Vitamin B3 Sources, Benefits and Deficiency
Author: Tom Alter

Vitamin B-3, also called niacin, is one of the eight water-soluble B complex vitamins. Niacin is required by all living cells, as it helps in the release of energy from carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. Niacin is also required for the synthesis of amino acids and fat needed for nucleic acid formation.

This vitamin is different from the other vitamins of the B-complex group, because an essential amino acid, tryptophan serves as its precursor.

Niacin is a major component of the coenzymes - nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD) and nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate (NADP). These compounds help remove hydrogen atoms during organic reactions in the body.

Since it is a water-soluble vitamin, niacin is absorbed by the intestine; but very little is stored in the body and any excess of the vitamin which is not used by the body is excreted in the urine. Therefore,

it becomes very important to include a regular source of Vitamin B3 through daily dietary sources.

Benefits of Vitamin B-3:

* Niacin plays an important role in helping the body get rid of toxic and harmful chemicals.

* Niacin promotes insulin secretion and increases insulin sensitivity. This is found to be quite effective

in stabilizing blood sugar levels and preventing the advance of type I diabetes in some patients, if niacin supplements are given early enough at the onset of diabetes.

* Vitamin B3 required for the production of genetic material in our cells, called deoxyribo nucleic acid (DNA). Deficiency of vitamin B3 has been directly linked to genetic harm.

* It also assists the body manufacture various sex and stress-related hormones in the adrenal glands and other related parts of the body.

* Vitamin B3 is useful in improving blood circulation, and helps reduce cholesterol levels in the blood.

* Vitamin B3 is important for converting protein, fat and carbohydrates into energy.

* It helps the proper functioning of the digestive system and promotes healthy skin, hair and nerves.

Vitamin B3 deficiency symptoms -

Early symptoms of deficiency include:

· Muscular pain

· Skin eruptions, including wrinkles, rashes, dry and coarse scaly skin in areas exposed to sunlight

· Indigestion

· Anorexia – loss of hunger

· Headaches and body aches

· Swollen, red tongue

· General tiredness

· Mood swings along with irritability

· Dizziness

· Nausea and vomiting

· Dementia

· Death in very severe cases

Consequences of Vitamin B3 deficiency -

Severe deficiency of niacin commonly leads to pellagra – typical symptoms include dermatitis, old age dementia, fits, sore tongue and diarrohea. In some people, the skin becomes scaly, cracked and pigmented in those parts exposed to sunlight. Eruptions can appear in the skin leading to mental confusion and stupefaction. Inflammation of the mucous membranes of the mouth and digestive abnormalities also develop in niacin deficiency.

Inadequate intake of iron and vitamins B2 and B6 increase the risk of niacin deficiency.

Dosage of Vitamin B3

Vitamin B3 requirements are affected by many factors such as age, body size, level of physical activity, any major illness, pregnancy and lactation. The daily allowance of vitamin B3 should be based on caloric intake. Tryptophan is an amino acid that serves as a Vitamin B3 equivalent.

The Recommended Daily Allowance for women is around 15 milligrams each day and for men, it is around 15 to 19 milligrams each day. RDA for children - 13 mg and RDA for infants - 6 mg.

Extreme high doses of niacin can cause niacin maculopathy, a thickening of the macula and the retina, which leads to blurred vision and blindness.

What foods are high in vitamin B3?

The body’s niacin requirement can be met to a large extent by eating protein rich foods because the human body can easily convert tryptophan, an amino acid, into niacin.

Dietary sources which are rich in Vitamin B3 include -

· Meat, poultry, fish

· Peanuts, dried nuts

· Milk and eggs contain small amounts, but are excellent sources of tryptophan, which is converted in

the body into niacin.

· Sunflower seeds

· Dairy products including cottage cheese

· Vegetable sources include the husk of cereals, green vegetables, peas, beans, tomatoes etc.

Storage of Vitamin B3

Vitamin B3 is one of the more stable water-soluble vitamins and is minimally prone to damage by air, light, and heat.

However, it is better to keep the vitamin away from strong light. If on vitamin B3 supplements, store them at room temperature in a dry place that is free of moisture.

Who are more vulnerable to Vitamin B3 deficiency?

People with chronic intestinal problems, including diarrohea, inflammatory/irritable bowel disease, alcoholics, people with poor protein intake – in these group of people Vitamin B3 deficiency can be triggered very easily.

A word of caution for people planning to take Vitamin B3 supplement –

Do not take B3 supplements on your own if you:

· Are allergic to niacin or any other niacin containing vitamin supplement.

· Suffering from restricted liver function.

· People with peptic ulcer.

· Diabetes.

· Gallbladder malfunctioning