problems such as diarrhea. Niacin is required for the proper functioning of the digestive tract.

Besides diarrhea, low levels of niacin can cause nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain or cramps and poor appetite.

Such individuals are more prone to gastrointestinal infections caused by bacteria. Thus, eating foods that contain good amount of niacin can protect the inner lining of the gut against damage. (4)

Other Symptoms of Niacin Deficiency

  • Headache or migraine
  • Sores in the mouth
  • Bright red tongue
  • Dizziness
  • Imbalance in the blood glucose level
  • Anxiety
  • Nervousness

All the above-mentioned symptoms are reversible if treated correctly with a niacin-rich diet or niacin supplements.


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