Niacin is nicotinic acid and is also called vitamin B3. You will find it in plants and animals and it is often included in dietary supplements, multiple vitamins and is used to enrich many foods, such as bread and cereals. If a person has a lack of natural niacin in their body, it may be given as a supplement. Normal levels of niacin can help prevent high cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood and it may be used to treat atherosclerosis. Niacin has also been shown to relieve the pain and stiffness of arthritis.
Niacin is often an effective and inexpensive way to lower blood lipids. Some studies have shown that heart patients who take these supplements over five years may reverse the signs of heart disease. Other conditions that may be affected are:
• Memory loss
• Motion sickness
• High blood pressure
• Poor circulation in the legs
Niacin supplements are available in various forms. It is usually recommended to take small doses several times throughout the day rather than one large dose. The amount taken will be increased slowly over four to six weeks and it is recommended to take it after meals to avoid stomach irritation.
Since niacin causes the blood vessels to dilate near the surface of the skin, there may be a flushing sensation when your patients first start taking it. However, this usually gradually stops over time. Some doctors recommend taking aspirin 30 minutes before taking the supplement, but each person has a different reaction. It will subside in a few weeks.
Niacinamide is the alkaline form of niacin and does not cause the flushing. This is often the form taken for arthritis because it dilates the deep blood vessels near the joints.
Niacin is not recommended for people with certain conditions. These include people with low blood pressure, diabetes, gout, liver or kidney damage and stomach ulcers. It should also be stopped about two weeks before scheduled surgery.
High doses may interact with certain prescription medications. If your patients are taking any medication or other supplements every day, this should be considered before offering these supplements. It may interact with blood thinners, diabetes drugs, anticonvulsants, thyroid hormones, high blood pressure medication and some antibiotics. Low doses are said to be safe for everyone.