IMPORTANT: The information on this site should never be used to self medicate or to self diagnose. Always contact your health care provider before using any kind of supplementation or making any extreme change in diet.
Nikita looked at the large and rotund salmon she had just picked up from the local fish market. “What a huge fish,” she thought. “We’re going to have a wonderful meal tonight.” As she reached for the giant salmon so she could wash it off in the sink before cooking it the idea that this might be a little more difficult than she had previously anticipated entered her mind.
She tried to get her small hands around the centre of the fish but because of the large circumference of the creature they fell just short of getting a solid grip. “Oh well, I’m sure I can get it from here to the sink without too much of a problem,” she said to herself.
“One giant attempt to quickly move the salmon from the counter to the sink and it will all be over. “
And over it was!
Over the top of the toaster, across the length of the counter, onto one of the kitchen chairs and finally to the floor where it slid for a good three feet before coming to rest close to the door.
“Well, that didn’t work,” she said right out loud.
“OK Mr. Salmon, this time I’m going to get you under control,” she said as she reached down to grab the unruly beast by the tail.
Once more, the creature slipped from her grasp. Now, somewhat irritated, she became overly determined to get the damned thing into the sink.
Onto the floor she kneeled grabbing the fish right around the belly as if it were a large dog. Up she stood the fish pressed firmly against her upper body and off went the fish shooting across the sink right up against the window! Bouncing off the window it landed on the counter beside the sink.
Nikita, moving faster than she ever thought she could, placed herself at the edge of the counter stopping the salmon from making a break, once again, for the kitchen floor.
At this point she found the episode so bizarre that she began to giggle uncontrollably, perhaps out of relief more than anything.
Carrying the baking dish to the sink she place the washed salmon into the container and transported both over to the oven.
The salmon finally cooked; the dinner ready and served; the family sat around the table to feast on the wayward fish.
None did they know that this delicious dinner was giving each of them more than their daily requirement of Vitamin B3 or Niacin and why should they care?
WHAT IS NIACIN?
Niacin or nicotinic acid also known as vitamin B3 is a water soluble solid organic compound.
Niacinamide a.k.a. nicotinamide is a derivative of niacin but has an altered chemical structure. These compounds have nothing to do with the nicotine in tobacco. Niacinamide is used by the body to form the coenzymes NAD (nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide ) and NADP (nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate). These two coenzymes are involved in energy production.
Niacin is a very stable vitamin which stores well and is not readily affected by light, heat or air.
We get niacin from food or from the essential amino acid tryptophan’s ability to synthesise it in the liver with the help of enzymes created from B6 and B2 and an enzyme containing iron. We can also get it in supplemental form i.e.: vitamin pills. Getting it in supplemental form should be done with caution as getting too much niacin this way can happen very easily.
WHAT DOES NIACIN DO FOR US?
1. Niacin is used in the formation of several coenzymes that play essential roles in the metabolism or energy production of living cells.
Note: Coenzymes are organic molecules that are necessary for enzymes to perform.Note: Enzymes are proteins that are used to create energy.
Humans get our energy from redox reactions (oxidation-reduction reactions). These are processes that involve the transfer of electrons.
About 200 different types of enzymes need niacin coenzymes to accept or donate electrons in redox reactions involving carbohydrates, fats, proteins and alcohol.
Niacin is involved in the production of steroid hormones in the adrenal glands. These steroidal hormones are fat soluble and are therefore able to pass through cell walls into the cell nucleus where they are involved in the production of messenger RNA molecules which in turn are involved in carrying DNA information for the production of proteins.
Both DNA repair and cell specialisation have a role in cancer prevention.
A study done in northern Italy and Switzerland showed 40% decrease in cases of mouth and throat cancers with an increase in niacin intake.
3. In other types of reactions called biosynthetic reactions niacin coenzymes synthesise macromolecules such as fatty acids and cholesterol.
Nicotinic acid but not niacinamide can reduce the amount of cholesterol in the blood. It does this by blocking the breakdown of the fats in adipose tissue. Because these fats build very low-density lipoproteins better known as bad cholesterol or LDL, they are blocked by niacin from creating bad cholesterol. Niacinamide is not able to do this.
Used therapeutically (do not do this without consulting with your doctor) niacin increases good cholesterol and makes small dense cholesterol particles into large buoyant ones. Large buoyant ones are a good thing. It has been seen to reverse atherosclerosis by reducing total cholesterol.
4. Nicotinic acid also reduces the tendency to develop blood clots.
Pellagra is the disease caused by not getting enough niacin. When a person is beginning to show signs of niacin deficiency they show irritability, poor concentration, anxiety, fatigue, restlessness, apathy and depression. When the deficiency becomes acute then it develops into pellagra which causes diarrhea, dermatitis, dementia, hyper-pigmentation, thickening of the skin, inflammation of the mouth and tongue, amnesia, delirium and, lastly but not least, death.
Niacin deficiency is a rarity in developed countries except when there is extreme poverty resulting in malnutrition or in cases of chronic alcoholism. Pellagra can also result in people who have tryptophan related diseases such as Hartnup’s Disease and Carcinoids Syndrome.
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN WE GET TOO MUCH NIACIN?
Although large amounts of niacin from food are not known to be toxic excessive amounts taken in supplements (vitamin pills) may present some problems.
Most of the adverse affects of niacin have come from pharmacologic preparations (supplements) or more commonly from energy drinks so always include your health care provider in deciding to use additional amounts of niacin apart from that found in food.
Many energy drinks have niacin in supplemental form added to them which is why drinking too many of these in a short period of time is a bad idea.
Too much niacin leads to excessive flushing, itching and burning sensation in the skin and can be quite alarming to the affected person.
Too much niacinamide does not produce this problem but it does produce excessive sweating.
WHERE DO WE GET NIACIN
It takes 60 mgs of tryptophan to produce 1 mg of niacin in the liver.
The tolerable upper limit for niacin intake is 35 mgs. per day
The recommended daily allowance is 16 mgs for men and 14 mgs for women.
The preceding table provides a list of most of the top niacin containing foods. The milligrams are rounded to the nearest milligram and the percentages are a very close approximation. They are meant as a guide line. Many more foods contain niacin in smaller amounts. A varied and well rounded diet will easily fill your recommended daily allowance.
The Linus Pauling Institute: