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Ounce of Prevention | Niacin – A Powerhouse Vitamin

Published:Monday | May 8, 2017 | 12:00 AM

Vitamins are substances usually needed from the diet that are essential for life. Vitamin B3 (niacin) refers to two substances, nicotinic acid and niacinamide, that are not related to the nicotine found in tobacco.

Niacin is an important member of the family of B vitamins. It is required for energy production from the metabolism of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins for proper circulation, healthy skin, optimal functioning of the nervous system, normal secretion of bile and stomach fluids, the synthesis of sex hormones, and for making DNA.

Even a mild niacin deficiency can create symptoms such as cold sores, depression, diarrhoea, dizziness, fatigue, bad breath, headaches, indigestion, insomnia, limb pains, loss of appetite, low blood sugar, muscle weakness, skin rash, and inflammation. Severe deficiency can lead to a condition known as pellagra, which is characterised by four Ds: diarrhoea, dermatitis, dementia, and eventually, death.

The recommended daily allowance of niacin is only 16mg for men and 14mg for women, which can easily be obtained from the diet since vitamin B3 can be found in many foods. Poultry, fish, eggs, nuts, and seeds, yeast, lean meats, liver, whole wheat, legumes, and green leafy vegetables are particularly good sources of niacin. Consuming alcohol and inadequate dietary protein may increase your need for niacin.

But beyond the importance of this vitamin for good health, research has shown that supplementing with higher doses may be useful in treating a variety of problems.


Niacin improves heart health


Research has shown that niacin prevents coronary artery disease a common cause of heart attacks and sudden death. Studies also found that niacin may actually halt or even reverse the blockage affecting the blood vessels of the heart.


Niacin lowers cholesterol


Niacin may be a natural alternative to dangerous cholesterol-lowering drugs as niacin has been shown to lower 'bad' LDL cholesterol while elevating the 'good' HDL cholesterol. It also lowers blood triglyceride levels.

... Inflammation and pain are reduced


Niacin protects the brain


Niacin therapy has also been shown to significantly reduce the chance of a stroke occurring, and if a stroke does happen, it limits the damage done by the stroke. It also improves depression, memory, mental sharpness, and overall energy.


Niacin for arthritis


Niacin possesses significant anti-inflammatory properties, particularly for arthritis. Daily treatment of arthritis sufferers with niacin resulted in a reduction in the symptoms of joint inflammation, particularly pain. A blood test for inflammation --C Reactive Protein-improved significantly in patients after one month of niacin therapy.


Niacin for schizophrenia


Over 60 years ago, Dr Abraham Hoffer, a Canadian psychiatrist, noticed similarities between vitamin B3 deficiency (pellagra) and his schizophrenic patients. Hoffer treated over 10,000 schizophrenics and demonstrated that high-dose niacin therapy is very useful in the treatment of schizophrenia.


Side effects of niacin


Flushing of the skin is the most common side effect of niacin use. These flushes are normally harmless but may cause temporary burning, tingling, itching, and redness, as well as headaches. Flushing can be minimised by taking the vitamin after meals. A no-flush form of niacin is commercially available. People with diabetes, glaucoma, liver disease, or peptic ulcers should use niacin carefully.At a very high dose, niacin can be toxic to the liver. Most reports of niacin-related hepatitis have been associated with the use of a time-release form of niacin at very high doses for several months or years.

For therapeutic purposes, doses of niacin of 500 to 1,000mg, three times a day with meals have been safely used. This therapy should best be done under your doctor's supervision.

- You may email Dr Vendryes at or listen to An Ounce of Prevention on POWER106FM on Fridays at 9:00pm. Visit for details on his books and articles.