What is the difference between vitamin B3 and other B vitamins?

There are seven other B vitamins in addition to vitamin B3 or niacin. They are thiamine (B1), riboflavin (B2), pantothenic acid (B5), pyridoxine (B6), biotin (B7), cyanocobalamin (B12), and folic acid (B9). Each of the B vitamins shares the job of helping your body metabolize sugar for energy and helping create or improve cells. The reason they are classified as different vitamins, however, is because they all serve a slightly different specific function. For example, B3 helps control cholesterol and triglyceride levels in the blood, while too little B12 or B6 in your diet could cause you to have anemia.

Neal Spruce
Neal Spruce on behalf of dotFIT
Vitamin B3 (so named because it was the 3rd B vitamin discovered) is part of the B vitamin complex. B3 is also known as niacin (nicotinic acid) and niacinamide (nicotinamide). All the B-vitamins (like all individual vitamins) have their specific functions but also work together and are responsible for virtually all metabolic and developmental processes that take place in the body including, energy production, cell division, cell replication, growth, etc.

The human body needs niacin along with the other B vitamins to help the body to convert food to energy, and to properly utilize fats and protein. All the B Vitamins are also needed for healthy skin, hair, eyes, and liver. Niacin is specifically involved in helping the body make sex hormones and stress-related hormones in the adrenal glands. Niacin helps improve circulation and blocks fats from being broken down, which reduces the amount of fats in circulation.

Higher doses (well above the RDA) of niacin have been used successfully to lower bad cholesterol (LDL), increase good cholesterol (HDL) and reduce cardiovascular events. Niacin used for these purposes should be monitored by a doctor.

Vitamin B3 (niacin) is a naturally occurring substance found in meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and green vegetables. The other B vitamins include B1 (thiamine), B2 (riboflavin), B5 (Pantothenic acid), B6 (pyridoxamine), B7 (biotin), B9 (folic acid), and B12 (cobalamin).

The goal is to make sure you get proper daily amounts of all B vitamins. This goal is accomplished by eating a healthy diet (as found in the Sharecare Fitness application) and taking a daily multivitamin and mineral formula that contains the necessary B vitamins within the amounts shown below (upper portion of range for active people and/or dieters unless otherwise noted):
  • B1: 2-10 mg
  • B2: 5-10 mg
  • B3 (Niacinamide -- this form will not cause flushing): 15-30 mg
  • B5: 0-15 mg (women and over 50)
  • B6: 6-12 mg
  • B7 (biotin): 100-300 mcg
  • Folic acid: 200-400 mcg
  • B12: 12-100 mcg

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.