Pellagra: Nutritional Aspect of Tryptophan Metabolism


Mammals, including humans, can synthesize the vitamin nicotinamide from tryptophan in the liver. The resultant nicotinamide is distributed to non-hepatic tissues. We have studied the effects of changes in tryptophan–nicotinamide metabolism on niacin nutritional status. The liver plays a critical role in nicotinamide supply. Animal studies showed that the tryptophan–nicotinamide pathway is affected by physiological conditions, the presence of disease, nutrients, hormones, and chemicals. Human studies have shown that 1 mg of nicotinamide is produced from 67 mg of tryptophan intake, and that the conversion ratio of tryptophan to nicotinamide is enhanced from mid to late pregnancy. These findings have contributed to the determination of dietary reference intakes for niacin recommended in the Dietary Reference Intakes for Japanese 2010. Our findings suggest that the conversion of nicotinamide from tryptophan is important in maintaining niacin nutrition.

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