02.13.12

Vitamin B3 (cardiovascular, fatigue, depression, irritability, digestive disorders, detoxification, cholesterol & more….)

Posted in Uncategorized at 1:04 PM by Dr. Greathouse

Staying Healthy with Nutrition

Elson M. Haas, M.D.

Niacin (Vitamin B3)


Information on this site is not meant to substitute for the advice provided by your own physician or other medical professional. You should not use the information contained herein for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing any medication. If you have or suspect that you have a medical problem, promptly contact your medical health care provider.

What got my attention about this vitamin was some information I came across where vitamin B3 was being used for severe depression with great results. I see so many patients today who are on mood altering medication. The above book “Staying Healthy with Nutrition” by Dr. Haas, is a wonderful resource on how food and supplements affect our health. Below is info from his book on vitamin B3. Many health experts attribute our ill health issues, physical and psychological,  to the lack of nutritional value of our food. Niacin is used to support a variety of metabolic functions and to treat a number of conditions. Nutritional therapy is a viable alternative to drugs in many cases. As you learn to connect your health issues with food deficiencies, find an expert to help guide you  through these alternative treatment pathways.

Niacin plays a key role in glycolysis (extracting energy from carbohydrate and glucose), is important in fatty acid synthesis and in the deamination (nitrogen removal) of amino acids, and is needed in the formation of blood cells and steroids, and is helpful in the metabolism of some drugs and toxins.  It is a vital precursor for the coenzymes that supply energy to body cells. Basically, the coenzymes of Niacin help break down and utilize proteins, fat and carbohydrates.

Vitamin B3 also simulates circulation, reduces cholesterol levels in the blood of some people, and is important to help the activity of the nervous system and normal brain function.  Niacin supports the health of skin, tongue, and digestive tract tissues.  Also, this important vitamin is needed for the synthesis of sex hormones such as estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone, as well as other corticosteroids.

Niacin helps increase energy through improving food utilization and has been beneficial for treating fatigue, irritability, and digestive disorders such as diarrhea, constipation, and indigestion.  It also stimulates extra hydrochloric acid, helps in the regulation of blood sugar (as part of glucose tolerance factor) and gives all of us a greater ability to handle stress.  It’s helpful in treating anxiety and possibly depression.  Niacin has been used for a variety of skin reactions and acne, as well as for problems on the teeth and gums.  It is sometimes helpful in the treatment of migraine headaches and arthritis, probably in both cases through stimulation of blood flow and capillaries.  This vitamin has also been used to stimulate sex drive and enhance sexual experience, to help detoxify the body, and to protect it from certain toxins and pollutants.  For most of these problems and cardiovascular related ones mentioned below, the preference is to taking the “flushing” form of Niacin, or Nicotinic acid, not niacinamide. This includes cholesterol reduction.

Nicotinic acid works rapidly, particularly in its beneficial effects on the cardiovascular system.  It simulates circulation and for this reason may be helpful in treating leg cramps caused by circulatory deficiency; headaches, especially the migraine type; and Meniere’s syndrome, associated with hearing loss and vertigo.  Nicotinic acid also helped reduce blood pressure and very importantly, acts as an agent to lower serum cholesterol.  Treatment with about 2 g a day of Nicotinic acid has produced significant reductions in both blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels.  To lower the LDL component and raise the good HDL cholesterol, people usually take 50 to 100 mg.  Twice daily and then increase the amount slowly over two or three weeks to 1500 to 2500 mg.  Generally, for those with high cholesterol levels it has been used to help reduce the risk for atherosclerosis.

Because of its vascular stimulation and effects of lowering cholesterol and blood pressure, vitamin B3 has been used preventatively for such serious secondary problems of cardiovascular disease as myocardial infarction (heart attacks) and strokes.  Also, some neurological problems, such as Bell’s palsy and trigeminal neuralgia have been helped by Niacin supplementation.  In osteoarthritis, to help reduce joint pain and improve mobility, niacinamide has been used in amounts beginning at 500 mg twice daily up 2000 mg 3 times per day along with 100 mg of daily B complex.

Niacin has been an important boon to the field of orthomolecular psychiatry for its use in a variety of mental disorders.  It was initially demonstrated to be helpful for the neuroses and psychosis described as the “dementia of Pellagra,” the Niacin deficiency disease.  Since then, it has been used in high amounts, well over 100 mg per day and often over 1000 mg per day (up to 6000 mg), to treat a wide variety of psychological symptoms, including senility, alcoholism, drug problems, depression, and schizophrenia.  Niacin has been helpful in reversing the hallucinatory experience, delusional thinking or a wide mood in energy shifts of some psychological disturbances.  Though this therapy has its skeptics, as does all applications and nutritional medicine, some studies show promising results in treatment of schizophrenia with Niacin and other supplements.  Other studies show little or no effect.  More research is definitely needed on Niacin’s effect and mental disorders.

People on high blood pressure medication and those who have ulcers, gout, or diabetes should be very careful taking high doses of of Niacin because of its effects of lowering blood pressure, it’s acidity, its liver toxicity, its potential to raise uric acid levels, and its effect in raising blood sugar; though recently Niacin has been shown to have a positive effect on glucose tolerance (is part of glucose tolerance factor) and, thereby, on diabetes as well.  Exercise and Niacin are helpful for people with adult diabetes through their positive effects on blood sugar and cholesterol.

Deficiency & Toxicity

As with other B vitamins, there are really no toxic effects from even the high doses of Niacin, though the “Niacin flush” previously described may be uncomfortable for some.  However, with the use of high does Niacin in recent years, the occasional person experiencing some minor problems, such as irritation of the gastrointestinal tract and/or the liver, both of which subside with decreased intake of Niacin.  In addition, some people taking Niacin experience sedation rather than stimulation.

Deficiency problems have been much more common than toxicity, and for a long period of history, the Niacin deficiency disease, Pellagra, was a very serious and fatal problem.  Characterized as a disease of the “three D’s,” Pellagra causes its victims to experience dermatitis, diarrhea, and dementia.  The fourth D was death.

The classic B3 deficiency occurs mainly in cultures whose diets rely heavily on corn and where the corn is not prepared in a way that releases its Niacin.  One of the first signs of Pellagra or Niacin deficiency, is skin sensitivity to light, and the skin becomes raw, thick, and dry (Pellagra means “skin that is rough” in Italian).  The skin then becomes darkly pigmented, especially in areas of the body prolonged by hot and sweaty with those exposed to the sun.  The first stage of this condition is extreme redness and sensitivity of those exposed areas, and it is from the symptom that the term “redneck,” describing the bright rednecks of 18th and 19th Century Niacin deficiency field workers, came into being.

n general, Niacin deficiency affects every cell, especially in those systems with rapid turnover, such as the skin, gastrointestinal tract, and nervous system.  Other than photosensitivity, the first signs of Niacin deficiency are noted as decreased energy production and problems with maintaining healthy functioning of the skin and intestines.  The symptoms include weakness in general, fatigue, anorexia, indigestion, and skin eruptions.  These can progress to other problems, such as sore, red tongue, canker sores, nausea, vomiting, tender gums, bad breath, and diarrhea.  The neurological symptoms may begin with irritability, insomnia, and headaches and then progress to tremors, extreme anxiety, depression; all the way to full-blown psychosis.  The skin will worsen, as will the diarrhea and inflammation of the now in intestinal tract.  There will be a lack of stomach acid production (Achlorhydria) and a decrease in fat digestion and, thus lower availability from food absorption of the fat soluble vitamins, such as A, D, and E. along with other signs, symptoms and deficiency syndromes associated with these fat soluble vitamins.

Leave a Comment