Niacin is a water-soluble B vitamin vitamin B3 - and the common name for 2 very different compounds: "nicotinic acid" and "niacinamide". High doses of niacin (as nicotinic acid) can lower cholesterol levels (although the exact mechanism of action is still not known). The other form of niacin (nicotinamide or niacinamide) does not open blood vessels wider nor provide a cholesterol-lowering effect.
Until the Ron Hubbard purification program was developed, no one had even yet recognized that these oil soluble toxins had such long-term effects in the body.
An important characteristic of the Hubbard detoxification program is the use of niacin. Niacin has the well-known effect of causing "vasodilation", often called the niacin flush, which is an opening of the small blood vessels, the capillaries, so that more blood flows through them. These are the blood vessels which are of most value in reaching fatty tissues. In this way the toxins which are stored in these fatty tissues can be removed, into the bloodstream, and processed out of the body. However, niacin is also made in the form of niacinamide - a form of vitamin B3 which, deliberately, is manufactured so that it will NOT cause dilation of the blood vessels - the flush so well known when using plain niacin. A detoxification program which features the use of niacinamide and also claims to improve blood circulation would be based on false science.
Some detoxification programs don't even recognize that the toxins they claim to be removing are stored in fatty tissues. The idea of removing these toxins by some procedure which does not include niacin is not practical.
It's important to note that this niacin flush is not harmful or dangerous. Some people worry about it, but it is actually a sign of improved blood flow.
While the large organs of the body all have blood supplied from large arteries, a great deal of your body, particularly the parts near the skin, get their ONLY supply of blood (therefore also of oxygen and nutrients) from these small capillaries.
The niacin causes these small capilaries to expand - so they might be able to carry 2 or 3 blood cells at the same time. This is a tremendous increase in blood flow.
You experience this as a "flushing" of the skin, simply because there is more blood close to the surface of the body. As the blood flows in these areas, the cells of the small capilaries will also be getting rid of their waste products, and often they produce 'histamine' as part of this process. That histamine is another natural substance produced by every cell in the body when a cell is under attack, or is eliminating toxins. Histamine causes an 'itchy' feeling.
The cardiovascular benefits of niacin have been studied in several major clinical trials (1-5). The primary cardiovascular measures such as cholesterol and triglyceride levels , strokes and heart attacks are all significantly reduced with niacin therapy (sometimes used alone and sometimes used along with other drug therapy ). Overall, the use of niacin (nicotinic acid, but not the other form called "niacinamide") to treat or prevent high levels of blood cholesterol and triglycerides and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease is well substantiated. In a large number of clinical trials, niacin has been shown to consistently lower total and LDL (bad) cholesterol - by about 20% - and triglycerides - by 10 to 25%, while increasing levels of HDL (good) cholesterol - by 15 to 25%.
There are several precautions which one needs to implement however when one uses niacin. Niacin usually has a "flush effect" - which is not harmful - associated with it which is very similar to the hot flashes women experience during menopause. Niacin supplements are available in regular and timed-release forms. Timed-release versions of niacin have been made available to avoid this "flush" effect. The problem with most TIMED-RELEASED niacin is that they are associated with a high degree of liver problems.
The timed-release 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 only about half of normal-release forms of niacin.
In the high doses used for controlling cholesterol levels (anything above 100mg/day), nicotinic acid can cause skin flushing and skin itching as well as headaches, lightheadedness and low blood pressure. The niacinamide form of niacin does not cause these side effects, but it is not effective in reducing cholesterol levels, so it is seldom taken in such high doses. The slow-release versions of niacin supplements have the potential for causing liver damage (even at lower doses of 500mg/day) - so blood tests to monitor for liver damage are recommended and high-dose niacin supplementation should only be undertaken under the guidance of a natural physician. Anyone with liver disease, including those who consume more than 2 drinks of alcohol daily, should not take high-dose niacin.
Niacin is cheap, so its effectiveness in reducing cholesterol levels may be an inexpensive solution to reducing a known risk factor for cardiovascular disease . When monitored properly by a natural physician, niacin therapy can be almost as effective as the popular (and expensive) statin drugs for lowering cholesterol and triglyceride levels . Niacin may be the most cost-effective lipid-lowering agent currently available.
Niacin dosing is usually started at the low-end (100mg/day), with increasing doses of 250mg each week until blood lipid levels start to normalize (or side effects develop). Side effects are usually minimized by increasing the dosage slowly to the common therapeutic range of 1000-1500mg/day. Niacin doses should be divided into 2-3 separate daily doses, or no more than 500-750mg per individual dose).
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1. Capuzzi DM, Guyton JR, Morgan JM, Goldberg AC, Kreisberg RA, Brusco OA, Brody J. Efficacy and safety of an extended-release niacin (Niaspan): a long-term study. Am J Cardiol. 1998 Dec 17;82(12A):74U-81U.
2. Cunningham JJ. Micronutrients as nutriceutical interventions in diabetes mellitus. J Am Coll Nutr. 1998 Feb;17(1):7-10.
3. Gardner SF, Marx MA, White LM, Granberry MC, Skelton DR, Fonseca VA. Combination of low-dose niacin and pravastatin improves the lipid profile in diabetic patients without compromising glycemic control. Ann Pharmacother. 1997 Jun;31(6):677-82.
4. Goldberg AC. Clinical trial experience with extended-release niacin (Niaspan): dose-escalation study. Am J Cardiol. 1998 Dec 17;82(12A):35U-38U.
5. Greenbaum CJ, Kahn SE, Palmer JP. Nicotinamide's effects on glucose metabolism in subjects at risk for IDDM. Diabetes. 1996 Nov;45(11):1631-4.
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