Niacin Sources and Functions

Niacin sources

Niacin Sources and Functions

All of the B vitamins work together to keep you healthy and feeling good. Here is a summary of the role of niacin, a water-soluble vitamin, in your good health.

What it does Functions as a coenzyme to help release energy from the food you eat
Daily needs [Infants*: 2-4 mg] [Children†: 6-16 mg] [Men: 16 mg]
[Women: 14 mg] [Pregnant: 18 mg] [Lactating: 17 mg]
Not enough Diarrhea, Vomiting, Dermatitis, Depression, Memory loss, Dementia Severe: Pellagra
Too Much Painful rash, Nausea, Liver damage (Toxicity occurs from overdose of niacin in supplements, not food.)
Foods Whole or enriched grain products, Meat and other protein foods, Nuts, Eggs, Milk, Legumes

*The lower value is for infants up to 6 mos., higher value is for infants up to a year old.
† The first value is for children 1-3 with the amount increasing until age 18.

Niacin is not easily destroyed by heat or light, as are some of the other water-soluble vitamins.

Getting Enough

In general, people who live in developed countries like the United States get enough niacin. However, those suffering from eating disorders or living in poverty may not be eating enough food to get sufficient niacin in their diet. This is particularly true where the diet is mostly unenriched carbohydrates, with few protein foods.


Niacin has a precursor, a substance in food that your body can convert, if needed. The precursor for niacin is tryptophan, an amino acid (building block of protein). When you eat protein-rich foods, your body can convert the tryptophan to niacin.

Interesting Fact about Niacin Sources and Functions: Researchers have studied the effect of taking niacin for the prevention of heart disease. The results have been promising; however, the downside of this approach is that large doses of niacin can be toxic.

As a practical matter, eating niacin-rich foods will have a beneficial effect, without the risk of toxicity.

Improving good cholesterol

In case you don't know, HDL, (sometimes called the Happy kind) and LDL (the Lousy stuff)are lipoproteins that transport cholesterol. An HDL level of 50 or above is associated with a lower risk of inflammation and heart disease. Conversely, an LDL level over 100 is correlated with a higher risk of coronary artery disease and heart attack.

There are a number of factors that can affect how your body handles cholesterol, not the least of which is your genetics. However, there are some things you can do to help raise your HDL levels and keep those LDL levels and total cholesterol numbers at a lower number. Eating niacin rich foods can help raise your HDL levels to the recommended value. 

Click on this link for more information on raising HDL cholesterol.

Click here to go from Healthy Eating Vitamins-8 page to Protein Facts page.

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