Vitamin Niacin is also known as Nicotinic Acid, Vitamin B3 or Vitamin PP (Pellagra Preventing). By definition, vitamins are substances that can not be produced by the human body itself. Therefore, niacin is not a vitamin in the classical sense, because it can be taken on the one hand on food, on the other hand but also produced by the body itself. Nevertheless, niacin is counted among the group of B vitamins.
Niacin, when taken in appropriate amounts, can be beneficial to our health. It helps with atherosclerosis and high cholesterol levels. However, if an overdose of niacin is taken, the vitamin may also have side effects.
Niacin is usually present in the human body in the form of the two co-enzymes NAD and NADP and is contained in all living cells of humans. Particularly high concentrations are present in the kidneys, liver and adipose tissue.
Niacin plays an important role especially in the energy supply of the body, as it is involved in protein metabolism, as well as in the fat and carbohydrate metabolism. In addition, niacin is important for the recovery of our body. It has special significance for the regeneration of muscles, nerves, DNA and the skin. In addition, niacin promotes the formation of messenger substances in the brain, with the help of which information is transported from nerve cell to nerve cell. Finally, niacin is also important for a proper digestive process.
Niacin deficiency: causes
A deficiency of vitamin niacin is relatively rare, because niacin can not only be absorbed through various foods, but also be formed from the amino acid tryptophan. This results in 60 milligrams of tryptophan one milligram of niacin.
A possible cause of a niacin deficiency is that the body is fed too little niacin via food intake. This is especially common in groups of people who mainly feed on corn. Because the form of nicotinic acid contained in corn can not be used by the body.
On the other hand, a niacin deficiency can also occur if the body gets too little protein. In that case, not enough tryptophan can be converted into niacin. In addition, a vitamin B6 deficiency can also cause a lack of niacin, because vitamin B6 is needed for the conversion of tryptophan to niacin.
Symptoms of niacin deficiency
The first signs of a niacin deficiency are:
- Loss of appetite and weight loss
- depressive moods and irritability
It can also cause diarrhea and vomiting.
In addition, the disease Pellagra can occur as a result of the lack of niacin. This is mainly characterized by skin changes: Pellagra produces an itchy, reddish rash, which may be accompanied by swelling, blisters and indurations on the skin. In addition, diarrhea and dementia are other typical symptoms of pellagra.
Side effects of niacin
The vitamin Niacin usually has side effects only if it is taken in large quantities. The recommended daily dose is 15 milligrams.
If more than 500 milligrams are taken, niacin can cause flushing: Flushing is the vasodilator effect of the vitamin - it causes a feeling of warmth and redness of the skin. However, due to its vasodilator effect, niacin can also have a positive effect on health when properly dosed - it is used, for example, in people suffering from arteriosclerosis.
In addition, niacin also has a positive effect on cholesterol: it increases HDL cholesterol and lowers dangerous LDL cholesterol. Due to its side effects, especially due to the flush, however, niacin was hardly used for a long time to lower cholesterol levels. Meanwhile, however, there are niacin preparations that also contain a flush inhibitor, so that unwanted side effects do not occur.
Consequences of overdose
By consuming food, overdose with niacin is hardly possible. However, there are special niacin preparations that can be used to add niacin to the body. An overdose is said to be from a daily intake of 1.5 to 3 grams. It can cause headaches, nausea and itching.
If you take more than 2500 milligrams of niacin, it can lead to a drop in blood pressure and dizzy spells. In addition, by excessive amounts of niacin and the uric acid excretion is hindered. Therefore, an overdose is especially dangerous for people with gout, as they could suffer a gout.
Daily dose of niacin
The recommended daily dose of niacin is around 15 milligrams. Pregnant and lactating women have a higher need for niacin, as well as alcoholics. For children, the daily dose of niacin should be between seven and twelve milligrams. In general, the average daily intake in Germany is higher than required. Deficiencies are accordingly extremely rare.
Food with niacin
Since the vitamin can be partially produced by the body itself, the daily need to be absorbed through the food is difficult to estimate. For example, 15 milligrams of niacin are included in the following foods:
- 100g calf's liver
- 200g beef
- 250g Whole Wheat
- 750g peas
- 1250g potatoes
- 3000g of fruit
In addition, niacin is also found in fish, poultry, mushrooms, eggs and dairy products. In general, niacin, which comes from animal products, can be better utilized by the organism.
Tip: Like biotin or pantothenic acid, niacin is one of the water-soluble vitamins. Since it easily changes into the cooking water during cooking, the cooking water should be used as much as possible.