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The Skinny: Niacin

I will admit I read labels. I have become a label reader. Often I come across ingredients that I haven't a clue about. Foods loaded with mystery ingredients I try to avoid, but I am also boning up on the ingredients I see often and niacin is one of them.


Although the name sounds vaguely sinister it is just plain old vitamin B3, a water soluble vitamin processed by the liver. Niacin assists in the functioning of the digestive system, skin, and nerves. It is also important for the conversion of food to energy. While a mild deficiency in B3 can decrease the efficiency of the metabolism and tolerance for cold; a significant lack of the vitamin can cause the disease pellagra. Pellagra is a horrible disease that affected the poorer social classes in the US at the turn of the century. It can lead to dementia and even death.

The RDA of Niacin for an adult woman is 14 mg a day. Up that to 18 mg if you are pregnant. Here's some food sources for niacin:

  • 3 ounces light tuna (packed in water) - 11.3 mg
  • 3 ounces cooked chicken without skin - 10.6 mg
  • 1 cup cooked lentils - 2.1 mg
  • 1 slice whole wheat bread - 1.1 mg

With a well balanced diet, you should be able to prevent deficiency of niacin. Especially if you eat a whole grain cereal that is fortified with the vitamin.

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