Niacin, also known as Vitamin B3, is the generic name for both nicotinic acid and Nicotinamide (also called niacinamide). While the body can make a very small amount of this nutrient from another amino acid nutrient called tryptophan, the bulk of our Niacin needs must be met from eating vitamin B3 containing foods.
The amount of Niacin we need varies according to age, gender and pregnancy status. The table below indicates amounts we need per day and comes from the Australian Government’s National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) recommendations.
Niacin can also be synthesised in the body from the amino acid tryptophan. This amino acid is not manufactured in the body but is part of any quality protein food. Only about 3% of available tryptophan is converted to niacin.
However for niacin to be produced from tryptophan, other essential nutrients must be present. These are Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine), Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin), and Iron. Hence the importance of a balanced diet.
Like all nutrients, Niacin has upper limits. This simply means that when our intake of Niacin goes beyond these upper limits, some people can start to experience adverse effects. Note that these are guidelines only and some people can tolerate higher doses.