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Niacin

Peanut and peas

What does it do?

Niacin is a water-soluble vitamin that helps your body produce energy from foods and participates in a variety of biochemical reactions in the body. Among the B vitamins, niacin is unique in that the body can synthesize niacin from the amino acid tryptophan. This is not to say that your body doesn’t utilize the niacin that you consume from foods. It just meets its niacin requirement from both.

What are the best food sources?

Foods high in proteins, such as poultry, fish and beef, are rich sources of niacin. Peanut butter and fortified cereals are also good sources of niacin.

What happens if you don’t get enough?

Pellagra, the classic niacin-deficiency disease, is characterized by depression, apathy, headache, fatigue, memory loss, increasing mental confusion, diarrhea and skin problems. However, niacin deficiency is not seen frequently in industrialized countries except for in those individuals with chronic alcoholism or conditions, such as Hartnup’s disease, that disrupt the conversion of tryptophan to niacin.

What happens if you get too much?

It’s not likely that you’ll get toxic levels of niacin from food sources; there has been no evidence that this occurs. However, supplementation in high doses may cause adverse effects, such as flushed skin, nausea and vomiting, or liver damage.

How much do you need?

The following table lists the recommended intake for healthy people based on current scientific information. These values are given in niacin equivalents (NEs) except for infants ages 0-6 months, where the value is in preformed niacin (niacin from foods). NEs account for the conversion of the amino acid tryptophan into niacin (1 mg of niacin = 60 mg tryptophan).

Life Stage Group Age Range Recommended Dietary Allowance/Adequate Intake Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL)
Infants 0-6 mo. Not determinable for infants due to lack of data on adverse effects in this age group and concern about inability to handle excess amounts. Source should be from food only to prevent high levels of intake.
Infants 7-12 mo. Not determinable for infants due to lack of data on adverse effects in this age group and concern about inability to handle excess amounts. Source should be from food only to prevent high levels of intake.
Children 1-3 yr. 10 milligrams/day
Children 4-8 yr. 15 milligrams/day
Males 9-13 yr. 20 milligrams/day
Males 14-18 yr. 30 milligrams/day
Males 19-30 yr. 35 milligrams/day
Males 31-50 yr. 35 milligrams/day
Males 51-70 yr. 35 milligrams/day
Males > 70 yr. 35 milligrams/day
Females 9-13 yr. 20 milligrams/day
Females 14-18 yr. 30 milligrams/day
Females 19-30 yr. 35 milligrams/day
Females 31-50 yr. 35 milligrams/day
Females 51-70 yr. 35 milligrams/day
Females > 70 yr. 35 milligrams/day
Pregnancy < 18 yr. 30 milligrams/day
Pregnancy 19-30 yr. 35 milligrams/day
Pregnancy 31-50 yr. 35 milligrams/day
Lactation < 18 yr. 30 milligrams/day
Lactation 19-30 yr. 35 milligrams/day
Lactation 31-50 yr. 35 milligrams/day
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