Get to know about niacin vitamin foods | 24 Mantra

Get acquainted with your nutrients - Niacin


Get acquainted with your nutrients – Niacin

Health and Nutrition

Niacin, also known as nicotinic acid, is one of the water-soluble B vitamins. It is also known as nicotinamide. Niacin is the generic name for nicotinic acid, nicotinamide and related derivatives, such as nicotinamide riboside.

Niacin is naturally found in many foods. Niacin (Vitamin B₃) helps turn food into the energy. It is an essential nutrient which needs to be supplied to the body in required amounts for the body to function properly.

Niacin and energy 

Niacin is vital to the energy generating process in the body. It acts as a coenzyme for several reactions. In the form of nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD+) niacin is involved in aerobic energy metabolism. Niacin is initially incorporated into NAD+ for its role in metabolism and may be subsequently phosphorylated to form NAD(P) +. NAD and the other active form of niacin nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate (NADP) have a role to play in most metabolic redox processes in cells in which substrates are either oxidized or reduced. It is also involved in the production of fat and cholesterol.

Can our body synthesize niacin?

Our body can make some niacin from essential amino acid tryptophan. But the conversion is not efficient, it requires about 60 milligrams of tryptophan to make 1 milligram of niacin. Our body will use a lot of tryptophan an essential amino acid to synthesize niacin.

Where is niacin found in the body?

Niacin is found in all the cells of the body. It is found in higher amounts in cells of the tissues which are more active metabolically such as heart, brain liver etc.

Niacin deficiency

Since niacin is involved in energy generation in the body most of the symptoms are related to lack of energy.

Symptoms of niacin deficiency

  1. Tiredness
  2. Loss of appetite
  3. Weight loss
  4. General weakness

When niacin deficiency is severe it causes a disease pellagra. Pellagra is characterized by the “3Ds” (dermatitis, dementia, diarrhea) and possibly lead to the fourth “D” (death). Dermatitis caused by niacin deficiency is unique because it results from sun exposure which points towards a defect in DNA repair.

Food sources of niacin

Niacin is widely distributed in many foods. Some of the foods that are good sources of niacin are

  1. Brewer’s yeast
  2. Fish
  3. Pork
  4. Beef
  5. Mushrooms
  6. Green vegetables
  7. Potatoes

In many developed countries, cereal flour is fortified with niacin. Niacin is absorbed in the small intestine quite well.

Recommended dietary intake of niacin

The RDA of niacin is expressed a Niacin Equivalents (NE) as niacin can also be synthesized from tryptophan. 1 NE = 1 mg of niacin or 60 mgs of tryptophan (1). The RDA of niacin intake for adults (19+ years) is 14mg (women) and 16mg (men) NE (niacin equivalents). For pregnant and lactating women, the recommendation increases to 18 and 17 mg respectively.

Athletes and other physically active people may require more niacin because they need more energy.  For them niacin requirement is based on the quantity of calories they require as niacin is involved in energy generation reactions.

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