Vitamin B3, most commonly known as niacin, is found in two forms, nicotinic acid and nicotinamide. It is an essential nutrient for the body’s nervous and digestive systems. It is used by the body to help release energy from carbohydrates.
It is also necessary to process alcohol and to form fats from carbohydrates, as well as the formation of red blood cells and skin. It plays an important role in the memory and has been linked with ameliorating Alzheimer’s Disease1. Niacin is responsible for regulating cholesterol.
The recommended daily allowance (RDA) for an adult man is 16 mg, whilst for a woman it is 14mg. Niacin deficiency causes many symptoms, such as
- Dry skin
- Loss of appetite
- Emotional instability
Severe deficiency leads to a condition known as pellagra. This condition is commonly characterized by the 4 D’s: dermatitis, diarrhoea, dementia and death.
Foods Rich in Vitamin B3
Many natural food sources contain niacin.
- Giblets (liver, heart and kidney)
- Fish such as tuna and salmon
- Peanuts and other nuts
- Spelt grains
- Brewer’s Yeast
Care must be taken when preparing these foods because vitamin B3 is as the other vitamin b B vitamins water-soluble and disperse easily in liquids. Try to use as little liquid as possible when cooking these foods or preserve any liquid in the form of soup or sauce.
Risks of Vitamin B3 Deficiency
Vitamin B3 deficiency is rare in developed countries and usually occurs where poverty and malnutrition is prevalent. Chronic alcoholism is also known to cause deficiency. They are not stored in the body and must be replenished every day. Their influence on the body lasts for 14-18 hours after ingestion after which their potency decreases. An excessive intake of water-soluble vitamins is typically passed out through the urine.
Risk of Overdose
At high doses niacin can have life-threatening results. Research has shown that doses higher that 1.5g per day may lead to dermatological conditions such as flushing and itching, skin rashes, and dry skin. Niacin administered at doses for lowering cholesterol has cause birth defect in laboratory animals and, as such, may cause birth complications in pregnant women. Other health problems related with niacin overdose are gastrointestinal problems such as nausea, indigestion, and liver toxicity.
1 NHS : Vitamin B3 and Alzheimer’s