Niacin, also known as vitamin B-3, is one of the eight essential B vitamins. It is considered an essential vitamin, because if you do not consume enough each day, you will develop symptoms and health problems. Therefore, it is important to understand how much you need and what foods you should add to your diet to ensure that you get enough each day.
Importance of Niacin
Niacin is used by your body in a variety of ways. One main area is in the production of energy for your cells. Niacin helps your body convert the foods you eat into energy for your tissues and organs. Niacin is also used in digestion and nervous system function, and it keeps your skin healthy.
Health Benefits of Niacin
Niacin delivers several specific health benefits, according to the Linus Pauling Institute. Niacin intake helps prevent diabetes and several types of cancer, including skin and esophageal cancers. Niacin is also used as a treatment for adverse health conditions such as high cholesterol, heart disease, Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome and schizophrenia. Never attempt to self-treat with excess niacin. Speak to your physician if you believe you may have a condition that would benefit from niacin supplementation.
Recommended Dietary Allowance
The recommended dietary allowance, or RDA, is the minimum intake that your body needs. If you are an adult male, you need 16 mg per day; you need 14 mg per day if you are an adult female. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding need 17 to 18 mg per day. Although niacin is not associated with many side effects, it is recommended that you do not consume more than 35 mg per day. Long-term use of high doses could lead to flushing of your skin on your face, arms and chest.
The B vitamins are found in foods such as fish, poultry, meat, eggs, beans, peas and dairy products. Other sources of B vitamins include green leafy vegetables, which also contain other essential vitamins and minerals. Breads and cereals may also be fortified with niacin. The best way to ensure that you get enough niacin is to eat a variety of foods including vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, dairy products and lean meats. A multivitamin is another way to get your daily RDA of niacin.
Niacin is essential to good health. If you do not consume enough, you could develop pellagra, which is the term for niacin deficiency. The symptoms of pellagra include inflamed skin, digestive problems, mental impairment and lack of energy. Your body does not store niacin, so to avoid these symptoms, be sure to consume niacin every day.