Niacin is also known as vitamin B3, Nicotinic Acid, and has two additional forms, Niacinamide (Nicotinamide) and Inositol. It is an organic compound and normally included as one of the 80 essential human nutrients.
You will find Niacin in a number of multivitamins, energy drinks like Red Bull, 5 Hour Energy and Monster and it is also a common component of Nootropic stacks.
While Niacin is not the most powerful cognitive enhancer available, it is known to improve mental energy, focus and alertness. The popular Nootropic supplement Picamilon breaks down into Niacin and GABA when it reaches your brain.
Niacin is also one of the 5 vitamins that, when lacking in the human diet, is associated with a pandemic deficiency disease (pellagra). The supplement has also been used for over 50 years to help increase levels of HDL (the ‘good’ cholesterol) in the blood. It has also been found to decrease the risk of cardiovascular events.
Niacin is a colorless and water-soluble solid vitamin. It is derived from pyridine and normally used to help convert food into fuel and energy. This supplement is also useful in helping the body use fats and proteins, as well as helping the nervous system to function properly.
There is also evidence suggesting that Niacin (along with additional B-complex vitamins) are needed for healthy skin, hair, eyes, and liver. Niacin also assists in the synthesis of various sex and stress related hormones, primarily in the adrenal glands. It also helps to improve circulation.
Vitamin B3 (Niacin, Nicotinic Acid, 3-Pyridine-Carboxylic Acid) Isprecursor to the coenzymes Nicotinamide Adenine Dinucleotide (NAD), and nicotinamide adenine Dinucleotide Phosphate (NADP).
Niacin is found in, and critical for the health of every cell in your body. NADH is the reduced form of NAD (Nicotinamide Adenine Dinucleotide), making it the “active” form which can donate electrons.
NADH is the primary carrier of electrons from glucose and lactate for ATP synthesis. ATP is the fuel source for mitochondria. The power supply in each of your brain cells. So you need Niacin to produce NADH to transfer the energy from the food you eat into a type of energy your body can use.
Niacin naturally occurs in foods like eggs, fish, meat, milk, peanuts, mushrooms, green vegetables, and yeast.
Your body also naturally synthesizes Niacin from the amino acid tryptophan you get from food. This synthesis requires Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine), riboflavin and an enzyme containing iron.
But only about 2% of dietary tryptophan is converted to Niacin. Not nearly enough that your body requires which is why supplementation is needed.
Niacin supplementation has been used to treat addiction, ADHD, arthritis, Alzheimer’s Disease, depression, Memory loss and schizophrenia. And for detoxing nearly every foreign substance that can find its way into your fat cells.
As a Nootropic, Niacin helps boost cognition, memory and neuroplasticity.
Niacin boosts brain health in several ways. But two in particular stand out.
Niacin increases cellular energy. Niacin is the precursor to NAD. NAD acts as an electron carrier, meaning it can accept and donate electrons to various enzymes involved in energy metabolism.
1. NADH then donates its electron to the electron transport chain where a number of ATP molecules are formed.
Using Niacin as a supplement increases the available NAD molecules that can take part in energy metabolism. And increasing the amount of energy in each cell.
By providing the means for ATP synthesis, Niacin is involved in cognition, focus, concentration, memory, and processing speed. And Niacin plays an important role in mediating brain aging and tissue damage. Even decreasing the damage done by strokes.
Researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston studied the neuroprotective effects of CoQ10 and Niacin in mouse models of Parkinson’s Disease (PD). Impaired energy metabolism has been associated with some symptoms of PD.
Researchers administered MPTP which is poison to neurons. It disrupts the energy metabolism of neurons that release dopamine. The affected dopamine cells are also unable to release as much glutamate which results in decreased dopamine in people with PD.
The combination of CoQ10 and Niacin protected against both mild and moderate Dopamine depletion. The researchers concluded that CoQ10 and Niacin improve Mitochondrial energy production.
2. BDNF has been termed “Miracle-Gro for the brain”. Higher levels of BDNF have been associated with increased intelligence, mood, productivity and memory.
Researchers at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit tested the hypothesis that Niacin could increase synaptic plasticity and axon growth in stroke patients.
Male Wistar rats were purposely given a stroke and then treated with extended release Niacin (Niaspan) for 14 days. Niacin increased synaptic plasticity and axon growth as a result of restored BDNF.
Another study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism showed that Niacin stimulated growth hormone.
Niacin deficiency is considered rare by government health agencies, particularly in the West. But even mild Niacin deficiency can have a negative impact on your health and cognition.
Mild Niacin deficiency can be caused by digestive problems that decreases the amount of Vitamin B3 (Niacin) or Tryptophan that your body absorbs.
If you are gluten intolerant you’re at a higher risk of being Niacin deficient. If you have Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) or Crohn’s Disease you have an increased chance of Niacin deficiency.
Excessive alcohol consumption, birth control pills, anorexia, and those on a vegan diet can be deficient in Niacin.
Some experts believe a lack of Niacin and other B-Vitamins is at least partially responsible for the large increase in mental health disorders and violent crimes in recent decades
All of these Niacin deficiency-related changes are contributing factors to the neurodegenerative diseases of aging, age-related cognitive decline, including Alzheimer’s and schizophrenia.
But even if things haven’t degenerated to such a debilitating level, Niacin can help.
Research has shown that people with low Niacin levels are far more vulnerable to addiction, depression, heart disease, schizophrenia, and other chronic conditions. Low Niacin levels can happen at any age. Even at birth.
Niacin can improve cholesterol levels. Supplementing with Niacin has been shown to help those who are at increased risk for heart attacks, stroke and other forms of heart disease.
Niacin can help reduce hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis) and assist in avoiding heart disease. And Niacin helps reduce inflammation.
Niacin plays a role in diabetes treatment because it helps balance blood sugar levels.
Niacin helps to reduce skin inflammation, flare ups, irritation, redness and for treating severe cases of acne.
Niacin can help protect against Alzheimer’s and dementia.Niacin supplementation is also associated with decreased risk for age-related cognitive decline, memory loss, migraines, depression, motion sickness, insomnia and even alcohol dependence.
Niacin is also used for treating and to help prevent schizophrenia.
Studies show that Niacin supplementation lowers the risk or severity of ADHD.
Niacin is an effective treatment for erectile dysfunction (ED) because it acts as a vasodilator that helps improve blood flow to the penis.
Niacin supplementation can help relieve depression and anxiety. Circulation should improve and you’ll feel like you have more energy.
People taking statins to control cholesterol report severe side effects. But when adding Niacin to their supplement stack, most experience a reduction in blood pressure. And some have stopped taking statins as a result.
Those dealing with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) report combining Niacin with St. John’s Wort reduced OCD symptoms. And was better than using the SSRI Prozac®, or the benzodiazepine Ativan®(lorazepam).
Taken before bedtime some neuro hackers report a reduction in insomnia.
Lower back pain and hip pain may be reduced with Niacin supplementation.
Niacin can help reduce severe acne and other skin inflammation problems.
Therapeutic doses of Niacin have been shown to reduce serum cholesterol. Niacin significantly increases HDL-cholesterol (good cholesterol), decreases LPL-cholesterol (bad cholesterol) and triglycerides. Changes in blood lipid profile considered to be protective of your heart.
Low levels of HDL-cholesterol are one of the major risk factors for coronary heart disease. And an increase in HDL levels is associated with a reduction of that risk.
The Coronary Drug Project was conducted between 1966 and 1975 to assess the long-term efficacy and safety of Niacin in 8,241 men aged 30 to 64 years old. All men had experienced some type of heart problem.
Compared to placebo, patients who took 3 grams of Niacin daily experienced an average 10% reduction in total blood cholesterol, a 26% decrease in triglycerides, a 27% decrease in recurrent heart attacks, and a 26% decrease in stroke.
If you are dealing with chronic health issues, chances are good you could benefit from a detoxification program. Even if you’re feeling perfectly ‘healthy’ you could likely use a good detox.
Simply living in our modern society exposes us to thousands of chemicals that have the potential to get into our bodies from the food we eat, air we breathe, water we drink and things we touch.
One study done in Portland, Oregon investigated the effects of a 7-day detox program on well-being in 25 disease-free, healthy participants. The 7-day detox produced a statistically significant (47%) reduction in the Metabolic Screening Questionnaire scores. And a 23% increase in liver detox capacity. Even healthy people feel better after detox.
In 1977, L. Ron Hubbard developed his “Sweat Program” to facilitate detox. The program included Niacin, sauna and a supplement regimen to restore critical vitamins and minerals to the newly detoxed body.
This Niacin detox program has been used to treat Gulf War Syndrome, the fire fighters and first responders to the 9/11 attacks in New York, and is used by hundreds of naturopaths.
Niacin affects adipocytes which causes an increase in free fatty acid (FFA) release from adipose tissue (body fat). Release of free fatty acids releases fat-stored toxins for excretion from the body.
Niacin also causes prostaglandin D2 release which dilates small blood vessels in the skin. The same reaction responsible for the “Niacin flush”. This dilation increases the movement of xenobiotics (foreign chemicals) for excretion through sweating (which is where the sauna comes into the detox program).
Niacin is also a precursor to NADH which regenerates the master antioxidant Glutathione. Niacin reduces inflammation by decreasing reactive oxygen species and inflammatory Cytokines.
Niacin is especially helpful if you are taking antidepressants. Drugs to treat depression have an anti-inflammatory effect, including inhibition of the rate-limiting enzyme of the kynurenine pathway. This metabolic pathway is involved the production of NAD and NADH.
The inhibition of this pathway increases serotonin as more tryptophan becomes available for serotonin synthesis. More serotonin helps decrease depression.
But this also leaves less tryptophan available for Niacin synthesis. Which causes depression and basically cancels out the benefits of using antidepressants.
So if you’re on SSRI’s you may want to add Niacin to your stack.
Dyslipidemia is the name of the condition involving high LDL-cholesterol (bad), high triglycerides (bad), and low HDL-cholesterol (bad). Dyslipidemia is closely related to erectile dysfunction (ED).
Researchers in Hong Kong ran a placebo-controlled trial with 160 male patients with ED and dyslipidemia. Half the men with ED received 1500 mg of Niacin, and the other half received a placebo daily for 12 weeks.
The main outcome of the study was a significant improvement in erectile function. And the researchers concluded that “Niacin alone can improve erectile function in men suffering from moderate to severe ED”.
Regular immediate-release Niacin (Nicotinic Acid) causes “flushing” in many people. And they avoid supplementing with Niacin as a result.
Standard Niacin flushing results from activation of the Niacin receptor G protein-coupled receptor 109A (GPR109A) in skin Langerhans cells. This leads to the production of prostaglandins, including prostaglandin D2(PGD2) and prostaglandin E2 (PGE2), which act on receptors in the capillaries (small blood vessels in your skin).
This flushing sensation comes from blood vessel dilation and manifests itself as redness, warmth of the skin and tingling or itching. It happens rapidly and lasts for about 1 hour.
This flushing sensation is NOT an allergic reaction. And only feels uncomfortable. Here are some strategies to avoid Niacin flushing.
First, “slow-release” Niacin may prevent flushing. But is NOT the answer because it will not provide the LDL-cholesterol (bad) lowering benefits. And can be toxic to your liver when used long-term.
Inositol Hexanicotinate is commonly referred to as no-flush Niacin or flush-free Niacin and is preferred by many neurohackers.
Even though I’ve seen a couple of clinical studies claiming this version of Niacin has no effect on lipid profiles when it comes to cholesterol, user reviews consistently report the opposite.
They do not experience flushing with Inositol Hexanicotinate even at high doses, and their cholesterol and triglyceride levels all benefited and came within a healthy range.
A newer version of “extended-release” Niacin called Niaspan® does not produce the flushing effect. And has been shown to have the same effects on good cholesterol and triglycerides as instant-release Niacin Niaspan® is prescription-only and is now available as a prescription generic at lower cost.
One effective way to reduce flushing with instant-release Niacin and extended-release Niacin is to take a 325 mg aspirin tablet 30 minutes prior to taking your Niacin.
You can also try splitting your dose of Niacin into smaller doses taken throughout the day. Flushing will be reduced if not completely eliminated. And long-term Niacin users note that flushing goes away after about a week of long-term Niacin use.
Vitamin B3 (Niacin) is not stored in your body and must be ingested daily from food or as a supplement. Niacin as a supplement comes in several forms:
Studies show that the benefits to lowering bad cholesterol with the IH form of Niacin are not nearly as effective as free-from Niacin. But user reviews are the opposite of these clinical findings. No toxicity is associated with high dose of IH.
Slo-Niacin®, is sold over the counter. Niaspan® is an extended-release Niacin formula sold as a prescription drug.
Note: Both slow-release Niacin and extended-release Niacin(inositol Hexanicotinate) are marketed and labeled as “Flush-Free Niacin”. But they are not the same and you should avoid slow-release Niacin.
Slow-release Niacin causes liver toxicity at relatively low doses and does not provide the lipid balancing effects like free-form Niacin and extended-release Niacin.
Niacin is naturally produced in your body from tryptophan. And you get niacin from eating certain foods including beef, chicken, tuna, sunflower seeds, salmon, green peas, turkey, and mushrooms. So niacin is considered non-toxic and safe.