Vitamin and Calcium Supplements

  • Author:
    Betty Kovacs, MS, RD

    Betty is a Registered Dietitian who earned her B.S. degree in Food and Nutrition from Marymount College of Fordham University and her M.S. degree in Clinical Nutrition from New York University. She is the Co-Director and Director of nutrition for the New York Obesity Research Center Weight Loss Program.

  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

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What is niacin, and what does it do?

Niacin is a water-soluble B vitamin that is also known as vitamin B3, nicotinamide, or nicotinic acid. Niacin assists in the proper functioning of the nervous and digestive system, maintaining healthy skin, and conversion of food to energy.

How much niacin do I need to consume?

There is insufficient information to establish an RDA for niacin for infants. In this case, an Adequate Intake (AI) has been established:

Age Males and Females
0 to 6 months 2 mg
7 to 12 months 4 mg

The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for niacin is:

Age Males Females Pregnancy Lactation
1 to 3 years 6 mg 6 mg N/A N/A
4 to 8 years 8 mg 8 mg N/A N/A
9 to 13 years 12 mg 12 mg N/A N/A
14 to 18 years 16 mg 14 mg 18 mg 17 mg
19+ years 16 mg 14 mg 18 mg 17 mg

What are sources of niacin?

Niacin is found in animal products, nuts, green vegetables, legumes, and enriched and fortified cereals.

Food Amount Niacin Content
Bagel 4" 3.06 mg
Barley, pearled, cooked 1 cup 3.24 mg
Beans, kidney, red, boiled 1 cup 1.02 mg
Beef, eye of round, roasted 3 oz 5.24 mg
Bread, rye 1 slice 1.22 mg
Carrots, cooked 1 cup 1.01 mg
Cereal, fortified 1 cup 5.00 mg
Ham, sliced, extra lean 2 slices 2.23 mg
Mango, raw 1 mango 1.21 mg
Milk, nonfat 1 cup 0.23 mg
Peanut butter, smooth 1 tablespoon 2.14 mg
Peas, frozen, cooked 1 cup 2.37 mg
Potato, no skin 1 cup 2.05 mg
Rice, brown, long-grain, cooked 1 cup 2.98 mg
Soybeans, cooked 1 cup 2.25 mg
Tomato, canned, sauce 1 cup 2.39 mg

Do I need to take a niacin supplement?

A well-balanced diet can provide enough niacin to reach your needs. When you have a medical need, a deficiency, or an inadequate diet, you should consult with your physician before taking a niacin supplement. High doses must be prescribed by a physician since niacin can be used as a drug (see below). Niacin supplements come in several forms: niacin, inositol hexaniacinate, and niacinamide

What happens if I don't have enough niacin?

Niacin was discovered in low-income populations where corn products were the primary source of calories, and the disease pellagra was occurring. The symptoms of pellagra are known as the four Ds: dermatitis, diarrhea, dementia, and death. Pellagra occurs at the late stage of niacin deficiency. Niacin deficiency symptoms will involve the digestive system (diarrhea, vomiting, and bright red tongue), the skin (thick, scaly skin and dark pigmented rash that develops symmetrically in areas exposed to sunlight), and the nervous system (fatigue, depression, headache, apathy, disorientation, and memory loss).

Is there such a thing as too much niacin?

Doses much higher than the ULs are used medically to improve cholesterol levels. High doses of niacin can cause dangerous liver inflammation, peptic ulcers, and skin rashes. "Niacin flushing" is a side effect that causes redness, itching, and burning and can occur within 10 to 15 minutes after taking it and can last up to one hour. Research has shown that there are conditions that make people susceptible to these symptoms, including diabetes mellitus, gout, cardiac arrhythmias, hepatic dysfunction or a history of liver disease, migraine headaches, alcoholism, and inflammatory bowel disease. These conditions may not be protected by the UL that has been set for the general population, so extreme caution needs to be used when taking niacin supplements. For everyone, the only time that high doses of niacin should be taken would be under the supervision of your physician.

The Tolerable Upper Limit (UL) for niacin is:

Age Males and Females Pregnancy Lactation
1 to 3 years 10 mg/day N/A N/A
4 to 8 years 15 mg/day N/A N/A
9 to 13 years 20 mg/day N/A N/A
14 to 18 years 30 mg/day 30 mg/day 30 mg/day
19+ years 30 mg/day 35 mg/day 35 mg/day
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 5/20/2015
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