Have You Been Taking Your Niacin?
Niacin, also known as Vitamin B3, is a water soluble vitamin. It is considered to be an essential vitamin. Niacin is important for general health and has been shown to be effective in supporting the treatment of a number of conditions, most notably high cholesterol.
Niacin BenefitsNiacin helps the digestive system, skin, and nerves to function optimally and is an important component in converting food to energy. Niacin is well known for treating high cholesterol, having the capacity to lower LDL (bad) and raise HDL (good) cholesterol levels. It has also been shown to slow the progression of atherosclerosis, reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke. It may benefit Type 1 diabetics by reducing the risk or slowing the progression of the disease. It has also been shown to reduce the symptoms of osteoarthritis, improving joint mobility. Niacin has also been shown to combat stress and the effects of aging. In addition, it helps to repair DNA and assists in the production of hormones by the adrenal gland. Niacin supplementation will also lower the risk of developing cataracts. It is currently being investigated as a potential treatment for skin cancer. Other potential benefits, which require more study in order to validate them, are in the treatment of:
- Migraine headaches
- Motion sickness
- Alcohol dependence
Niacin and DepressionOne of the most overlooked causes of depression is the lack of certain micronutrients in the diet. The most important one of these is niacin. If your body is lacking in niacin, your body will use an amino acid called tryptophan in order to naturally produce niacin. The body also needs tryptophan to make serotonin. Serotonin is a hormone that causes positive feelings. So, if all the tryptophan in the body is used for the production of niacin, depression will be inevitable. However, taking niacin as a way to cure depression is often ridiculed by the medical community. However, the evidence in support of it is impressive.
Side EffectsHigh doses of niacin can cause flushing of the skin, stomach pain, headache, dizziness, blurred vision, liver damage, elevated blood sugar, and interactions with other medications. Prescription medications for diabetes interact with niacin. Niacin has the ability to lower blood pressure, so extreme caution must be taken when taking it in conjunction with medications such as Clonidine, which also lowers blood pressure. Other prescription medications which interact with niacin are:
- Allopurinol (Zyloprim)
- Carbamazepine (Tegretol)
Food SourcesThe best food sources of niacin are:
- Fish – salmon & tuna
- Sunflower seeds
- Brewer’s yeast
- Beef liver and kidneys
SupplementationNiacin supplementation is a smart move. The amount of niacin that you should take in supplement form depends on who you are and what you’re going through. For the treatment of depression, the standard dosage is 3000 mg per day, divided into three 1000 mg doses. Niacin has the potential to cause stomach upset, so it may be useful to take your supplement with food. However, supplementation with niacin is safe. A flush effect is very common, however. This lasts for about twenty minutes and involves vasodilation of the blood vessels, especially those at the surface of the skin. This will lead to a widening of the blood vessels and will cause a heat sensation. This is completely safe and will quickly subside. There have been no verified deaths as a result of supplementation with niacin.
- Niacin helps lower cholesterol, reducing the risk of heart attack and stroke.
- It has some serious side effects at high doses.
- Main dietary sources are fish, poultry, and nuts.
- RDA is 16 mg/day (males) and 14 mg/day (females).
- If on any medication, seek a doctor’s guidance before supplementing with niacin.