Niacin is important for energy (ATP) production. Are you starting to see why people who are low in a number of B vitamins may be extremely fatigued?
In addition, niacin shows promise for its ability to lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Sufficient amounts of niacin may reduce the risk of a heart attack [I]. Niacin also helps the adrenal glands to produce our sex hormones and can improve circulation.
While mild niacin deficiency can cause such things as indigestion and fatigue, a dangerous level of depletion can cause skin rashes, vomiting and memory loss. This type of severe deficiency is known as pellagra. This disease has typically been associated with poorer populations whose main dietary staple consists of cereals like corn or sorghum. Interestingly, pellagra was not known in Mexico, where corn was a main dietary staple. It turns out that corn does contain significant amounts of niacin, but it is present in a bound form that is not nutritionally available to humans. The traditional preparation of corn tortillas in Mexico involves soaking the corn in a lime solution prior to cooking, which increases niacin’s availability to the body. Yay for soaking grains!
While there is no upper limit when consuming natural sources, supplemental or fortified foods should not exceed this amount. Ever heard of the “niacin flush”? When taken in supplemental form, niacin can often cause the somewhat unpleasant symptom of a burning or tingling sensation in the face, along with a red flush to the skin. Avoid this by merely attaining your B3 from whole food sources!
Food Sources of Niacin
Animal Sources: organ meats, fish, chicken, meat, fish, and eggs
3.5 oz cooked beef liver— 17.5 mg
1/2 chicken breast— 11.8 mg
1 can anchovies in oil— 9.0 mg
3 oz cooked skipjack tuna— 15.9 mg
1 can tuna fish in oil— 21.2 mg
Plant Sources: mushrooms, peanuts, corn, and brewer’s yeast
Raw Spanish peanuts are the All-Star vitamin B3 source here….they provide 23.2 mg per cup!
As with many of the other B vitamins, niacin is more bioavailable when consumed from animal sources than from grain or vegetable sources. Nevertheless these nutrients can be obtained from grain sources when they are properly prepared. Another reminder that soaking grains and legumes increases their digestion, absorption, and nutrient availability!
[I] Canner PL, Berge KG, Wenger NK, Stamler J, Friedman L, Prineas RJ, Friedewald W. “Fifteen year mortality in Coronary Drug Project patients: long-term benefit with niacin.” J Am Coll Cardiol. 1986 Dec;8(6):1245-55. Web. June. 2016. <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3782631>.