Why is niacin put in food

Vitamin B3

Synonym: niacin

The water-soluble vitamin B.3, also called niacin, is found in foods in the form of nicotinic acid and niacinamide - an amino acid. Both are converted into the biologically active form of vitamin B by the body3 transformed. The amino acid tryptophan, which is consumed through the diet, is also an important source of vitamin B.3because the liver can convert this into niacin. The need for vitamin B.3 from food is therefore described with the niacin equivalents (NE): 1 mg niacin = 60 mg tryptophan = 1 NE. vitamin B3 is involved in the production of the glucose tolerance factor (GTF), which together with insulin regulates the blood sugar level. As nicotinic acid lowers vitamin B.3 the blood level of various fats, for example LDL cholesterol. In addition, it increases the healthy HDL cholesterol in the blood. The vitamin also helps to repair the genes, in the antioxidant system and in energy production. In its active form, it ensures the function of over 200 enzymes and helps maintain the health of skin and muscle tissue as well as the nervous and digestive systems.

Presence of vitamin B3 in food

In nature there is vitamin B.3 mainly found as nicotinamide. Rich in vitamin B.3 are mainly fish (anchovies, tuna, salmon, marrowfish) and meat (lean beef, veal and pork) and offal. There is vitamin B in plant foods3 mainly found in mung beans, peanuts and mushrooms. The following foods are particularly rich in vitamin B.3:

  • Veal liver: 16.5 milligrams / 100 grams
  • Peanuts: 15.3 milligrams / 100 grams
  • Chicken liver: 11.6 milligrams / 100 grams
  • Sardine: 9.7 milligrams / 100 grams
  • Mackerel: 7.7 milligrams / 100 grams
  • Wheat grain: 5.1 milligrams / 100 grams
  • Apricots, dried: 3.3 milligrams / 100 grams
  • Peas, green, cooked: 2.3 milligrams / 100 grams

The amount of vitamin B dissolved by the water during boiling3 can be used by the body by utilizing the cooking water. Eggs and milk only have low concentrations of vitamin B.3 on, but a high content of tryptophan. In cereals such as maize or potatoes, the vitamin mainly exists in bound form as a niacytin complex. Since the gastrointestinal tract is bound to vitamin B3 can only partially unlock, the food must be pretreated. If, for example, corn kernels are placed in lime water, the calcium hydroxide contained therein sets vitamin B.3 free.

Not for everyone, but rich in vitamin B3: liver. Since liver is a detoxification organ, however, it can be polluted with pollutants. It also contains large amounts of cholesterol and an extremely high amount of vitamin A. People who are sensitive to cholesterol and pregnant women are therefore better off avoiding liver consumption.
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Vitamin B3 requirement

The German Nutrition Society (DGE) recommends the following guidelines for daily vitamin B, depending on age and gender3-Supply:

  • Infants (0-12 months): 2-5 mg equivalents / day
  • Children and adolescents (1–19 years): 8–17 mg equivalents / day
  • Adults 19 years and over: 11-16 mg equivalents / day
  • Pregnant women: 14-16 mg equivalents / day
  • Breastfeeding: 16 mg equivalents / day

Signs of vitamin B3 deficiency

A chronic deficiency in vitamin B.3 leads to the typical niacin deficiency disease pellagra: First of all, it is noticeable through unspecific symptoms such as physical weakness and loss of appetite. Later, skin changes occur in areas exposed to the sun, such as the knee, elbow or neck. On a vitamin B.3- Deficiency also indicates numerous complaints of the nervous system, such as depression, insomnia or anxiety. Changes in the mucous membrane in the digestive tract are also characteristic. If left untreated, Pellagra can lead to multiple organ failure and thus death.

Causes of Vitamin B3 Deficiency:

Vitamin B deficiency rarely occurs in industrialized countries3 on. Signs only become apparent as a result of diseases that impair the absorption or metabolism of the vitamin or tryptophan:

  • Increased alcohol consumption.
  • A deficiency in vitamin B2 or B6 disrupts the niacin-trophan metabolism and can lead to a deficiency of vitamin B.3 contribute.
  • The breakdown of protein during illness, fever, cancer and severe burns and injuries can reduce the need for vitamin B.3 increase.
  • Insufficient intake of tryptophan-containing proteins from food can lead to a tryptophan deficit and thus to vitamin B3- Contribute to shortages.
  • Hartnup syndrome - a metabolic disease in which the transport of amino acids through the cell membrane is disturbed - and thus also the transport of tryptophan. These are lost in the body and no longer represent the production of vitamin B, for example3 to disposal.

Vitamin B3 as a dietary supplement

Vitamin B3-containing dietary supplements are suitable for all people who show signs of a proven B vitamin3- have a deficiency or want to improve their immune system in general. In particular, elderly people, pregnant and breastfeeding women as well as people with increased alcohol consumption, with extensive sporting activity and heavy physical work can benefit from increased vitamin B3- Feed benefit. Due to its functions, the vitamin is used in a variety of ways, for example to improve blood lipid levels, if the blood sugar level is too high in the context of diabetes or to support the therapy of osteoarthritis. In addition, the vitamin is said to support the therapy of people with schizophrenia. The doctor can also use vitamin B for headaches3 - especially if they are related to premenstrual syndrome or migraines. vitamin B3 also protects against oxidative stress caused by environmental toxins such as pesticides, chemicals, drugs and alcohol.

Oversupply of vitamin B3

Due to the amounts normally consumed in food, there is an overdose of vitamin B.3 hardly possible. Only one application of nutritional supplements, fortified foods or drugs can lead to an overdose. Excessive amounts of nicotinic acid - not niacinamide - cause, for example, vasodilation followed by flushing symptoms (such as local reddening of the skin), an increase in uric acid and blood sugar levels, or liver dysfunction.


Lothar Burgerstein: Handbook Nutrients. Prevention and healing through a balanced diet: Everything about trace elements, vitamins and minerals. 10th edition Stuttgart 2010, pp. 98-101.

Paul Mohr: Healthy through food. This is how orthomolecular medicine works. 3rd edition Zurich: Oesch Verlag, pp. 200-204.


Julia Schmidt | last changed on at 16:47