Nicotinamide (Vitamin B3)
What can foods high in vitamin B3 do for you?
• Help lower cholesterol levels
• Stabilize your blood sugar
• Support genetic processes in your cells
• Help your body process fats
What events can indicate a need for more foods high in vitamin B3 ?
• Generalized weakness or muscular weakness
• Lack of appetite
• Skin infections
• Digestive problems
Excellent sources of vitamin B3 (niacin) include crimini mushrooms, shiitake mushrooms, chicken, and tuna. Very good sources include salmon, chicken breast, asparagus, halibut, venison, calf's liver, and turkey.
What is vitamin B3?
Vitamin B3, also commonly called niacin, is a member of the B-complex vitamin family whose discovery was related to work by the U.S. Public Health Service in the early 1900's. At that time, a disease called pellagra, characterized by cracked, scaly, discolored skin, digestive problems, and overall bodily weakness was increasingly prevalent in the southern region of the country. The Public Health Service established a connection between the prevalence of the disease and cornmeal-based diets, and addition of protein to these diets was found to cure many cases of pellagra.
Several years later, vitamin B3 was formally identified as the missing nutrient in the cornmeal-based diets that had led to the symptoms of pellagra. We now know that corn as a whole food contains significant amounts of vitamin B3, but that vitamin B3 cannot readily be absorbed from corn unless corn products (like cornmeal) are prepared in a way that releases this vitamin for absorption.
For example, the use of lime (as in limestone, the mineral, not lime juice in the fruit) can help release vitamin B3 from corn and make it available for absorption. Native American food practices that involve the addition of ash from cooking fires ("pot ash" or "potash") to corn-based recipes are one type of cooking technique that helps make vitamin B3 available for absorption.
The term "niacin" used interchangeably with vitamin B3 is actually a non-technical term that refers to several different chemical forms of the vitamin. These forms include nicotinic acid and nicotinamide. (Nicotinamide is also sometimes called niacinamide.) The names "niacin," "nicotinic acid," and "nicotinamide" are all derived from research studies on tobacco in the early 1930's. At that time, the first laboratory isolation of vitamin B3 occurred following work on the chemical nicotine that had been obtained from tobacco leaves.