|What’s it used for?||Essential for the formation of two key enzymes, energy production, healthy nervous system and brain function|
|Best food sources||Liver and organ meats, brewer’s yeast, eggs, fish, peanuts and legumes|
|How much do I need?||NRV is 16 mg per day*|
|Need to know||Vitamin B3 can be manufactured in the body from the amino acid tryptophan, therefore deficiency is unlikely if sufficient protein is eaten|
*A Nutrient Reference Value or NRV is the recommended level set by the UK Department of Health for daily nutrient intake
Vitamin B3 is also called niacin. There are two forms of niacin – nicotinic acid and niacinamide -which are converted in the body to the active forms called NAD and NADP. The body also converts the amino acid tryptophan into niacin if there is sufficient protein in the diet, making deficiencies of this water-soluble B vitamin less likely. However, it is important to have sufficient intake of vitamins B1, B2, B6 and C for the body to make the conversion.
Why do I need it?
Just like the other members of the B vitamin family, vitamin B3 is very busy! It’s involvement in two key enzyme systems in the body means that it’s needed for over 50 chemical reactions, with energy production being very high on the priority list. Vitamin B3 is able to help release energy from foods, particularly fats and carbohydrates. It helps metabolise cholesterol and also aids the production of sex and stress hormones.
Niacin, in the form of nicotinic acid, is part of something called glucose tolerance factor (GTF) which is key in balancing blood sugar levels and is also important for maintaining sustained energy release.
Best food sources
Foods high in the protein tryptophan, such as organ meats, poultry and oily fish, plus peanuts are high in niacin. Additionally, plant-based foods such as wholegrains and avocadoes are good sources.
Foods high in vitamin B3
Yeast extract – 127.5 mg per 100g
Tuna – 22.1 mg per 100g
Peanuts – 17.2 mg per 100g
Lamb’s liver – 16.7 mg per 100g
Chicken breast – 14.8 mg per 100g
Are you getting enough?
Although serious deficiency of vitamin B3 is unlikely, it plays such an important role in many body functions that early slight deficiency symptoms may be vague. However, most notable are decreased energy, problems with the skin and digestive system, anxiety and depression.
Pellagra, which is very rare in the UK, is the deficiency disease of niacin, and is characterised by the three Ds – dermatitis, diarrhoea and dementia.
Did you know?Niacin taken as nicotinic acid can produce what’s known as the ‘niacin flush’. This is perfectly harmless, only lasts around 20 minutes due to the vasodilation and does not occur with the niacinamide form
Vitamin B3 is safe to take during pregnancy and breastfeeding at the recommended dosages – consult your healthcare professional for further advice
Small amounts of vitamin B3 can be stored in the liver but it is generally excreted in the urine
Higher dosages of vitamin B3 in the nicotinic acid form are very effective at reducing elevated cholesterol levels
Vitamin B3 is found in the Alive! range of multi vitamins and minerals.
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