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Niacin: The Powerhouse Vitamin You Are Not Hearing About

A recently released second edition of the book “Niacin:  The Real Story,” by Dr. Andrew Saul wrote that orthomolecular physicians have found success in preventing cardiovascular disease, reversing arthritis, helping to prevent Alzheimer’s disease, and treating a host of mental illnesses with this B vitamin-niacin (vitamin B-3).  In a study published in Kidney360 in late 2020, niacin, was found to reduce mortality in COVID-19 patients suffering from acute kidney injury.  Patients who were given daily doses of 1000 mg of niacinamide, a form of niacin, had a 25% lower death rate.  This COVID-related illness had no known therapy.  Doctors in India observed that niacinamide supplements reduced the recovery time of COVID-19 patients by nearly 30% when compared to those receiving only standard care.

Niacin is converted into nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD) in the body.  NAD is a coenzyme found in every living cell, which works with enzymes to enable chemical reactions to help produce energy.  Viral infections such as COVID-19, stimulate an immune response that depletes NAD in infected cells and is linked to severe cases of infection.  Cells will typically die in 30 seconds without NAD.  You can boost your NAD with high doses of niacin.  NAD is required for over 400 gene functions.

Niacin’s vitamin effect can change the course of some of today’s most prevalent diseases – diabetes and heart disease.  It increases insulin sensitivity and decreases the risk of cardiovascular disease, which is the #1 cause of death for diabetics.  Niacin has an incredible safety record.  It has been studied for more than 50 years and many clinical trials have focused on cardiovascular disease, the most common cause of death.  Niacin is unparalleled in its ability to safely reduce cardiovascular disease risk. Niacin inhibits the depositing of plaque in the arteries, protecting the heart and brain.  Proponents of niacin say the vitamin has the best record of lowering cholesterol levels, triglycerides, and lipoprotein (a), as well as elevating the levels of high density cholesterol (HDL), the preferred cholesterol.  Only niacin increases HDL significantly.

Niacin contains anti-aging properties that work on the cellular level.  Various studies link cell death to depletion of NAD, which is produced by niacin.  Because many deaths are the result of damage to neurons and blood vessels, the preventative of these events could be classified as an anti-aging substance.

There are few conditions known to shorten life spans as much as alcoholism.  Alcoholics are being treated with spiritual, mental, and medical therapies.  Studies are showing that taking niacin three times per day significantly alleviated the anxiety and depression following the cessation of drinking alcohol.  Trials in the alcoholic anonymous groups with niacin showed that two thirds of alcoholics became well within a couple of months of niacin use.  In the book “Niacin:  The Real Story” Dr. Saul and Dr. Hoffer recognized that “niacin helps addicts recover from the anxiety, fatigue, depression, and other discomforts that usually suffer.”  “This, in their opinion, is the basis for their use of alcohol or drugs.”

An epidemic of pellagra, a disease characterized by diarrhea, dermatitis, dementia, and death, ravaged the United States in the 1930s and early 40s.  It was discovered that the root cause of the disease was vitamin B3 (niacin) deficiency.  There were about 3,000,000 cases, with about 100,000 reported deaths.  At that time, the Federal Government mandated adding niacinamide to flour, and following this the pellagra epidemic ended.  In the early 1950s, Dr. Hoffer identified the psychosis associated with mental illnesses such as schizophrenia which appeared to be identical to the psychosis diagnosed in pellagra patients.  He conducted a series of double-blinded, placebo-controlled studies on non-chronic patients.  His test concluded that the administration of niacin doubled the recovery rate of patients, 75% to 35%, compared to those who are given placebos.  He wrote that once you see schizophrenic patients become normal “it becomes unforgettable.”

Those treating patients infected with viral diseases might also be surprised to learn that B vitamins have been effective in aiding the recovery of patients with HIV and AIDS.  Niacin deficiencies are a hindrance to recovery from serious viral infections.  John Hopkins University researchers have reported that niacin was associated with a significant decrease progression rate to AIDS from the HIV virus infection.  This important seven-year study received very little publicity.  Dr. Penberthy stated that this lack of publicity was odd, because a 50% reduction in AIDS cases, just from taking vitamins, should have been front page news.  Dr. Penberthy states “every single clinical trial that has used niacin is yielding positive results for one indication after another.  It is unfortunate that it is not being tested for more conditions, particularly anything with the brain.”

A diet with foods rich in vitamin B3 (niacin) includes avocadoes, mushrooms, chicken, asparagus, and salmon.  Consuming these foods will help maintain healthy levels of this important vitamin.  Niacinamide supplement is readily available over-the-counter as well.

Niacin is unparalleled in its ability to safely reduce cardiovascular disease risk. Also, ongoing clinical trials at UCLA on Alzheimer’s dementia have moved into phase 3 trials, which would suggest that they are finding it as a very effective treatment. A search for the preventative and therapeutic uses of Niacinamide are included in the handouts in the pages following.

Keith Vrbicky, M.D.


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