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.
In this article, you will learn more about the effects of vitamin B3 on your health, and whether supplementation may help boost your testosterone (T) levels.
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 the increasing effect of testosterone. 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, the most effective FDA-approved treatment for low T is testosterone replacement therapy (TRT).
TRT 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 TRT.
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.
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Niacin effects on health
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, long-term supplementation with niacin can lead to reduced arterial wall thickness and potentially beneficial effects against atherosclerosis.
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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.