What are the Functions of Niacin, Causes of Niacin Deficiency and Foods Rich in Niacin

Page content

Niacin, or vitamin B3, is one of the eight B-complex vitamins and is also known as nicotinic acid. It was first discovered in the early 1900s when it was extracted from livers and used as a factor that helped in treating a disease called pellagra. The name ‘niacin’ was derived from the words NIcotinic ACid and vitamIN. Since it was the third of the B vitamins to be discovered, it was named as Vitamin B3. This article discusses the importance of this water-soluble vitamin for the functioning of the body and also gives a list of foods rich in niacin.

Importance of Niacin for the Body

Consuming food that contains niacin is critical since this B-complex vitamin helps the body in producing energy and metabolizing fats and proteins. It improves circulation and has also been found to lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol. Since it is important for the production of deoxyribose nucleic acid (DNA), a deficiency of niacin can damage this primary genetic material. This is especially crucial with respect to cancer and its prevention.

Niacin also seems to play a key role in the metabolism of insulin and regulation of blood sugar levels. It is necessary for healthy skin, hair, eyes, and liver in addition to helping the proper functioning of the nervous system. This vitamin helps in the production of various sex and stress-related hormones by different glands of the body.

Deficiency of Niacin

Mild deficiency of niacin can cause indigestion, fatigue, vomiting, depression, and canker sores, whereas a severe deficiency can lead to pellagra, which is characterized by cracked, scaly skin, diarrhea, and dementia. The body’s need for this nutrient can be met with a balanced diet. Just make sure to include foods rich in niacin in the right amounts in daily diets.

Food Sources That are Rich in Niacin

Niacin is found in a variety of foods including animal products, fruits, vegetables, seeds, and fungi. Some of the richest sources of niacin are listed below:

Mushrooms, crimini - These coffee colored fungi are available throughout the year and a serving of 141.75 grams of these mushroom varieties provides 25% of daily requirements for niacin.

Beef liver - For those who love the taste of calf’s liver, there is some good news since not only is it low in toxins compared to the liver of older animals, it is also one of the richest sources of niacin. A serving of 113.40 grams of liver has a percent daily value of 45%.

Chicken - Chicken is also a rich source of niacin and 113.40 grams takes care of 72% of the daily requirement.

Asparagus - This is a superb vegetarian niacin rich food - the leafless member of the lily family. Approximately 180 grams of this vegetable furnishes a percent daily value of 10%.

Tuna - Tuna provides 67% of daily requirements when individuals consume 113.40 grams.

Halibut - This sweet flavored flatfish has a 40% daily value of vitamin B3 in a serving of 113.40 grams.

Venison - This is another niacin rich food, that provides 38% of the daily value in a serving of 113.40 grams; additionally, it is a good source of protein and iron, but quite low in saturated fats.

Salmon- If salmon is a favorite food, you would be glad to know that 113.40 grams of this pink-colored fish has a 56.7% daily value of niacin.

Other foods sources of niacin - In addition to these foods, turkey breast, lamb loins, soy sauce, and vegetables such as mustard greens and boiled spinach, peanuts, and fruits such as tomatoes, raspberries, and cantaloupes are also good food sources of niacin.

Niacin is one of the B-complex vitamins that are not easily destroyed by air, light, or heat. This is why it is very easy to get a sufficient amount by eating the proper diet. By including the above mentioned foods rich in niacin in diets, one can be sure of getting the daily requirement of this nutrient.


For more information on vitamin B3 and foods rich in niacin, please visit the following websites:

The World’s Healthiest Foods

University of Maryland Medical Center