Niacin supplements

Niacin supplements are available in nicotinic acid and niacinamide forms, both separately and combined. These have different applications. Sustained release niacin supplements are available and although these may reduce the skin flushing reaction caused by large doses of niacin, they may be more toxic to the liver. A newer form of niacin known as inositol bound niacin or inositol hexanicotinate is now available, and may be safer than other forms as it does not cause liver damage or flushing.

Therapeutic uses of supplements

Niacin supplementsCardiovascular disease

Niacin has been used for many years to treat high blood lipid levels. It reduces total cholesterol, harmful LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, and increases beneficial HDL cholesterol levels. It has been shown to reduce the incidence of heart attacks and deaths from heart disease. Niacin also favorably influences other lipid levels including lipoprotein (a). Doses used range from 1500 to 2500 mg. Sustained-release niacin may be associated with more dramatic changes in LDL cholesterol and triglyceride, whereas the short-acting preparation may cause greater increases in HDL cholesterol. The increase of HDL cholesterol seems to occur at a lower dose (1500 mg per day) than the reduction of LDL cholesterol. In general it is usual to start taking lower doses (around 50 to 100 mg) and then gradually increase to the higher doses over a period of two to three weeks.

Researchers involved in a 1997 study done in Minneapolis compared blood lipid levels in 244 patients treated with niacin and 160 treated with lovastatin, a widely used cholesterol-lowering drug. The results showed that both lovastatin and niacin effectively reduced LDL cholesterol levels with a greater drop seen in those taking lovastatin. Niacin use was associated with a 16.3 per cent improvement in HDL cholesterol, while HDL cholesterol levels in the lovastatin group improved 1.5 per cent. The improvement in triglyceride levels was also much greater in the niacin group.

Nicotinic acid can also enhance the effects of other cholesterol-lowering medications. This may mean that the doses of these drugs can be reduced, thus lessening the possibility of undesirable side effects. In a recent US study, researchers found that combination therapy with niacin and low dose lovastatin was as effective as high dose lovastatin.

In a 1997 US study, researchers assessed the effect of 1.5 mg of niacin per day in 23 diabetic patients who were unable to achieve desirable blood lipid levels with low-dose pravastatin treatment. The results showed significant reductions in LDL cholesterol with niacin treatment. Taking vitamins A and E with nicotinic acid may reduce the dose of niacin necessary to produce beneficial effects.

Nicotinic acid has also been shown to have favorable effects on the blood clotting system which can reduce the build-up of atherosclerotic plaque. It has also been used to treat peripheral vascular disease and circulatory disorders such as Raynaud's disease as it dilates blood vessels, thereby increasing blood flow to certain areas of the body.

Niacin supplementsType I diabetes

Nicotinamide has been shown to prevent the development of Type I (insulin dependent) diabetes in animals, possibly by helping insulin to act more efficiently and by preventing the immune system from attacking the pancreatic beta cells which produce insulin. Because it has a protective effect on beta cells it needs to be given early in the course of the disease while there are beta cells still remaining. Several small scale studies in humans suggest that nicotinamide may have a role to play in preventing the onset of Type I diabetes.

Researchers in New Zealand carried out a controlled trial of oral nicotinamide in the prevention of the onset of diabetes mellitus in a group of high risk children. All eight of the untreated children developed diabetes during the follow-up period of the study whereas only one of 14 treated children did. In 1996, the same researchers published the findings of a population-based diabetes prevention trial involving nicotinamide treatment of 173 children aged 5 to 8 at risk for Type I diabetes. The results showed a 50 per cent reduction in the development of diabetes in a five-year period and suggest a protective effect of nicotinamide.

Mental disorders

Both tryptophan and niacin have been used to treat depression, anxiety and insomnia. The psychiatric symptoms of niacin deficiency disease resemble the symptoms of schizophrenia and large doses of niacin have been used to treat this disorder. In some cases, the results of such studies have been promising, while in others niacin has failed to show any beneficial effect.

Other uses

Niacin has been used to stimulate tooth eruption, to treat fatigue, irritability, digestive disorders, headaches, migraines, arthritis, cramps and nerve problems such as Bell's Palsy and trigeminal neuralgia.

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Other Vitamins:

Vitamin A
Beta carotene
Vitamin B6
Vitamin B12
Pantothenic acid
Vitamin C
Vitamin D
Vitamin E
Vitamin K