Niacin (nicotinic acid) is an essential B-vitamin and a popular ingredient in many dietary supplements.
Being essential means that your body can’t produce vitamin B3 on its own and you have to consume it with your diet. The best sources include animal liver as well as other animal products – beef, turkey, chicken, pork, and fish.
|Food||Milligrams of niacin per serving||% of Daily Value|
|Beef liver, pan fried (3 ounces)||14.9||93|
|Chicken breast, meat only, grilled (3 ounces)||10.3||64|
|Turkey breast, meat only, roasted (3 ounces)||10.0||63|
|Tuna, light, canned in water, drained (3 ounces)||8.6||54|
|Pork, tenderloin, roasted (3 ounces)||6.3||39|
Furthermore, vitamin B3 is a common ingredient in many supplements for men, mainly due to its vasodilating and cholesterol-lowering effects. Preliminary research has shown that it may help improve sexual wellness and erectile function in some males.
In this article, you will learn more about the effects of vitamin B3 on your health, and whether supplementation may help boost your sexual performance and testosterone (T) levels.
Effects of vitamin B3 on your health
According to research, niacin is very effective for improving the balance between good (LDL) and bad (HDL) cholesterol in individuals with dyslipidemia (unhealthy cholesterol levels).
For example, a meta-analysis of randomized trials that included more than 2 000 diabetes patients revealed that vitamin B3 supplementation can reduce total cholesterol, LDL, and triglycerides while increasing HDL at the same time.
Due to its high effectiveness, nicotinic acid is also available as a cholesterol-lowering prescription medication in the form of extended-release oral tablets (Niaspan).
Furthermore, studies suggest that long-term supplementation with niacin can lead to a reduced arterial wall thickness and potentially beneficial effects against atherosclerosis.
High doses of nicotinic acid have been linked to short-term peripheral vasodilation which results in skin flushing and reduced blood pressure (BP). However, evidence reveals that these effects are unreliable for long-term BP reduction.
Overall, the effects of vitamin B3 on cholesterol and blood vessels may decrease your risk of cardiovascular events such as heart attack and stroke.
Niacin supplementation does not reduce mortality from heart disease despite its benefits against dyslipidemia
That’s likely due to the negative effect of large doses of vitamin B3 on blood glucose levels and insulin sensitivity, which may negate the cardiovascular benefits.
In fact, some studies report that long-term supplementation may increase the risk of type 2 diabetes. Furthermore, researchers report worsened glucose control in diabetic patients who take niacin.
Supplementation using excessive doses (up to 22 grams of nicotine acid in a single dose) may lead to potentially lethal toxicity.
Case studies have reported damage to multiple organs including hepatotoxicity, renal failure, and suppressed coagulation (blood clot formation) which may lead to excessive bleeding.
On the other hand, niacin deficiency may cause a condition called pellagra which includes a triad of symptoms – dermatitis, dementia, and diarrhea.
It’s usually the result of severe malnourishment and it’s more common in developing countries. If left without treatment, the condition can be fatal.
Due to the negative effects of the deficiency on neurological functioning, scientists have also investigated the effectiveness of niacin supplementation on various mental conditions and disorders. However, vitamin B3 has not shown any benefits for patients with schizophrenia, depression, or anxiety.
Does niacin increase testosterone levels?
Currently, there is no clinical evidence to suggest that niacin may have an effect on testosterone levels in humans.
Only a single animal study has reported that high doses of niacin supplementation can improve testicular function and increase testosterone production in healthy rats, but not in diabetic rats.
Evidence is insufficient to recommend vitamin B3 as a testosterone booster in healthy people
Other popular ingredients in testosterone boosting supplements are also unlikely to increase your T levels.
According to a review of the scientific literature on testosterone boosters, the majority of ingredients lack any scientific support for a testosterone increasing effect. About 10% of most popular ingredients may have negative consequences for natural T production in otherwise healthy men.
If you have signs and symptoms of low testosterone or male hypogonadism, the best course of action is to seek consultation with a licensed medical doctor.
Delaying medical treatment and attempting to self-medicate with supplements may increase the risk of symptom progression and complications due to low T.
Currently, one of the most effective FDA-approved treatments for low T is testosterone replacement therapy (TRT).
Testosterone therapy is generally well tolerated with very few side effects when monitored by a medical professional. One of the possible side-effects is a small reduction in HDL levels during the therapy.
In such cases, niacin supplementation may be able to ameliorate this side effect and increase HDL. However, there are currently no studies on the combined effect of TRT and vitamin B3 on cholesterol levels in order to support the use of nicotinic acid.
Niacin and sexual health
According to research, men and women with low HDL may experience improved blood flow and endothelial function after niacin supplementation. These effects are likely mediated through its benefits for lipid levels and vasodilation.
If you are a man, improved blood flow to peripheral tissues can help improve aspects of your sexual function such as achieving and maintaining an erection.
Managing dyslipidemia can also reverse the negative effects of atherosclerosis, which is one of the most common causes of erectile problems in men.
Theoretically, improved blood flow to the genitalia may also improve aspects of sexual function in women such as lubrication and sensitivity. However, there is no research to support such effects in females.
Furthermore, there are no studies on the effect of niacin on other sexual parameters in men such as libido, fertility, sperm count, or prostate function.
On the other hand, there has been at least one case report of side effects due to self-administration of high doses of vitamin B3 in prostate cancer.
According to the report, niacin supplementation led to a potentially life-threatening intraoperative hemorrhage during conventional prostate cancer therapy.
Does niacin help with erectile dysfunction?
Currently, only one clinical study has investigated the effect of niacin on erectile function. It included 160 men with erectile dysfunction (ED) and dyslipidemia.
The scientists reported that 1500 mg of niacin for 12 weeks significantly improved scores of erectile function in those with moderate and severe ED. However, there was no improvement in patients suffering from mild ED.
Adverse reactions which include flushing and skin itching were experienced in more than 1/3 of all participants. There were few cases of palpitations as well. The benefits from niacin lasted for up to two weeks after discontinuing supplementation.
Although the research is promising, a single study is insufficient to recommend vitamin B3 as a treatment for ED.
The researchers reported that the effect of niacin supplements is similar to those of cholesterol-lowering drugs like statins. Therefore, any benefits for ED are likely limited to those suffering from dyslipidemia as well.
Other studies have investigated the combined effects of L-carnitine, arginine, and niacin in treating ED. They reported small but statistically significant improvement in erections.
However, the niacin content per dose was only 20 mg so it’s likely that the benefits were caused by the vasodilative effects of arginine rather than vitamin B3.