The Magical Niacin (B3)


Vitamin B3 - the magical Niacin

Vitamin B3, also known as Niacin an essential vitamin for a healthy mind, gut and skin. Niacin is one of the four water-soluble B vitamins and is probably the most foundational B vitamin in all of energy metabolism. Let’s look at the Magical Niacin!

What does Niacin do?

  • Niacin is an essential energy component in breaking down building up of pretty much everything by converting it to NAD and NADP which are required in most metabolic processes.
  • Is detoxing or recycling taking place? It requires energy so it needs Niacin.
  • It lengthens the telomeres which protect our genetic data, make it possible for cells to divide and is thought to be key for longevity.

Niacin is important everywhere for everything, but especially to the brain, gut, and skin.

  • In the brain, it’s consumed during every single release of neurotransmitters that allow the brain cells to communicate with one another, and allow the nerves to control the muscles and sense the environment.
  • In the gut, the intestines get attacked by most of the things we eat. The cells get replaced every two or three days. That requires a lot of energy and repair.
  • In the skin, every ray of sun  that strikes us damages the DNA, and so the skin is in repair mode nonstop.

Recognizing Niacin Deficiencies

  • Fatigue or exercise intolerance, because of its role in energy metabolism.
  • Dementia is a well known form of  depression.
  • Dermatitis, starts with red skin. It gets really worse when going out in the sun, which causes DNA damage and there’s not enough Niacin to repair it.
  • The diarrhea occurs when the cells that absorb the nutrients cant be replaced, and the body stops absorbing nutrients. Hence, all the stuff that cant be absorbed get flushed out the other end.

How to Get Niacin From Food

  • We can actually make Niacin from protein!
  • Niacin is freely available in animal foods, yeast, and legumes (lentils, peas, beans).
  • The Niacin in grains, seeds, and coffee is bound up, so these foods need to be processed in special ways to release it.

Getting Niacin from Protein

Making B3 from protein requires iron, riboflavin, and vitamin B6. Additionally, B3 is unique among the vitamins in that at least part of the body’s requirement for it can be met through synthesis from an amino acid (tryptophan): the conversion of 60 mg tryptophan produces 1 mg of Niacin. 

Best sources are

  • 120gr anchovies, liver (beef, lamb, pork) and 3tbsp of unfortified nutritional yeast gives you the needed Niacin (around 15mg/day)
  • 240gr of peanuts, peanut butter, most fresh meat, certain fish (canned or fresh tuna, salmon, mackerel, cod); certain seeds (hemp, chia, sunflower).
  • 360gr of tahin, pumpkin seeds, almonds, chestnuts, peas, and many mushrooms.
  • 85-90% of Niacin in whole grains is bound up, and 40% of the Niacin in seeds is bound. Sprouting for 3 days frees 20% of the Niacin.

Coffee, Grains, and Seeds

  • The stronger the coffee, the more Niacin in a cup. The weaker the coffee, the less.
  • Bound Niacin can be also be released by heat: the roasting of coffee beans, for instance, increases it’s bioavailability (around 2mg per cup).

Causes of Deficiency

Deficiency isn’t just about diet. Here are a few other things that cause deficiency:

  • Sugar and fat don’t have Niacin. The more sugar and fat you eat, the more food you need to get the required Niacin.
  • Digestive disorders, alcohol abuse and stress all contribution to the lack of absorption of Niacin.
  • Water-soluble vitamins are mostly destroyed during boiling and by heat (although Niacin is stable to heat). More significantly,the processing of grains removes almost all of B1, B2, B3, which is the reason why fortification has been widely practiced for the last 100 years.

Niacin Supplements

Niacin can be toxic. In fact, enough Niacin can cause liver failure in humans. High doses of any form of Niacin will put a tax on the methylation system. There are different Niacin supplements but not in the scope of this post.

Key Takeaways

  • Niacin is especially important to the mind, gut, and skin.
  • Stress and sunlight increase Niacin needs.
  • Liver gives you all the vitamin A, thiamin, riboflavin, and Niacin we need!

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