Niacin Why We Need It!
What do you know about Niacin? Like most people, probably not much! Niacin (Vitamin B3) is one of the most underrated players in the B Complex Vitamins. Your body gets niacin through food but also makes small amounts from the amino acid *L–tryptophan. Every part of your body needs Niacin to function properly.
As a supplement, niacin is vital, especially for ‘mental health’, balancing emotions, and dealing with good and bad news. Niacin may help lower cholesterol, ease arthritis, and boost brain function, among other benefits. Let’s focus on the brain function part first. As you are reading this, your comprehension is related to how much Niacin is circulating through your nervous system. Niacin is water-soluble, so your body doesn’t store it very well. This also means that your body can excrete excess amounts of the Niacin if it’s not needed.
I mentioned *L-tryptophan and felt it important to mention this essential amino acid, as L-tryptophan is a bit like Robin is to Batman, as the dynamic duo clean up Gotham city sorting out crime, so too can Niacin and L-tryptophan help the body to ward off the brain crimes especially. You know, brain fog and listlessness. L-tryptophan helps the body make proteins and certain ‘brain-signaling chemicals’. Your body changes L-tryptophan into a brain chemical called serotonin. Serotonin helps control your mood and sleep.
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that carries signals to regulate many different bodily functions.
Without it, the body’s bowel functions can suffer causing digestive and gut bacteria problems. As an example, some types of food can irritate the intestinal lining, and in these cases, serotonin can help push the food through faster to reduce the time and amount of irritation.
The serotonin neurotransmitter also works with efficient blood clotting. Platelet cells release serotonin with tissue damage, which results in vasoconstriction. This is an important part of the process for blood clots to form when necessary.
Bone density may also be affected by serotonin. When bone density levels are too high, there is often a correlation with osteoporosis, a condition that causes the bones to become porous and weak, which in turn increases the chances of a fracture.
Now back to Niacin……….
There are two main chemical forms of Niacin and each has different effects on your body. Both forms are found in foods as well as supplements.
- Nicotinic acid: As a supplement, nicotinic acid is a form of niacin used to reduce cholesterol levels and lower your risk of heart disease.
- Niacinamide or nicotinamide: Unlike nicotinic acid, niacinamide doesn’t lower cholesterol. However, it may help treat psoriasis and reduce your risk of non-melanoma skin cancer.
There are relevant needs of Niacin depending on your age and gender, weight, and stress levels. So infants up to 6 months can have up to 2mg/day. From 7 months and up to 12 months of age, the infant will need approximately 4mg/day.
*The following figures represent the Adequate Intake (AI), which is similar to RDI but based on weaker scientific evidence.
- 1–3 years: 6 mg/day
- 4–8 years: 8 mg/day
- 9–13 years: 12 mg/day
Adolescents and adults:
- Men 14 years and older: 16 mg/day
- Women 14 years and older: 14 mg/day
- Pregnant Women 18 mg/day
- Breastfeeding women: 17 mg/day
Most people know about Niacin and its connection to helping with LDL Cholesterol, but there are many other important factors of response that can and do improve as a result of adequate Niacin absorption.
1. Lowers LDL Cholesterol
Niacin has been used since the 1950s to treat high cholesterol. It can lower levels of ”bad” LDL cholesterol by 5-20%. Niacin is not the primary treatment for high cholesterol due to its possible side effects. Rather, it’s primarily used as a cholesterol-lowering treatment for people who can’t tolerate statins.
2. Increases HDL Cholesterol
In addition to lowering “bad” LDL cholesterol, niacin also raises “good” HDL cholesterol. Studies show that niacin raises HDL levels by 15-35%.
3. Lowers Triglycerides
Niacin can also lower triglycerides by 20-50%. Lower triglycerides by 20–50%. It does this by stopping the action of an enzyme that’s involved in triglyceride synthesis. Consequently, this lowers the production of both LDL and very-low-density lipoprotein (VLDL).
Therapeutic doses are needed to achieve these effects on cholesterol and triglyceride levels. These sort of doses need to be administered by trained practitioners who are completely up to speed with what to expect if there are side effects, and there are side effects!
4. May Help Prevent Heart Disease
Niacin’s effect on cholesterol may help prevent heart disease. It can help reduce oxidative stress and inflammation, both of which are involved in atherosclerosis, or the hardening of your arteries.
Some research indicates that niacin therapy — either alone or in combination with statins — could help lower the risk of health problems related to heart disease.
5. May Help Treat Type 1 Diabetes
Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease in which your body attacks and destroys insulin-creating cells in your pancreas. There’s research to suggest that niacin could help protect those cells and possibly even lower the risk of type 1 diabetes in at-risk children. However, for people with type 2 diabetes, the role of niacin is more complicated. On the one hand, it can help lower the high cholesterol levels that are often seen in people with type 2 diabetes. On the other, it has the potential to increase blood sugar levels. As a result, people with diabetes who take niacin to treat high cholesterol also need to monitor their blood sugar carefully.
6. Boosts Brain Function
Your brain needs niacin — as a part of the coenzymes NAD and NADP — to get energy and function properly. To think and to process, adequate niacin needs to be flowing through the blood vessels and taken up into the digestive system. In fact, brain fog and even psychiatric symptoms are associated with niacin deficiency
Some types of schizophrenia can be treated with niacin, as it helps undo the damage to brain cells that occurs as a result of deficiency.
Niacin may even help keep the brain healthy in cases of Alzheimer’s disease.
7. Improves Skin Function
Niacin helps protect skin cells from sun damage, whether it’s used orally or applied as a lotion. Recent research suggests it may help prevent some types of skin cancer as well. One study found that taking 500 mg of nicotinamide — a form of niacin — twice daily reduced rates of non-melanoma skin cancer among high-risk individuals.
8. May Reduce Symptoms of Arthritis
In one preliminary study, niacin helped ease some symptoms of osteoarthritis, improving joint mobility, and reducing the need for nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Another study in lab rats found that an injection with the vitamin reduced inflammation related to arthritis (Trusted Source). Although this is promising, more research is needed.
9. Treats Pellagra
Severe Vitamin B3 deficiency causes a condition called pellagra, which means taking Vitamin B3 supplement is the accepted and main treatment for Pellagra.
Niacin deficiency is rare in industrialized countries. However, it may occur alongside other diseases, such as alcoholism, anorexia, or Hartnup disease.
Some energy drinks are also loaded with B vitamins, sometimes in very high doses which are out of balance with nature. Check that your preferred ‘Energy drink’ has added Chromium in it to help with the transportation and adequate absorption of Vitamin B3.
Here is how much Vitamin B3 you get from one serving of each of the following foods:
- Chicken breast: 59% of the RDI
- Light tuna, canned in oil: 53% of the RDI
- Beef: 33% of the RDI
- Smoked salmon: 32% of the RDI
- Peanuts: 19% of the RDI
- Lentils: 10% of the RDI
There’s no danger in consuming niacin in the amounts found in food because food is recognizable to the body and therefore absorption is more likely if you get your source right.
Everyone needs niacin, but most people can get enough from their diet alone.
Vitamin B3 Niacin is one of eight B vitamins that are important for every part of your body.
Q: Are there different types of niacin that might reduce the flushing?
The flushing occurs with over-the-counter immediate-release niacin tablets. With this type of niacin the vitamin is delivered to the body in a short burst and the flushing reaction is more intense.
Sustained-release niacin tablets deliver the vitamin to the body in a slower fashion over many hours. This reduces the intensity of the flushing but this type of niacin causes liver damage in some people.
A prescription extended-release niacin product called Niaspan® releases niacin in a slower way but over a shorter period of time compared to the sustained-release tablets. This gives the liver a “break” from processing the niacin making liver damage less likely. This type of niacin has been shown to have positive effects on cholesterol with reduced flushing. However, it is more expensive than regular niacin tablets.
Q: What about “no-flush” niacin?
No-flush niacin contains something called inositol nicotinate, which the body is supposed to slowly convert to niacin. However, there is evidence that it does not actually provide the body with much niacin. This is probably the reason it does not produce any flushing. Of course, this also means that no-flush niacin does not have any of the beneficial effects on cholesterol.
Q: If I continue to take the regular niacin tablets, are there any tips to minimize the flushing?
The key to reducing the intensity of niacin flushing is to start with a low dose and gradually increase the dose over a period of weeks. Taking it with food also helps reduce the intensity of the reaction. Check out our Max ATP Riboceine Fuel - full of B Vitamins and perfect for raising energy and concentration.
One approach is to start immediate-release niacin at 100 mg twice daily after a meal for the first week, then double the daily dose each week until you are taking what the doctor has prescribed.
Aspirin will also help to reduce the flushing. If you are already taking low-dose aspirin (81 to 325 mg daily) try taking it about 30 minutes before your first niacin dose of the day.
If you would like a really reliable source of Niacin and other supporting B’s and you want it to be absorbed quickly without waste look no further than Max ATP Riboceine Fuel.
Just an extra note, in the morning I combine Max ATP with an extra glass of water to which I add 1 drop of Lemon Essential Oil or if I’m feeling a little overwhelmed 1 drop of Lime and 1 drop of Fennel Essential Oil. This helps to calm the small bowel (gut) and ultimately sets me up for better assimilation and absorption of the MAX ATP.
- Anon. Don’t overlook niacin for treating cholesterol problems. Harvard Heart Letter. April 2004.
- Jacobson TA. A “hot” topic in dyslipidemia management - “How to beat a flush”: Optimizing niacin tolerability to promote long-term treatment adherence and coronary disease prevention. Mayo Clin Proc. 2010;85(4):365-79.
- Lee T. Is no-flush niacin as effective as other kinds of niacin? Harvard Heart Letter. March 2010.
- Meyers CD, et al. Varying cost and free nicotinic acid content in over-the-counter niacin preparations for dyslipidemia. Ann Intern Med. 2003;139(12):996-1002.