Does tryptophan convert into niacin? (6+ benefits)

In this article, we will discuss about the conversion of tryptophan to niacin. Furthermore, we will discuss the potential link between tryptophan and niacin, what research suggests on this, factors contributing to the conversion of tryptophan to niacin and the benefits of adequate niacin levels in the body. 

Does tryptophan convert into niacin?

Yes, tryptophan is found to be converted into niacin (vitamin B3) by the body. However, it’s important to remember that the efficiency of tryptophan to get converted into niacin may vary among individuals as everyone is unique in terms of brain chemistry and how their body processes these supplements. (1)

Tryptophan is considered an essential amino acid that your body can’t make on its own rather you must ensure to incorporate it into your diet to meet the daily requirements of the body. It is involved in various important physiological processes in the body including protein synthesis which contributes to the proper functioning of body tissues and enzymes and also serves as a serotonin precursor among other functions. (1)

Niacin is classified as a water-soluble vitamin. It is also known as vitamin B3. It plays a crucial role in many important processes of the body including energy metabolism. Niacin is an essential nutrient and one must maintain its adequate intake through dietary sources or supplements as it is crucial for your overall health. (3)

If you have any concerns regarding your diet or tryptophan intake, it’s advisable to consult with your healthcare provider or certified nutritionist. 

How does tryptophan convert into niacin?

Tryptophan is a building block that our body can turn into vitamin B3 (niacin). This happens through a process called the kynurenine pathway, where tryptophan goes through multiple steps with the help of enzymes. This pathway is important because it helps make niacin, a vitamin that our body needs to stay healthy. (4)

After the consumption of tryptophan through diet or supplemental sources, it is broken down into 5 hydroxytryptophan (5 HTP) with the help of an enzyme called tryptophan hydroxylase. Then this 5-HTP is further converted into serotonin, which is a neurotransmitter involved in the regulation of mood and reduces feelings of sadness and anxiety. (3,4)

Serotonin is metabolized into several metabolites through the kynurenine pathway and ultimately niacin is synthesized as one of its metabolites. It’s important to recognize that individuals vary and various factors such as nutritional status and a person’s overall health may influence the rate of conversion. (4)

What does research suggest?

According to a research study, scientists performed a study to determine how the body uses tryptophan to make niacin. They wanted to understand how this process affects the levels of niacin in the body which is an important vitamin for your health. (2)

They found out that humans can make nicotinamide which is an essential vitamin from the substance called tryptophan and this process takes place in the liver. This nicotinamide is then sent to different parts of the body where required for energy transfer. (2)

They also concluded that this process can be influenced by various factors such as health conditions (diseases), nutrients, hormones and certain chemical substances. Based on clinical trials performed on humans, they indicated that 67mg of tryptophan consumed from food or any other source can make 1mg of nicotinamide. (2)

They also found that during pregnancy, the conversion of tryptophan to niacin becomes more efficient, especially from mid to late pregnancy. These findings have helped people to know the amount of tryptophan in the food that is needed to create enough niacin, thereby helping people to keep their vitamin levels in the normal and healthy range. 

What factors contribute to the conversion of tryptophan to niacin?

Here are some key factors that contribute to the conversion of tryptophan to niacin: (5)

  • Physiological conditions: Our health condition can affect how efficiently our body converts tryptophan into niacin. Certain factors like inflammation, physiological stress and other infections can influence the conversion.


  • Nutrient availability: The presence of certain minerals and vitamins including vitamin B6, iron and riboflavin (vitamin B2) are crucial and facilitate the conversion process in the pathway. 


  • Hormones: Hormones, especially those involved in pregnancy can influence the conversion of tryptophan to niacin. For example, the ratio of conversion is enhanced during the late stages of pregnancy. 


  • Chemical substances: Certain medications and chemical substances can alter the metabolism of this pathway and may affect the rate and amount of tryptophan conversion to niacin. 


  • Genetic factors: Every individual is unique in terms of their genetic makeup and the variations in genes may have a significant impact on the efficiency of tryptophan conversion to niacin. Genetic differences in the enzymes involved in this process may contribute to variations in niacin synthesis. 


  • Dietary tryptophan intake: The amount of tryptophan you consume in your diet or through other supplemental sources is a direct contributor to niacin synthesis.


  • Liver function: The liver is considered the main organ in the synthesis and distribution of niacin to other parts of the body. Proper functioning and health of the liver are essential to keep the metabolic process going. 


  • Age and different life stages: The efficiency of tryptophan to convert into niacin can be influenced by different phases a person is going through in life, such as pregnancy, lactation or infancy. 

To maintain sufficient vitamin B3 (niacin) in your body, you must be aware of the above-mentioned factors and try to balance them. 

What are the benefits of adequate niacin levels in the body?

Having vitamin B3 (niacin) in sufficient amounts is helpful for your overall physical health and mental status. Here are some benefits discussed that might enlighten you: (3,4)

Energy production: 

Niacin plays a crucial role in breaking down the food you eat into energy. It helps in the metabolism of carbohydrates, fats and proteins. In this way, it helps your body to produce ATP which is considered as the energy currency of the cells. 

Supports the nervous system: 

Niacin provides support for the proper functioning of the nervous system. It maintains a healthy nervous system by promoting the proper functioning of the brain and nerves. 

DNA repair: 

Niacin also exerts its effects by promoting the process of DNA repair. Sufficient niacin levels contribute to the maintenance of genetic material within cells. 

Lower cholesterol levels: 

Niacin is found to positively influence the cholesterol levels of a person. It may help increase the levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) in the body which is considered good cholesterol and reduce the levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) which is a bad cholesterol and also reduces triglycerides. 

Heart health: 

Niacin supports the heart health of a person by balancing and maintaining the levels of cholesterol in the body. It may help reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases by positively influencing blood lipid profile. 

Anti-inflammatory properties: 

Niacin and its derivatives are found to have anti-inflammatory properties. They play a crucial role in managing inflammatory conditions. 

Skin health: 

People use niacin in a range of cosmetic products as it helps make the skin stronger, improves issues like acne, dark spots and hyperpigmentation and also makes the skin look healthier by promoting skin barrier functions. 

Digestive health: 

Niacin is also important to maintain your gut health. It is typically involved in the making of certain enzymes that promote digestion. 

Anti-oxidative activity: 

Niacin has antioxidant properties. It fights off the harmful molecules that can damage your cells by neutralizing the free radicals and protecting cells from oxidative stress.

Pregnancy support: 

There is more need and requirement for niacin during pregnancy as it also helps in the normal development of the fetus and other body functions. Therefore, the conversion of tryptophan to niacin is increased during this period. 

In my opinion, it’s important to remember that while niacin is an essential nutrient and benefits health in multiple ways, the excessive amount of niacin either through the over-conversion from tryptophan or extra intake through supplements can lead to adverse effects.

Some common side effects that may occur from excessive niacin might include a flashy, red and itchy feeling on the skin, gastric issues like nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea or stomach pain, very high doses may lead to liver problems, changes in blood sugar levels and other issues on vision and skin. Tryptophan also affects heart health in high doses, so it’s crucial to consult with a healthcare professional and keep monitoring your symptoms and overall health. 

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