Niacin is found in food as nicotinamide and nictonic acid. It is also sometimes called niacinamide. Niacin is also obtained in the body from the amino acid tryptophan.
- With thiamin and riboflavin, niacin is essential for the production of energy from carbohydrate in the body tissues.
- needed for the manufacture of fatty acids in body tissue.
- helps keep skin healthy.
Deficiencies produce reduced appetite, weakness, irritability, inability to concentrate and gastro-intestinal disturbances. In the severe deficiency called pellagra, signs include dermatitis when skin is exposed to sun, depression, diarrhoea and sore mouth.
Meat and poultry are key sources. Niacin is also found in bread and cereals - particularly wholegrain, and in yeast extracts. Small amounts are found in certain vegetables such as potatoes, peas, avocado and broccoli.
Niacin, in the form of nictonic acid, was used by doctors to lower blood cholesterol, but in the high doses needed to get results, it often caused skin flushing (like menopause flushes), nausea, headache, and even disturbed liver function.
Are you eating enough vitamin B3? Put your diet to the test