Monday, March 29, 2010

Niacin – Vitamin B3

Niacin is a powerhouse B vitamin. It participates in over 200 enzymes under normal conditions and during times of intense activity. If you’re a runner you’re really going to ramp up the metabolic engine with it. Tryptophan (an amino-acid) is a precursor for vitamin B3, and provides about half of the amount needed. Riboflavin, vitamin B6 and iron are all needed to convert tryptophan to vitamin B3. A deficiency of these nutrients can worsen a deficiency of this essential vitamin.

Pellegra is the deficiency disease of vitamin B3, and it means rough skin in Italian. The skin becomes rough and black when exposed to sunlight. The signs of this deficiency include dermatitis, diarrhea, dementia and death. Pellegra historically has been a killer of humans.

Chronic alcoholism and significant poverty can contribute to its deficiency. What about vitamin B3 toxicity? This vitamin is sometimes considered a drug because it has clinical usefulness. High vitamin B3 doses (higher than the recommended upper limit of 35 milligrams) can be used to lower cholesterol and is very effective at that. Before other drugs were on the market, vitamin B3 was the main tool for lowering cholesterol.

A popular book published in the 1990’s titled “The 8 Week Cholesterol Cure” touted high doses of vitamin B3. It is rare to see side effects of high doses, but they are pretty impressive. You can get flushing, redness and itching of your skin. You can also have elevated liver enzymes by taking high doses of this vitamin. If your cholesterol is high, make sure you ask your healthcare provider what to do. Don’t try to fix it by yourself by taking lots of vitamin B3!

Vitamin B3 also may elevate blood sugar. If you have pre-diabetes or metabolic syndrome this vitamin as a drug may not be the compound for you.

Daily Requirements

Male (18-70): 16 milligrams.
Female (18-70): 14 milligrams.
Upper limit: 35 milligrams.

Foods High in Niacin

0.25 cup peanuts, raw4.4 milligrams
113 grams chicken, roasted14.4 milligrams
113 grams turkey, roasted7.22 milligrams
1 cup green peas3.2 milligrams

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