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Niacin (Vitamin B3)

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Niacin (Vitamin B3)

Niacin (vitamin B3) is one of the B-complex family. It is naturally found in avocados, whole grains, legumes, eggs, milk, fish, organ meats and peanuts.

Niacin (vitamin B3) is one of the B-complex family. It is naturally found in avocados, whole grains, legumes, eggs, milk, fish, organ meats and peanuts.

What Is a Nutrient?

Nutrients are substances we must eat for good health. alive features an important nutrient each month.

Health Claims

Niacin (vitamin B3) may be useful as treatment for high cholesterol and peripheral vascular (circulatory)disorders.

How Does it Work?

Niacin is a vitally important component of enzymes involved in more than 200 reactions in the body. It plays a role in the digestive system, bile secretion, sex hormone production, detoxification, nervous system maintenance, as well as heart health.

What Evidence Supports its Use?

Niacin has been known as an effective nutrient for lowering blood cholesterol levels since the 1950s. It typically lowers bad LDL-cholesterol levels by 16 to 23 percent, while raising good HDL-cholesterol levels by 20 to 33 percent. These effects, especially the effect on HDL, compare quite favourably to conventional cholesterol-lowering drugs.

Inositol hexaniacinate, a form of niacin used in Europe for more than 30 years, has also been shown in double-blind studies to improve blood flow in the treatment of Raynaud’s phenomena (a painful response of the hands or feet to cold exposure due to constriction of blood vessels supplying the hands) and intermittent claudication (a painful cramp in the calf produced when walking as a result of decreased oxygen supply to the calf muscle).

How Should I Take It?

Vitamin B3 is available as niacin (nicotinic acid or nicotinate), inositol hexaniacinate and niacinamide (nicotinamide). Niacin comes as pure crystalline niacin and in sustained or timed-release preparations. Inositol hexaniacinate yields slightly better results than standard niacin, but is much better tolerated, both in terms of flushing and, more importantly, long-term side-effects.

Niacin is usually recommended at 20 to 50 milligrams for general health purposes. To lower cholesterol levels, the starting dosage for crystalline niacin is 100 mg three times a day. Carefully increase over four to six weeks to the full therapeutic dose of 1.5 to 3 grams daily in divided dosages or as a single dosage at night.

If inositol hexaniacinate is being used to lower cholesterol or improve blood flow in Raynaud’s phenomena or intermittent claudication, begin with 500 mg three times daily for two weeks and then increase to 1,000 mg three times daily. Crystalline niacin and inositol hexaniacinate are best taken with meals. Sustained-release niacin should not be used unless prescribed by a physician.

Caveats

Because niacin can damage the liver, periodic checking (minimum every three months) for liver enzyme levels in the blood is indicated. Please tell your physician you are taking niacin and wish to be monitored.

Niacin should not be used in patients with pre-existing liver disease or elevation in liver enzymes, gout or peptic ulcers.

Doses in excess of 50 mg of niacin typically produce a transient flushing (redness) of the skin. Other occasional side-effects include gastric irritation,nausea and liver damage.

Niacin strengthens the cholesterol-lowering effects of other lipid-lowering drugs, especially statin drugs such as atorvastatin (Lipitor), gemfibrozil (Lopid), lovastatin (Mevacor), pravastin (Pravachol) and simvastatine (Zocor).

The Bottom Line

When used safely and when required, under professional guidance, niacin is a powerful tool for heart and circulatory health.

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