Did you have a few drinks over the festive season? Did you know that alcohol inhibit the action of a number of B complex vitamins!? It’s time to replenish your B vitamins, to have you feeling full of life and de-stressed… and next in line is B3, more commonly known as niacin.
Why do I need vitamin B3?
Vitamin B3 is involved in over 200 enzyme reactions and is essential for healthy skin, tongue and digestive tract tissues and the formation of red blood cells. It is essential for the production of various hormones including sex hormones, cortisone, thyroxin and insulin. Nicotinic acid is part of the glucose tolerance factor, a compound which enhances the body’s response to insulin (the hormone responsible for transporting glucose into cells and storing it in the liver and muscles). This vitamin also plays a role in repair of genetic damage after exposure to viruses and toxins as well as being required for normal brain and nervous system functioning.
Where can I find it?
Tryptophan is an amino acid (a protein building block) that can be converted to niacin in the body if there is enough iron, riboflavin and B6 available. Niacin and tryptophan rich foods include chicken, fish and beef. Fruits, vegetables and dairy products all contain some niacin, milk and eggs are good sources of tryptophan.
How much should I have?
The recommended intakes of this vitamin are 14 mg/day for women and 16 mg/day for men.
What happens if I don’t get enough?
Deficiency is known as pellagra and shows itself in it’s mild form as a slowing of the metabolism resulting in decreased tolerance to cold temperatures. The more severe form, seen mainly in developing countries, has much more obvious symptoms of diarrhea, dermatitis, and dementia, hyperpigmentation, thickening of the skin, inflammation of the mouth and tongue, digestive disturbances, amnesia, delirium, and eventually death, if left untreated. Niacin deficiency is common in alcoholics.
What happens if I have too much?
Doses in excess of 1000 mg of nicotinic acid can produce flushing of the skin, intense itching, headaches, tingling and burning, severe heartburn, nausea, vomiting, abnormalities of glucose metabolism, and eye problems such as blurred vision. More than this can cause liver damage, but it is rare to experience toxicity from food alone… supplementation is where we have to be careful.
Due to this vitamin being so readily available from food sources, supplementation in Australia is not common. It is used for alcoholics suffering from pellagra and is included in B complex multivitamins.
So, all you need to remember is…
Variety in your diet is key to ensuring you are getting all of your micronutrients. For niacin, the main focus is on animal foods with smaller amounts being found in fruit and veggies. Check out some of our recipes for more ideas to ensure you’re meeting your B vitamin needs!