Why you need more vitamin B3 in your diet


Author: Kathrynne HoldenPublished: 26 January 2017

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Baked salmon garnished with asparagus and tomatoes with herbs

In her latest nutrition article, former National Parkinson Foundation dietician Kathrynne Holden, explains the benefits of vitamin B3 – also known as niacin – for people with young-onset Parkinson’s

Vitamin B3, or niacin, is one of the vitamins needed for human life. While it is necessary for everyone, it may have added value for people with inherited Parkinson’s disease.

In a recent research study from the University of Leicester, scientists examined the effect of niacin-rich foods on fruit flies. The flies had a genetic mutation similar to the one in people with hereditary Parkinson’s disease. They learned that the high-niacin food prevented the degeneration of neurons in the brains of the flies.

What does this mean for people with Parkinson’s disease?

We can’t assume that an animal study will apply to humans. About 75% of the DNA in fruit flies is the same as human DNA, so although flies are good research subjects, the study results are not conclusive.

However, it is still possible that niacin-rich foods could benefit people with Parkinson’s disease. As niacin is already being used in cancer studies, and in treating strokes, we can trust that increasing high-niacin foods in our diet will be safe, and may be therapeutic. It is important to note that the research indicates that natural, food-based sources of niacin/vitamin B3 are preferable, rather than supplement tablets.

How much niacin/vitamin B3 do we need daily?

The recommended daily amount (RDA) of vitamin B3 for adults is 16mg for men and 14mg for women. There is no risk of excess or toxicity from foods. However, with use of supplement tablets there is an upper limit of 35mg per day for adults. Very high doses of supplements can cause a burning sensation in the skin of the face and chest, and can increase histamine in people with allergies. Another factor to be aware of is that some people with Parkinson’s disease have orthostatic hypotension (low blood pressure) and vitamin B3 supplements can cause a dangerous drop in blood pressure.

Which foods are high in vitamin B3?

High-protein foods are the richest in vitamin B3. We must consider that people using levodopa may be sensitive to protein, and, if so, will need to carefully time medications and meals, so that the levodopa is absorbed into the bloodstream ahead of protein in the meal.

By combining servings of high-protein foods with grains, vegetables, pulses and fruits you can be certain to get plenty of vitamin B3 in your daily menu. Below is a one-day meal plan that’s high in vitamin B3.

Morning meal
1 cup cooked barley cereal with milk or milk alternative             3.2mg
1 slice whole wheat bread, toasted with butter                              1.3mg
1 banana                                                                                              0.67mg
Juice, milk, coffee or tea as desired

Midday meal
Tuna sandwich
(with canned tuna and two slices whole wheat bread                9.6mg
Coleslaw or lettuce salad
Avocado                                                                                             1.7mg
Beverage of choice

Evening meal
Ground beef patty                                                                            5.3mg
Tomato, sliced                                                                                  0.54mg
Cooked brown rice                                                                           2.6mg
Brussels sprouts                                                                               0.47mg

Total vitamin B3                                                                             25.38mg

The day’s menu exceeds the RDA for both men and women, yet is well below the upper limit of 35mg. Whether you are living with Parkinson’s or not, this is a healthy day’s menu, with a variety of foods, and ample vitamin B3.

Delicious fresh morning Shakshuka

‘Shakshuka’ is a dish of eggs poached in a sauce of tomatoes, chili peppers and onions

Food high in vitamin B3

Beef liver, cooked 100g – 14mg
Ground beef, cooked 100g – 5.3mg
Lamb, lean, cooked 100g – 6mg
Pork loin, roasted 100g – 5.5mg

White meat chicken, cooked 100g – 13.4mg
Turkey breast, roasted 133g – 7.2mg
Duck, roasted 100g – 4.8mg

Tuna, light, (canned) 115g – 14mg
Salmon, (cooked) 100g – 8.0mg
Halibut (cooked) 100g – 6.2mg
Sardines (canned) 100g – 5mg
Shrimp, boiled 85g – 2.2mg

Milk, 3.25% fat 1 cup 245g – 0.2mg
Egg, 1 large (boiled) 0.03mg

Pulses, beans and seeds
Peanut butter, 2 tablespoons – 4.4 mg
Sunflower seeds (toasted) 67g – 2.8mg
Lentils (cooked) 200g – 2mg
Navy beans (boiled) 182g – 1.1mg
Black beans (boiled) 172g – 0.86mg

Barley (cooked)157g – 3.2mg
Brown rice (cooked) 195g – 2.6mg
Whole wheat bread, 1 slice – 1.3mg
Rye bread, 1 slice, 28 g – 1mg

Mushrooms, white, boiled, 85g – 3.7mg
Sweet potato, baked in skin, 100g – 1.7mg
Green peas, boiled, 80g – 1.6mg
Corn, sweet, boiled, 100g – 1.6mg
Asparagus, boiled 100g – 1mg
Carrots, boiled, sliced 78g – 0.5mg
Brussels sprouts, boiled, 78g – 0.47mg
Potato, baked, no skin, 113g – 0.11mg
Pumpkin, boiled and mashed, 120g – 0.04mg

Avocado, raw, 100g – 1.7mg
Mango, raw, 165g – 1.1mg
Cantaloupe, raw, 56g – 1.1mg
Banana, raw (small), 100g 0 .67mg
Tomato, 1 (small) – 0.54mg
Grapes (red or green), 100g – 0.18mg
Apple, raw, with skin, 125g – 0.11mg

Read more: Naturally good food: the diets proven to boost the body against Parkinson’s

One-day menu for people with Parkinson’s featuring salmon baked potatoes

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