Niacin is a water-soluble B vitamin, called vitamin B3. Other forms of niacin like nicotinamide, niacinamide and non-flushing types (timed-released) do not provide the benefits that "true" niacin does.
An important characteristic of "true" niacin is that it causes a flush, which means it is opening up (dilating) all blood vessels throughout the body, including the smallest blood vessels, called capillaries, so more blood flows through them.
Other forms of niacin, such as nicotinamide, niacinamide and non-flushing types do not cause dilation of the blood vessels like “true” niacin (B3) does.
Timed-release versions of niacin have been made available to avoid the “flush” effect. The problem with most timed-released niacin is that they are associated with a high degree of liver problems. Timed-released forms of nicotinic acid are intended for a prolonged release of niacin during its 6-8 hour transit time in the intestines, but timed-release niacin is also associated with greater toxicity, and safe doses are much lower than the normal-release forms of "true" niacin.
It’s important to note that the flush caused by niacin is not harmful or dangerous. It is actually a sign of improved blood flow and circulation. Also niacin oxygenates the blood.
When you get a niacin “flush” it is an indication that the niacin is causing small blood vessels in your body to expand in size. Many of your small blood vessels, called capillaries, are so small that blood cells can only go through them in single file or if they are flexible enough to fold over. Blood carries nutrients, hormones, oxygen, and other vital substances to every cell in the body and it also carries away natural toxic waste products of all cells, such as carbon dioxide that is breathed out through the lungs (in with the good air and out with the bad air).
It is the capillaries that take care of the vast majority of all cells in the body. There are large arteries near the heart, and they get smaller and smaller as they extend from the heart. At the end of every large artery is a very large network of capillaries, with a high number of them near the surface of the skin.
The niacin causes even the tiniest capillaries to expand (dialate, or open up) so they are able to carry 2 or 3 blood cells at the same time. This means a tremendous increase in blood flow, nutrients, oxygen, hormones, and other vital substances to the areas supplied by these capillaries.
Flushing causes the skin to turn red and tingle, and it will feel hot and itchy. This particularly happens to the face, neck, and ears. Dry skin has also been experienced. The hot feeling is similar to "hot flashes" experienced by women during menopause. “Flushing” occurs because the capillaries are opening up in the skin, which is more obvious, but it also means that capillaries throughout the body are also opening up.
As the blood flows in these areas it helps the cells of the blood vessels and capillaries get rid of their natural toxic waste products, which is less able to happen without a good blood flow. This also increases the production of ‘histamines.’ Histamines are a natural substance produced by every cell in the body when it is under attack and it carries away the toxins. Histamine is what causes itching.
High doses of niacin will also cause headaches, lightheadedness, and other reactions in the body because of the toxins being released. Anyone with liver disease, including people who consume more than 2 alcoholic beverages per day, should not take more than 1,000 mg of niacin per day.
Also no more than 400 mg of niacin per day should be taken without supervision, since higher amounts means many other supplements also must be increased at the same time.
Niacin should always be taken with vitamin B complex – for details on taking niacin and vitamin B complex see Supplements – Description & Doses.
Benefits of Niacin
- Niacin dilates (opens up, makes wider) all blood vessels in the body, including the tiniest capillaries. This is also called vasodilation.
- Niacin is a respiratory vitamin that oxgenates the body – scroll down the bottom of this article to see other nutrients that are also oxgenating: The Prime Cause & Prevention of Cancer by Warburg.
- Niacin helps remove toxins when it is accompanied by a diet containing plenty of good saturated fats, i.e. unrefined coconut oil, butter, lard, fish oil and other natural occurring fats from meats and eggs.
- Niacin works with other B vitamins to convert proteins, fats and carbohydrates into energy.
- Niacin promotes a healthy appetite and aids digestion by increasing the product of hydrochloric acid in the stomach.
- Niacin improves circulation.
- Niacin is required for maintaining healthy skin.
- Niacin aids in the functioning of the nervous system.
- Niacin helps lower blood pressure.
- Niacin processes alcohol in the blood stream.
- Niacin helps in the formation of red blood cells.
- Niacin also helps the body make various sex and stress-related hormones in the adrenal glands and other parts of the body.
- Protection against and detoxifies toxins, pollutants, drugs, alcohol, narcotics, etc. since it is very important for detoxification processes.
- Niacin can relieve migraine headaches.
- Niacin may also help prevent or treat mental disorders.
- Niacin is essential for the activity and production of many enzymes in the body.