Niacin (B3) Food sources and Deficiency

Niacin (B3) Food sources and Deficiency diseases are mentioned below:

Types of vitamin B

There are eight types of vitamin B:

  • thiamin (B1)
  • riboflavin (B2)
  • niacin (B3)
  • pantothenic acid (B5)
  • pyridoxine (B6)
  • biotin (B7)
  • folate or ‘folic acid’ when included in supplements (B9)
  • cyanocobalamin (B12).

Thiamin (B1)

Thiamin is also known as vitamin B1. It helps to convert glucose into energy and has a role in nerve function.

Good sources of thiamin

  • wholemeal cereal grains
  • seeds (especially sesame seeds)
  • legumes
  • wheatgerm 
  • nuts
  • yeast 
  • pork.

In Australia, it’s mandatory that white and wholemeal flour used for bread is fortified with thiamin. 

Thiamin deficiency 

Thiamin deficiency is generally found in countries where the dietary staple is white rice. Deficiencies in the Western world are generally caused by excessive alcohol intake and/or a very poor diet. Symptoms include – confusion, irritability, poor arm or leg (or both) coordination, lethargy, fatigue and muscle weakness.

Beriberi is a condition caused by thiamin deficiency and affects the cardiovascular, muscular, gastrointestinal and nervous systems. It can be classified as ‘wet’ and ‘dry’ beriberi. ‘Dry’ beriberi affects the nervous symptom while ‘wet’ beriberi affects the cardiovascular system. 

Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome (also called ‘wet brain’) is another thiamin-deficiency disease linked to alcohol excess and a thiamin-deficient diet. Alcohol reduces thiamin absorption in the gut and increases its excretion from the kidneys. 

Riboflavin (B2)

Riboflavin is primarily involved in energy production and helps vision and skin health.

Good sources of riboflavin

  • milk
  • yoghurt
  • cottage cheese
  • wholegrain breads and cereals
  • egg white
  • leafy green vegetables
  • meat
  • yeast
  • liver
  • kidney.

Niacin (B3)

Niacin is essential for the body to convert carbohydrates, fat and alcohol into energy. It helps maintain skin health and supports the nervous and digestive systems. Unlike other B-group vitamins, niacin is very heat stable and little is lost in cooking.

Good sources of niacin

  • meats
  • fish
  • poultry
  • milk
  • eggs
  • wholegrain breads and cereals
  • nuts
  • mushrooms 
  • all protein-containing foods.

Niacin deficiency (pellagra)

People who drink excessive amounts of alcohol or live on a diet almost exclusively based on corn are most at risk of pellagra. Others causes are associated with digestive problems where the body does not absorb niacin efficiently.

The main symptoms of pellagra are commonly referred to as the three Ds – dementia, diarrhoea and dermatitis. This disease can lead to death if not treated.

Excessive niacin intake

Large doses of niacin produce a drug-like effect on the nervous system and on blood fats. While favourable changes in blood fats are seen, side effects include – flushing, itching, nausea and potential liver damage.

Niacin (B3) Food sources and Deficiency

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