Niacin

Niacin (vitamin B3, niacinamide, and nicotinic acid):

Copy of Food Sources of Vitamin B6 include- fortified cereal, barley, buckwheat, avocados, baked potato with the skin, beef, poultry, salmon, bananas, green leafy vegetables, beans, nuts, sunflower seeds. (2)Food Sources of Niacin include:
  • nutritional yeast;
  • meats, salmon and tuna;
  • beans, green peas;
  • peanuts, and seeds;
  • avocado, mushrooms, green leafy vegetables;
  • grains, nixtamal flour, & fortified cereals;
  • milk, coffee and tea.
Symptoms of Niacin (Vitamin B3) Deficiency:

Digestive symptoms of less severe niacin deficiency may include nausea and vomiting and may also be able to be seen visibly as an unusually bright red tongue. Several B vitamins can cause changes in the appearance of the tongue as the cells all along the digestive tract need to be replaced frequently with new cells. The B vitamins work together as a group and many are essential for the growth of new cells. See the excerpt in the reference section for other B vitamins necessary for maintaining a healthy tongue.

Headache, apathy, memory loss, disorientation, and/or depression may be neurological symptoms that occur if niacin deficiency continues long term. Fatigue may also be a symptom of niacin deficiency.

Severe niacin deficiency is called pellagra. Symptoms of pellagra include skin rashes, (dermatitis), diarrhea, dementia, and eventually death if adequate niacin isn’t provided to the patient.

The condition was discovered in groups of people who lived primarily on a diet of corn or sorghum.  However the condition was not common in Mexico, in Central America, or for some groups of Native Americans. Corn in those areas was first soaked in an alkaline solution of lime or wood ash before being made into a type of flour called nixtamal.  The alkaline soaking method makes more of the grain’s niacin content available for absorption in the human digestive system.

Nixtamal flour is available to the home shopper and might be called tortilla or tamale flour. The ingredient list would include lime or wood ash if the product was made with the alkaline presoaking step.

The amino acid, tryptophan, can be converted to niacin within the body if adequate B6, folate and heme are available (an iron rich enzyme cofactor).

Background history regarding nicotinic acid, niacin, and nicotine:

Nicotinic acid and nicotine from tobacco cigarettes have similar names because they are similar chemicals but are not the same chemical and don’t have the same function within the body. This is a content marketing issue, read more – including the comments in the following link.

A summary: Nicotinic acid is a chemically reasonable name for the form of the nutrient that was initially discovered, but the similarity of the word to nicotine made people fearful when it was first added to foods and food labels as a new nutrient fortification being added to help prevent and treat pellagra. The use of a different form with a name change to “niacin” may have been a move at that time towards a form with a more commercially successful name even though it is not as descriptive of the way the chemical is formed as the name “nicotinic acid.”

Warning – non-harmful “Niacin flush” may occur with Nicotinic acid:

For some people, excessive supplementation with the nicotinic acid form of vitamin B3, but not the niacin form, may cause a temporary non-life-threatening reaction that may include symptoms of itching, a temporary flushing or reddening of the skin, nausea and vomiting. The reaction may be referred to as a “niacin flush.” A holistic practitioner describes the reaction in the following article and mentions that it usually goes away after a week of taking the supplement and that drinking some extra water during the sensation might help ease symptoms. The practitioner suggests that the reaction may be helpful for multiple sclerosis.

Niacinamide is a form of niacin that does not help reduce cholesterol

Niacin can be converted to niacinamide in the body and both forms are available as supplements which could help prevent deficiency symptoms. However niacin may also be helpful with blood lipid (fats) levels. It may help reduce elevated levels of triglycerides which may help prevent high cholesterol levels. Niacinamide is a form that does not affect blood lipid levels and wouldn’t be recommended over the niacin form if the goal is protecting cardiovascular (heart & blood vessel) health.  http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-924-niacin%20and%20niacinamide%20vitamin%20b3.aspx?activeingredientid=924&

B vitamins essential for health of the tongue (and Gastrointestinal tract):

Deficiency of several of the B vitamin group can cause changes in the appearance and surface texture of the tongue. B vitamins that can cause changes in the tongue are mentioned in the following excerpt and include “niacin (B3), riboflavin (B2), pyridoxine (B6), folic acid (folate/B9), and vitamin B12”:

  • “Deficiencies of niacin, riboflavin, pyridoxine, folic acid, or vitamin B12,  resulting from poor diet or from the administration of antagonists, may cause a sore, beefy-red tongue without a coat. In the chronic vitamin deficiency state, the tongue may become atrophic and smooth.”                   – “The Tongue – Clinical Methods – NCBI bookshelf  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK236/

  • See the post on Vitamin B6 for more information about how the group of B vitamins work together in energy metabolism and cell growth.
Reference used for food sources & symptoms of Niacin deficiency:
Other References used for the food sources of Niacin:

Disclaimer: Opinions are my own and the information is provided for educational purposes within the guidelines of fair use. While I am a Registered Dietitian this information is not intended to provide individual health guidance. Please see a health professional for individual health care purposes.

Thiamin: people with anorexia or alcoholism are more at risk for vitamin B1 deficiency

Thiamin (also called Thiamine or vitamin B1):

thiaminFood Sources of Thiamin (vitamin B1) include:
  • fortified flour or rice, whole grains;
  • lean pork, fish, eggs;
  • nutritional yeast;
  • cantaloupe;
  • acorn squash, asparagus, green vegetables;
  • beans, green peas;
  • nuts, sunflower and pumpkin seed kernels & other edible seeds including flax, sesame & chia.
Thiamin or vitamin B1 may have been the first vitamin to be discovered.

Thiamin is also known as vitamin B1. Historically it may have been the first vitamin to be discovered.  Around 2600 BC the symptoms of thiamin deficiency were described in Chinese literature.  Thiamin deficiency, or beriberi as it was commonly called, became a more frequent problem in some communities when white flour and polished rice were first introduced.  Milling brown rice removes thiamin from the grain along with the fibrous outer layer of the grains of rice.

Symptoms of Beriberi (Thiamin deficiency) can include:
  • rapid ‘fluttery’ heart rate;
  • enlarged heart;
  • edema or swelling of the extremities,
  • heart and lungs leading to breathing problems and eventually congestive heart failure; burning painful feet;
  • muscle weakness and pain;
  • Wernicke encephalopathy or Korsakoff psychosis are symptoms that may occur with more severe B1 deficiencies and which can include mental changes.
Deficiency of Thiamin is rare except with severe malnourishment or increased needs:

Chronic alcoholics and anorexic or other malnourished people are more at risk for thiamin deficiency.  Malaria and HIV may increase need for thiamin due to the infected cell’s increased use of the nutrient.  Renal patients on dialysis may need extra thiamin due to increased loss. The nutrient is fairly widely available and deficiencies are not typically found in people of average health with reasonably varied diets.

Reference used for food sources & symptoms of Thiamin deficiency:
Additional Reference used for Food Sources of Thiamin:

Disclaimer: Opinions are my own and the information is provided for educational purposes within the guidelines of fair use. While I am a Registered Dietitian this information is not intended to provide individual health guidance. Please see a health professional for individual health care purposes.

B vitamin methyl donors may help protect against risks from BPA

     Research in the field of epigenetics by a team led by Dr. Randy Jirtle, an oncologist at Duke University, found physical changes in the experimental groups to be preventable if the experimental BPA diet was also supplemented with the B vitamins, folic acid and B12.
     Mice who were fed BPA prenatally had significantly more babies develop a characteristic hair color and they were at increased risk for gaining excess weight compared to the control group of prenatal mice that did not receive any BPA. However when the mice were fed a diet with extra B vitamins prenatally along with the BPA there were fewer babies with the change in hair color and associated health risks. The addition of the soy bean phytochemical, genistein, also helped reduce the number of baby mice who developed the change in hair color pigmentation. [1,2]
    Bisphenyl A acts similarly to the hormone estrogen. Genistein is a phytoestrogen that may help block harmful effects of estrogen mimetics. The B vitamins used in the study were chosen because they can donate a methyl group which is necessary for allowing genes to remain unactivated, to stay in an off position. A gene that has few methyl groups may be more easily activated than normally.

      Two other methyl donors, choline and betaine, were used in addition to the folic acid and vitamin B12. Choline is also a water soluble essential nutrient that is frequently grouped with the rest of the B vitamins. Choline is found throughout the body but is particularly important within the brain. Betaine is a metabolite of choline. Spinach and beets are rich in betaine. Good sources of choline include egg yolks, soy beans, beef, poultry, seafood, green leafy vegetables and cauliflower. [3]

Betaine is also being marketed as a medication for helping to reduce blood levels of homocysteine in the inherited condition, homocystinuria. (Reducing elevated levels of homocysteine may also reduce the risk of developing heart disease.) [4]

A prenatal diet providing a low intake of the methyl donors folate and B12 has been associated with cardiomyopathy in the infants. [5] Infants born to mothers with a low intake of the methyl donors folate, B12 and choline were also more at risk for cardiomyopathy later in life. [6] Not taking prenatal vitamins during the three months prior to conceiving or during the first month of pregnancy has been associated with an increased risk for autism in the infants especially for women who have a genetic variation in their methylation metabolism, (MTHFR 677 TT, CBSrs234715 GT + TT). [9] People with problems in the methylation pathways may need to take a methylated form of B12 and folate rather than the more commonly available form of folic acid. [10]

A link between BPA intake and an increased risk for heart disease has been discovered. [7] The physiologic reason is not known. Tips from the article for people hoping to reduce exposure to BPA include:

  1. avoid use of foods and beverages from cans,
  2. avoid re-using plastic bottles for beverages,
  3. limit handling of store receipts or placing them in store bags with unwrapped foods. Some register receipts have a BPA coating
  4. and wash your hands after handling register receipts. [7]

Adequate B vitamin intake is essential for reducing elevated levels of homocysteine. An increased blood level of homocysteine has been associated with increased heart disease risk. The amount of calcification within coronary arteries has also been shown to be predictive of heart disease risk. [8]

It has not been conclusively proven that a diet with adequate supplies of methyl donors protects DNA from changes that may be caused by BPA but a diet providing plenty of B vitamins is also unlikely to cause harm. B vitamins are water soluble and quite safe except in such large doses that would be difficult to obtain from food sources alone. The B vitamins work together in metabolic pathways that are essential for burning and using energy sources. The B vitamins might be described as being similar to matchsticks for accessing  the stored energy and so they are important for daily energy levels and for a good mood.
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  1. Synopsis of the BPA prenatal mouse study, by Pete Myers, PhD, “Bisphenol A alters epigenetic programming in fetal mice, and the effect can be reversed by genistein, (about the BPA mouse study) (July 30, 2007): [environmentalhealthnews.org/] *link i no longer working. Excerpt: “The new findings focus on BPA’s ability to remove ‘protective molecules’ that normally prevent genes from being turned on at the wrong time or in the wrong tissue.”
  2. The full research article: by Dana C Dolinoy, Dale Huang, Randy L. Jirtle, Maternal nutrient supplementation counteracts bisphenol A-induced DNA hypomethylation in early development, PNAS, August 7, 2007, vol 104, No. 32, 13056-13061 [pnas.org] *The mice in the experimental groups were being fed a diet including 50 mg BPA/kg which was considered to be less than the known toxic dose for mice but it represents a greater amount than is assumed to be found in the average human’s daily diet.
  3. Choline” on whfoods.com: [whfoods.com]
  4. Betaine,” (Feb. 11, 2012) PubMed Health: [ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/]  *link not working, part of the information is available here: [med.nyu.edu]
  5. Garcia MM et al, “Methyl donor deficiency induces cardiomyopathy through altered methylation/acetylation of PGC-1α by PRMT1 and SIRT1.” J Pathol. 2011 Nov;225(3):324-35. doi: 10.1002/path.2881. Epub 2011 Jun 1. [ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
  6. Joseph J, “Fattening by deprivation: methyl balance and perinatal cardiomyopathy.”   J Pathol. 2011 Nov;225(3):315-7. doi: 10.1002/path.2942. Epub 2011 Jul 7. [ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
  7. Kathleen Doheny, “Higher BPA Levels, More Heart Disease? Researchers Find Higher BPA Levels Linked With Narrower Arteries; Industry Says Study Proves Nothing” (Aug. 15, 2012) WebMD: [webmd.com]
  8. Michael O’Riordan, “Coronary artery calcium bests other risk markers for CVD risk assessment” (Aug. 22, 2012) theheart.org: [theheart.org/article] *subscription service
  9. Rebecca J. Schmidt, et. al. , “Prenatal vitamins, one-carbon metabolism gene variants, and risk for autism,” Epidemiology. 2011 Jul; 22(4): 476–485. [ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
  10. Folate is essential and Folic Acid is commonly available,” Aug. 21, 2013 [transcendingsquare.com]
  11. MTHFR C677T Mutation: Basic Protocol,” 

Other references regarding B vitamins:

    1. Article by Kate Geagan, MS, RD, End Your Energy Crisis With B12, (Jan. 10, 2012), The Doctor Oz Show website: [doctoroz.com/]
    2. Mood Disorders – Depression, The Vitamin Update website: [vitamin-update.com] Includes information about mental health symptoms and functions of several B vitamins and a few trace minerals.
    3. Author: Vladimir Hegyi, Dermatologic Manifestations of Pellegra, (May 15, 2012) emedicine.Medscape: [emedicine.medscape.com] (deficiency of Niacin or B3)
    4. Author: Dieu-Thu Nguyen-Khoa, BeriBeri (Thiamin Deficiency), (Dec. 13, 2011) emedicine Medscape: [emedicine.medscape.com] (B1)
    5. Author: Richard E. Frye, Pyridoxine Deficiency, (May 26, 2010) emedicine Medscape: [emedicine.medscape.com] (B6)
    6. Author: Angela Gentili, Folic Acid Deficiency, (Dec 1, 2011) emedicine Medscape: [emedicine.medscape.com]
/Disclosure: This information is provided for educational purposes and is not intended to provide individual health care. Please see a health professional for individualized health care./