Vitamin B3 (niacin) • For skin, nerves and metabolism

The body needs vitamin B3 (niacin) for the production of energy from carbohydrates, fats and protein as well as for numerous metabolic processes. What are the symptoms of a vitamin B3 deficiency, what foods contain it and why it is important.

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What is vitamin B3 (niacin)?

Vitamin B3, also known as niacin, is a water-soluble vitamin from the series of B vitamins. Niacin refers to several substances, namely nicotinic acid and nicotinic acid amide and their compounds. The body absorbs niacin from food on the one hand, but can also produce it in the liver from the amino acid tryptophan itself on the other.

Effects of niacin

The human body needs vitamin B3 for metabolic processes such as the production of fatty acids. It is a component of various coenzymes that are required for processes in almost all cells. Niacin is important in the following processes:

A study by the University of Kiel is currently investigating whether vitamin B3 can alleviate symptoms in inflammatory bowel diseases. It is known that niacin has a positive effect on cholesterol levels.

Foods with vitamin B3

The body absorbs vitamin B3 with food. Niacin is mainly found in animal products such as meat and fish. Plant foods like yeast, legumes, peanuts, mushrooms, and whole grains also provide niacin. Interestingly, coffee is also a good source of vitamin B3. Foods that contain a lot of tryptophan, such as dairy products, also meet the need for vitamin B3, as the body can use it to produce it itself.

In this country, a vitamin B3 deficiency is rare. The daily recommended intake of niacin is even more likely to be exceeded. However, since vitamin B3 is water-soluble, this is not a problem because the body excretes excess vitamin B3. An adult’s vitamin B3 store lasts for two to six weeks. The exact need for vitamin B3 is not known, as the body can produce the vitamin itself from the amino acid tryptophan.

Unlike vitamin B1 or B12, niacin is not sensitive to heat and is not destroyed when cooked. However, due to its solubility in water, it is recommended to reuse the cooking water from vegetables, e.g. for sauces.

Symptoms of vitamin B3 deficiency

In the case of malnutrition and a resulting lack of niacin, pellagra can occur, which occurs mainly in developing countries. Skin changes are typical for this classic deficiency disease: At first they are reminiscent of sunburn, later they turn dark. Diarrhea or constipation set in, along with nausea, vomiting and loss of appetite. The brain and nervous system are also affected: fatigue, memory disorders, confusion, insomnia and visual disturbances occur. If left untreated, the disease leads to death.

Vitamin B3 deficiency is rare in industrialized countries. Dangerous factors are:

If there is a deficiency in vitamin B3, there is usually a deficiency in vitamin B2 (riboflavin), vitamin B6 and proteins. Typical symptoms are then:

  • red rash on hands, feet, calves, neck and face
  • The tongue and mouth appear dark red
  • Digestive problems
  • fatigue
  • insomnia
  • Apathy

A deficiency can usually be compensated for with food supplements that contain nicotinamide or nicotinic acid.

How high is the requirement for vitamin B3?

According to the German Nutrition Society, between 11 and 17 milligrams of niacin and tryptophan should be consumed daily, which is not a problem with a balanced diet. One milligram of niacin is roughly equivalent to 60 milligrams of tryptophan.

If excessive amounts of vitamin B3 are consumed (over 30 milligrams of nicotinic acid per day), symptoms of an overdose can occur. According to the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment, food supplements should not contain more than 4 milligrams of nicotinic acid or 160 milligrams of nicotinic acid amide or 4.4 milligrams of inositol hexanicotinate (inositol niacinate) per day.

Signs of a niacin overdose include:

If such symptoms of an overdose of vitamin B3 occur, appropriate dietary supplements should be discontinued immediately.

Vitamin B2: foods rich in riboflavin

Source: Lifeline | Das Gesundheitsportal by

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