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Niacin

Published February 8th, 2010 in Minerals & Vitamins

Niacin

Nicotinic Acid is a specific form of Vitamin B3.  Nicotinic Acid supplements are manufactured by oxidizing Nicotine – this is not a cause for alarm as Nicotinic Acid is not associated with any of the toxic effects attributable to Nicotine.

Niacin is a member of the water soluble B- vitamin complex. The amino acid tryptophan can be converted to nicotinic acid in humans. Nicotinic Acid is a specific form of Vitamin B3.  Nicotinic Acid supplements are manufactured by oxidizing Nicotine – this is not a cause for alarm as Nicotinic Acid is not associated with any of the toxic effects attributable to Nicotine. Nicotinic acid was isolated in 1867 and in 1937 it was demonstrated that this substance cures the disease pellagra. The name niacin is derived from nicotinic acid + vitamin.

Niacin is mainly involved in reactions that generate energy in tissues by the biochemical degradation of carbohydrates, fats and proteins. B3 functions in reductive biosyntheses such as the synthesis of fatty acids and cholesterol.

Benefits of Niacin

Reduce atherosclerosis, improve hypertension, stroke, blood circulation, and prevent abnormal blood clotting by lowering elevated fibrinogen levels.  Niacin may prevent heart attacks and reduce the recurrence rate for second Heart Attacks by 30%, alleviate Raynaud’s disease by improving blood circulation to the hands and feet.  B3 is useful for the treatment of Age-Related Macular Degeneration (ARMD)

Nicotinic Acid may inhibit the ability of candida glabrata to cause Urinary Tract Infections (by inhibiting the ability of candida glabrata to adhere to the epithelial cells of the Urinary Tract).

Niacin may reduce the mortality rate of cancer patients and may help to prevent some forms of Cancer: B3 may reduce the rate of recurrence of bladder cancer in people treated with gamma-rays in radiation therapy, and may help prevent endometrial cancer.

Nicotinic Acid may inhibit the ability of candida glabrata to cause urinary tract infections.

Dietary Sources

Nicotinamide and nicotinic acid occur widely in nature. Nicotinic acid is more prevalent in plants, whereas in animals nicotinamide dominates. Yeast, liver, poultry, lean meats, nuts and legumes contribute most of the niacin obtained from food. Milk and green leafy vegetables contribute lesser amounts.  In cereal products, especially corn and wheat, nicotinic acid is bound to certain components and is not bioavailable. Specific food processing, such as the treatment of corn with lime water involved in the traditional preparation of tortillas in Mexico and Central America, increases the bioavailability of nicotinic acid.

Tryptophan contributes as much as two thirds of the niacin activity required by adults in typical diets. Important food sources of tryptophan are meat, milk and eggs. There is no evidence that niacin from foods causes adverse effects.

Deficiency

Copper deficiency can inhibit the conversion of tryptophan to niacin. The drug penicillamine has been demonstrated to inhibit the tryptophan-to-niacin pathway in humans; this may be due in part to the copper-chelating effect of penicillamine.  The pathway from tryptophan to niacin is sensitive to a variety of nutritional alterations. Inadequate iron, riboflavin, or vitamin B6 status reduces the synthesis of niacin from tryptophan.  Other drugs which interact with niacin metabolism may also lead to niacin deficiency, e.g. tranquillisers (diazepam) and anticonvulsants (phenytoin, phenobarbitol).

Moderate Deficiency Symptoms

Severe Deficiency

Pharmacological doses of nicotinic acid, but not nicotinamide, exceeding 300 mg per day have been associated with a variety of side effects including nausea, diarrhea and transient flushing of the skin. Doses exceeding 2.5 g per day have been associated with hepatotoxicity, glucose intolerance, hyperglycemia, elevated blood uric acid levels, heartburn, nausea, headaches. Severe jaundice may occur, even with doses as low as 750 mg per day, and may eventually lead to irreversible liver damage. Doses of 1.5 to 5 g/day of nicotinic acid have been associated with blurred vision and other eye problems.

It is my opinion that niacin should be taken with or as part of a B-complex program, and at the recommended lower levels. As with all supplements more is not better and they should always be part of a healthy dietary lifestyle.  If you are unsure ask a nutritionally trained healthcare provider such as a Nutritionist, Acupuncturist, Chiropractor, Naturopath, or Family Nurse Practitioner.


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