Top 10 Foods Highest in Vitamin B3 (Niacin)

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Top 10 Foods Highest in Vitamin B3 (Niacin)

Vitamin B3, or niacin, is an essential vitamin required for processing fat in the body, lowering cholesterol levels, and regulating blood sugar levels. (1,2)

While rare, a deficiency of niacin leads to pellagra, a condition characterized by diarrhea, dermatitis, dementia, inflammation of the mouth, amnesia, delirium, and if left untreated, death. (3,4) Even a slight deficiency of niacin can lead to irritability, poor concentration, anxiety, fatigue, restlessness, apathy, and depression. (5)

Niacin is a water-soluble vitamin that is well regulated by the body, thus overdose is rare and generally only occurs when niacin is taken in the form of high-dose supplements. An overdose of niacin leads to skin rashes (flush), dry skin, and various digestive maladies. (6) Over time, consistently taking high doses of niacin can lead to liver damage. (7)

High niacin foods include fish, chicken, turkey, pork, beef, mushrooms, brown rice, peanuts, avocados, green peas, and avocados. The current daily value (DV) for niacin is 16mg. (8)

Below are the top 10 foods highest in niacin ranked by common serving sizes. For more, see the complete list of 200 foods high in niacin, and lists of other foods high in B vitamins.

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Printable List of the Top 10 Foods Highest in Niacin (B3)

Niacin (B3) Requirements By Age and Gender

The recommended daily allowance (RDA) for niacin (Vitamin B3) ranges from 6mg to 16mg per day. The daily value for vitamin B3 is 16mg per day. (8)

Life StageRDA
0-6 months old0.2mg
7-12 months old0.4mg
1-3 years old6mg
4-8 years old8mg
9-13 years old12mg
14-18 years old16mg
19-50 years old16mg
50+ years old16mg
9-13 years old12mg
14-18 years old14mg
19-50 years old14mg
50+ years old14mg
14-18 years old18mg
18+ years old18mg
14-18 years old17mg
18+ years old17mg
*The amounts for children less than 12 months old is the adequate intake (AI) not RDA.
Source: Dietary Reference Intakes for Niacin.

Health Benefits of Niacin (Vitamin B3)

  • Protect Against Heart Disease - In the past, niacin was commonly prescribed by doctors to help lower levels of LDL (sometimes known as "bad cholesterol") and triglycerides, which are both associated with heart disease. However, because of the side effects that high doses of niacin can cause, its use for this purpose has been declining. (9) Consult your doctor before taking niacin supplements in high doses (10).
  • Reduced Cancer Risk - Studies show that niacin may reduce cancer risk by ensuring DNA integrity and maintenance, and through proper regulation of the tumor suppressor gene: p53. (11)
  • Slow the progression of AIDS - Some observational studies have reported that high-dose niacin could slow the progression of AIDS. However, other studies have found that niacin does not have a significant impact on the survival of people with HIV. (12,13)

People at Risk of a Niacin (Vitamin B3) Deficiency

  • People with HIV/AIDS - The body's immune system creates a specific cytokine, interferon gamma, which breaks down tryptophan, a precursor of niacin. Studies show that HIV patients who take increased levels of niacin slow the progression of AIDS.(13,14,15)
  • People who eat high amounts of refined foods - Bran, which is high in vitamin B3, is typically removed during any refining process. As a result, refined grain products, like white bread and white rice, don't contain significant amounts of niacin. These food products are now often fortified with niacin and other vitamins, but eating whole grains is considered to be a healthier way of getting adequate amounts of niacin.
  • Chronic alcoholism, Malabsorption syndrome, Adverse drug effects, and Anorexia nervosa - All of these conditions hinder absorption of nutrients and proper niacin (B3) levels. (16)

Is Niacin Synthesized from Tryptophan?

The human body can create niacin from tryptophan, which is an essential amino acid. (17,18) This is why many of the foods high in niacin are also high tryptophan foods.

In people who eat less protein, more of their dietary tryptophan may be used to create niacin. (17)

Other Vitamin B Foods

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Data Sources and References

  1. Harikrishnan S, Rajeev E, Tharakan JA, Titus T, Ajit Kumar VK, Sivasankaran S, Krishnamoorthy KM, Nair K. Effect of low-dose niacin on high-density lipoprotein cholesterol and total cholesterol/high-density lipoprotein cholesterol ratio Indian Heart J. 2008 May-Jun;60(3):215-22. 19240310
  2. Davidson MH, Rooney M, Pollock E, Drucker J, Choy Y. Effect of Low-Dose Niacin on Glucose Control in Patients with Non--Insulin-Dependent Diabetes Mellitus and Hyperlipidemia J Clin Lipidol. 2013 Sep-Oct;7(5):423-32. doi: 10.1016/j.jacl.2013.06.001. Epub 2013 Jun 11. 24079283
  3. Lanska DJ. Niacin Deficiency Handb Clin Neurol. 2010;95:445-76. doi: 10.1016/S0072-9752(08)02130-1. 19892133
  4. Lanska DJ. Nicotinic Acid Deficiency Handb Clin Neurol. 2010;95:445-76. doi: 10.1016/S0072-9752(08)02130-1. 19892133
  5. Dietary niacin intake in relation to depression among adults: a population-based study
  6. Paolini JF, Bays HE, Ballantyne CM, Davidson M, Pasternak R, Maccubbin D, Norquist JM, Lai E, Waters MG, Kuznetsova O, Sisk CM, Mitchel YB. The mechanism and mitigation of niacin-induced flushing Cardiol Clin. 2008 Nov;26(4):547-60. doi: 10.1016/j.ccl.2008.06.007. 19031552
  7. Daul AM, Beuhler MC. Acute liver failure secondary to niacin toxicity J Emerg Med. 2011 Sep;41(3):e65-8. doi: 10.1016/j.jemermed.2009.11.029. Epub 2010 Feb 5. 20138459
  8. U.S.FDA - Daily Value on the New Nutrition and Supplement Facts Labels
  9. Cziraky MJ, Watson KE, Talbert RL. Niacin in the Treatment of Hyperlipidemias in Light of New Clinical Trials: Has Niacin Lost its Place? J Manag Care Pharm. 2008 Oct;14(8 Suppl):S3-28; quiz S30-1. 19891279
  10. Cziraky MJ, Watson KE, Talbert RL. Niacin J Manag Care Pharm. 2008 Oct;14(8 Suppl):S3-28; quiz S30-1. 19891279
  11. Kirkland JB. Niacin and carcinogenesis Exp Biol Med (Maywood). 2010 May;235(5):561-8. doi: 10.1258/ebm.2010.009280. 20463295
  12. Masuda W, Takenaka S, Tsuyama S, Inui H, Miyatake K, Nakano Y. Niacin as a potential AIDS preventive factor J Biochem. 1999 Mar;125(3):449-53. doi: 10.1093/oxfordjournals.jbchem.a022307. 10050031
  13. Taylor MW, Feng GS. Implications of interferon-induced tryptophan catabolism in cancer, auto-immune diseases and AIDS FASEB J. 1991 Aug;5(11):2516-22. 1907934
  14. Bloom BR, Atun R, Cohen T, Dye C, Fraser H, Gomez GB, Knight G, Murray M, Nardell E, Rubin E, Salomon J, Vassall A, Volchenkov G, White R, Wilson D, Yadav P. Nutrition and HIV: Epidemiological Evidence to Public Health In: Holmes KK, Bertozzi S, Bloom BR, Jha P, editors. Major Infectious Diseases. 3rd edition. Washington (DC): The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development / The World Bank; 2017 Nov 3. Chapter 11. 30212088
  15. Tang AM, Graham NM, Kirby AJ, McCall LD, Willett WC, Saah AJ. Effects of micronutrient intake on survival in human immunodeficiency virus type 1 infection Am J Epidemiol. 1993 Dec 1;138(11):937-51. doi: 10.1093/oxfordjournals.aje.a116814. 7903021
  16. Lanska DJ. Niacin Deficiency Handb Clin Neurol. 2010;95:445-76. doi: 10.1016/S0072-9752(08)02130-1. 19892133
  17. Shibata K, Mushiage M, Kondo T, Hayakawa T, Tsuge H. Nutritional factors that regulate on the conversion of L-tryptophan to niacin Biosci Biotechnol Biochem. 1995 Nov;59(11):2060-3. doi: 10.1271/bbb.59.2060. 8541642
  18. Shibata K. Nutritional aspect of tryptophan metabolism J Nutr Sci Vitaminol (Tokyo). 2018;64(2):90-98. doi: 10.3177/jnsv.64.90. 29710037
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