Niacin-The B Complex Vitamin
Niacin, Nicotinic Acid or Nicotinamide all refer to the same to the same Vitamin that belongs to the group of Vitamins collectively referred to as Vitamin B Complex. Nicotinamide is an essential part of the two important Pyridine Nucleotides, NAD and NADP which are hydrogen accepting Co-enzymes for dehydrogenases at many steps in the pathways of glucose oxidation.
Nicotinic acid (Niacin) is readily converted in the body into the amide NAD which is also the co-enzyme for alcohol dehydrogenase. For the purpose of good nutrition the two NAD and NADP have equal biological activity and are considered together in the category of foods known as “Niacin”. Both pyridine nucleotides NAD and NADP are water soluble and are heat resistant.
Nicotinamide is widely distributed in plant and anima foods, but in minute quantities, with the exception of meat more so the organs. It is also available in plenty in fish, wholemeal cereals, meaning those cereals that still have their bran intact and pulses. Coffee is also a good auxiliary source of Niacin, a cup of good coffee provides about 1mg of Niacin. Cooking causes little destruction of Niacin but a considerable amount may be lost in the cooking water and the “drippings of roast meat” if these are dispensed with. 15 to 25 percent of the Niacin of a cooked meal may be lost in this fashion.
A unique feature of Niacin is that it can be synthesized normally in the body from the Amino acid Tryptophan .60 milligrams of Tryptophan yields 1 milligram of Nicotinamide. Due to this reason Niacin equivalents in a diet are calculated by finding the total amount of Niacin plus 1 sixtieth of the Tryptophan intake. The most pernicious form of nutritional disease that occurs due to Niacin deficiency is Pellagra. Pellagra is a nutritional disease endemic among the poor, village folk whose staple food is maize or corn. The vast majority of Nicotinic Acid in corn is in the bound form Niacytin, which is unavailable to the consumer. Moreover the principal protein of maize, zein, is deficient in the essential amino acid Tryptophan.
Pellagra is very commonplace in sub-Saharan Africa. It can develop in only six to eight weeks on diets very deficient in Niacin and Tryptophan. The patient is often underweight and malnourished. It had also been called the disease of the three D’s. Dermatitis, Diarrhea and Dementia. In addition to the 3d’s the mucous membranes of the mouth, stomach, vagina and colon usually present abnormal epithelium with underlying inflammation. Small mucous cysts can be seen in the colon with some ulceration, in the nervous system there may be patchy demyelination of the spinal cord.
Treatment of Pellagra’s symptoms can be done by administering 100 mg of Nicotinamide every four to six hours orally. For dietary treatment 100-150 grams of high-quality protein supplied by milk, eggs, meat or fish will suffice. Plenty of carbohydrates and fats providing up to 3500 kilo calories/day will be sufficient to restore the patient to normal weight. Fruit juice taken daily is also recommended while alcohol intake is strictly forbidden. But as is often the case prevention beats curing therefore partaking in a balanced diet with bread and maize meal fortified with nicotinic acid should keep one healthy. Eat healthy for health is wealth.