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J Nutr. 1989 Dec;119(12):1949-55.

Biochemical markers for assessment of niacin status in young men: levels of erythrocyte niacin coenzymes and plasma tryptophan.

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Division of Nutritional Sciences, School of Public Health, University of California, Los Angeles 90024.


Seven male subjects housed in a controlled metabolic unit for 80 d were fed diets containing amounts of niacin and tryptophan ranging from 6.1 to 32 niacin equivalents (NE) per day. Erythrocyte nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD) and nicotinamide nucleotide phosphate (NADP), activity of nicotinic acid mononucleotide phosphoribosyltransferase (NMNPRT), plasma tryptophan levels and the urinary excretion of organic acids were measured during dietary periods of low (6.1 or 10.1), adequate (19) and high (25 or 32) NE intake. With both low NE diets, NAD levels in erythrocytes decreased by approximately 70% and increased during repletion with an adequate NE diet. NADP levels remained relatively unchanged. Plasma tryptophan levels decreased by 40% and 10% in subjects ingesting diets of 6.1 and 10.1 NE/d, respectively. A daily 7.8-g leucine supplement during repletion was not associated with changes in plasma tryptophan levels or erythrocyte NAD and NADP levels at the end of the period. No changes in NMNPRT activity or organic acid excretion were found during the study. The results indicate that the erythrocyte NAD level may serve as a sensitive indicator for the assessment of niacin status. Also, a niacin index, the ratio of erythrocyte NAD to NADP, below 1.0 may identify subjects at risk of developing a niacin deficiency.

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