Niacin (B3, nicotinic acid, niacinamide, nicotinamide)
Niacin, a member of the vitamin B complex, is water-soluble. It is more stable than thiamine or riboflavin and is remarkably resistant to heat, light, air, acids, and alkalies. There are also three synthetic forms of niacin: niacinamide, nicotinic acid, and nicotinamide. As a coenzyme, niacin assists enzymes in the breakdown and utilization of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. Niacin is effective in improving circulation and reducing the cholesterol level in the blood. It is vital to the proper activity of the nervous system and for formation and maintenance of healthy skin, tongue, and digestive-system tissues. Niacin is necessary for the synthesis of sex hormones.
Relatively small amounts of pure niacin are present in most foods. The niacin "equivalent" listed in dietary tables means either pure niacin or adequate supply of tryptophan, an amino acid that can be converted into niacin by the body. Lean meats, poultry, fish, peanuts are rich daily sources of both niacin and tryptophan, as are such dietary supplements as brewer's yeast, wheat germ, and desiccated liver. Niacin , difficult to obtain except from .these foods.
Niacin is absorbed in the intestine and is stored primarily the liver. Any excess is eliminated through the Excessive consumption of sugar and starches will deplete the body's supply of niacin, as will certain antibiotics.
The National Research Council suggests that daily allowances of niacin be based on caloric intake; 6.6 milligrams of niacin per 1000 calories is recommended. Tryptophan may provide part or all of the daily niacin requirements; 60 milligrams of tryptophan yield 1 milligrams of niacin. The Recommended Dietary Allowance is 16 milligrams for men, 13 milligrams for women, and 9 to 16 milligrams for children. During pregnancy, lactation, illness, tissue trauma, and growth periods and after physical exercise, daily requirements are increased.
No real toxic effects are known, but large doses, usually 100 or more milligrams, may cause passing side effects such as tingling and itching sensations, intense flushing of the skin, and throbbing in the head due to a dilation of the blood vessels. The flush is not considered dangerous. It lasts for approximately 15 minutes and then disappears. By taking a synthetic form of niacin, niacinamide, a person gets all the benefits of niacin but avoids the above side effects.
Niacinamide may, however, cause depression in some people. It has also been known to cause liver damage in doses starting at 2 grams per day. Because niacin is involved in the release of stomach acid, patients using large doses should take the vitamin on a full stomach. Niacin can also precipitate a gout attack by competing with the excretion of uric acid.
Deficiency Effects and Symptoms
The symptoms of niacin deficiency are many. In the early stages, muscular weakness, general fatigue, loss of appetite, indigestion, and various skin eruptions occur. A niacin deficiency may also cause bad breath, small ulcers, canker sores, insomnia, irritability, nausea, vomiting, recurring headaches, tender gums, strain, tension, and deep depression. Severe niacin deficiency results in pellagra, which is characterized by dermatitis; dementia; diarrhea; rough, inflamed skin; tremors; and nervous disorders. Many digestive abnormalities causing irritation and inflammation of mucous membranes in the mouth and gastrointestinal tract develop from a niacin deficiency.
Beneficial Effect on Ailments
The amazing thing about niacin is the speed with which it can reverse disorders. Diarrhea has been cleared up in 2 days. Atherosclerosis, attacks of Meniere's syndrome (vertigo), and some cases of progressive deafness have improved or even disappeared. Niacin is often used to reduce high blood pressure and increase circulation in cramped, painful legs of the elderly. It also helps to stimulate the production of hydrochloric acid to aid impaired digestion. Acne has been successfully treated with niacin.
Lewis J. Silvers, M.D., writes: "Many a migraine
headache can be prevented from developing into the excruciating painful stage by taking niacin at the first sign of attack."
Niacin is very important for brain metabolism. In studies, niacin along with other vitamins relieved such schizophrenic symptoms as paranoia and hallucinations. Large doses of niacin have helped elderly patients who are mentally confused.
Drs. Richard M. Halpern and Robert A. Smith have reported research indicating that the flushless nicotinamide may be a factor in preventing cancer, due to enzyme regulation that protects normal cells and prevents them from becoming malignant. Investigators have found niacin able to cure pellagra, a disease that affects the skin, intestinal tract, and nervous system. When given in high doses, niacin may bring complete relief from delirium within 24 to 48 hours.
Niacin can be helpful for weight reduction because of its ability to elevate and stabilize blood sugar levels. For this reason it is also beneficial for hypoglycemics. Smokers can benefit from niacin because it widens blood vessels and removes lipids from arterial walls, opposite actions of nicotine. Fluid loss from severe burns can be lessened with niacin. Many insomniacs respond well to the sleep-inducing effects of niacin.
Niacin has been very effective in the treatment of alcoholism. Arthritics have experienced increased joint mobility, decreased joint stiffness and pain, as well as greater muscle strength and lessened fatigue with the administration of niacin. In most cases, long-term treatment is needed for optimum benefits.
Niacin can decrease the effects of hallucinogens like LSD and mescaline. Because of its calming properties, niacin can reduce the amount of tranquilizers needed or-may even be able to replace them.