Niacin – use of B3
B3 is otherwise known as Niacin or Nicotinomide. As well as being effective
in lowering cholesterol levels it is necessary for maintaining healthy
circulation and skin. It also aids the functioning of the nervous
system, and has a role in the production of hydrochloric acid for the digestive system and in the normal secretion of bile and stomach fluids.
It is also known to be useful in the treatment of schizophrenia and other metal illnesses. (I have also heard that it is useful in reducing the effects of radiation on the
skin, However, I have been able to find no specific data on this, but suspect
that it is possibly correct as the associated flush always affects only the
parts of the body that have been exposed to the sun).
The symptoms of Niacin deficiency are many and varied but generally but can
generally be expected to affect the mucous membranes, causing redness and
irritation, the digestive system, causing bad breath or mild indigestion or the
central nervous system causing possibly headaches, confusion, memory impairment
etc. A severe deficiency is known as pellagra but this usually only occurs in
parts of the world where maize makes up a large part of the diet.
When using niacin for any reason, start with very small doses as it will cause a flushing, tingling, itching sensation of the skin and a throbbing of the head due to the dilation of the blood vessels which can be quite unpleasant or even frightening if not expecting it. Indeed it can be dangerous if a person were to have heart irregularity problems.
The dilation of the blood vessels is apparently promoted by the release of histamine from the skin cells. the tingling and flushing reduces as histamine stores are reduced.(Personally I feel that a mild flush lasting 5-10 minutes is beneficial, as it increases circulation to the skin and this will in turn will help remove toxins and increase mineral and oxygen levels in areas that otherwise can be depleted).
Other side effects if used in large doses can be skin discolouration and
dryness, abnormal liver function tests, decreased glucose tolerance tests and
aggravation of stomach ulcers. However these are generally avoided if niacin is
taken in small doses and on a full stomach.
To obtain a cholesterol lowering effect (hypolipidemic), usually 300-500mg
daily is all that is needed, but be sure to build up to this amount slowly
(start with 25mg -50mg only) and always take in conjunction with a B Complex tablet.
Also it is not advisable to simply stop any cholesterol lowering medications.
Rather slowly reduce their use while at the same time using niacin and checking
the cholesterol levels with regular blood tests.
If unsure about the use of niacin in this regard there are now available
plant sterol or red rice bran based formulations that are also very effective in reducing cholesterol levels and don’t give any unwelcome side effects.
See page on ‘Cholesterol’.