Eating foods that are high in niacin can help to prevent conditions such as cancer and insulin-dependent diabetes. Foods high in niacin include: meat, poultry, red fish, legumes, and seeds.
Niacin, also known as vitamin B3, is a water-soluble vitamin.
The B vitamins work together to convert carbohydrates into glucose (sugar), which is then “burned” to produce energy. B vitamins are often referred to as B-complex vitamins and are essential in the metabolism of fats and protein. They are necessary for maintaining muscle tone in the gastrointestinal tract and promoting the health of the nervous system, skin, hair, eyes, mouth, and liver.
Niacin is also needed for DNA repair. It plays an important role in ridding the body of toxic and harmful chemicals. Niacin helps the body to make various sex and stress-related hormones in the adrenal glands and other parts of the body. Studies show that niacin is also effective in improving circulation and reducing cholesterol levels in the blood.
Severe lack of niacin causes the deficiency disease called pellagra. Pellagra can result in the weakening of the liver and groin area. If left untreated, Pellagra can kill within 4 or 5 years. However, if the disease is treated, it can be cured.
Niacin deficiency affects the skin, digestive system, and the nervous system. The symptoms of pellagra include high sensitivity to sunlight, aggression, dermatitis, red skin lesions, insomnia, weakness, mental confusion, diarrhea, and dementia (eventually). Symptoms of mild niacin deficiency include indigestion, vomiting, fatigue, canker sores, and depression.
Note: A variety of medical conditions can lead to the symptoms mentioned above. Therefore, it is important to have a physician evaluate them so that appropriate medical care can be given.
Niacin from natural, unfortified foods is not known to cause adverse effects. One study noted adverse effects from the consumption of bagels that had been fortified with 60 times the normal amount of niacin fortification. Most reported cases of adverse effects have been due to ingestion of high doses of pharmacologic preparations of niacin. High doses of niacin supplements can cause side effects. The most common side effect is called “niacin flush,” which is a burning, tingling sensation in the face and chest, and red or “flushed” skin. Taking very high doses of niacin supplements can also cause liver damage and stomach ulcers to occur. Taking any one of the B complex vitamins for a long period of time can cause an imbalance of the other important B vitamins. To avoid the imbalance, it is recommended that you take a B complex vitamin instead of isolating any single B vitamin.
Caution: Eating natural foods that are high in niacin is the safest and healthiest way to get an adequate supply of the nutrient. Due to risk of toxicity, individuals should always consult with a knowledgeable healthcare provider before starting doses of supplements. Before giving supplements to children, it is recommended that you first consult with their pediatrician. Also, some supplements may interfere with medications. If you are taking medication, it is recommended that you consult with your physician before taking any supplements. All supplements should be kept in childproof bottles and out of children’s reach.
Tuna, light, packed in water, 3 ounces – (11.3 mg)
Salmon, chinook, cooked, 3 ounces – (8.5 mg)
Chicken, light meat, cooked without skin, 3 ounces – (7.3 mg)
Turkey, light meat, cooked without skin, 3 ounces – (5.8 mg)
Peanuts, dry roasted, 1 ounce – (3.8 mg)
Beef, lean, cooked, 3 ounces – (3.1 mg)
Pasta, enriched, cooked, 1 cup – (2.3 mg)
Lentils, cooked, 1 cup – (2.1 mg)
Lima beans, cooked, 1 cup – (1.8 mg)
Bread, whole wheat, 1 slice – (1.3 mg)
Coffee, brewed, 1 cup – (0.5 mg)