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.

Benefits of Niacin 

Niacin 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 and improving joint mobility.

Niacin has also been shown to combat stress and the effects of ageing. 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 that require more study to validate are in the treatment of:

  • ADHD
  • Migraine headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Depression
  • Motion sickness
  • Alcohol dependence
  • Acne

Side Effects of Niacin 

High doses of niacin can cause flushing of the skin, stomach pain, headache, dizziness, blurred vision, liver damage, elevated blood sugar, and interactions with 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 lower blood pressure.

Other prescription medications which interact with niacin are:

  • Allopurinol (Zyloprim)
  • Carbamazepine (Tegretol)
  • Amaryl
  • Avandia
  • Orinase
  • Prandin

Aspirin also interacts with Niacin. Doctors often have their patients taking Niacin in conjunction with low doses of aspirin in order to lower the flushing caused by Niacin.

It is important to seek the guidance of your physician if you are taking any medications and considering a course of Niacin supplementation.

Deficiency leads to skin problems. Low levels are also associated with poor concentration, anxiety, restlessness, apathy and chronic fatigue.

Food Sources

 

The best food sources of niacin are:

  • Beets
  • Fish – salmon & tuna
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Brewer’s yeast
  • Beef liver and kidneys
  • Peanuts
  • Poultry
  • Eggs
  • Dairy

Breads and cereals are often also fortified with niacin. Many other foods are similarly fortified during the manufacturing process. It is also synthesised from tryptophan.

Supplementation

The recommended daily allowance for adult males is 16 mg per day. For adult females it is 14mg per day. The upper healthy limit is 35 mg per day for adults.

Check with your medical practitioner for the correct dose for you.

Niacin has the potential to cause stomach upset, so it may be useful to take your supplement with food.

Summary

  • 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

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