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Niacin Information and Benefits

Niacin Information and Benefits

Niacin is also known as vitamin B3, the third of only eight presently known B vitamins. Conrad Elvehjem, a biochemist from Wisconsin, discovered niacin in 1937, and as a result cured pellagra, a niacin deficiency disease that causes horrible skin lesions, diarrhea, dementia, and sometimes even death.

Initially found as a molecule in yeast and meat, niacin was first called nicotinic acid, because if one oxidizes nicotine, it produces nicotinic acid. The name niacin comes from: NIcotinic ACid + vitamIN, to distance itself from the word nicotine, which the public knows as a toxic chemical found in tobacco.

Niacin has many benefits for the human body and performs many necessary functions, such as removing toxic chemicals, making DNA related repairs, processing calcium, transforming carbohydrates into glucose (sugar) from which one gets energy, helping the digestive and nervous systems function, keeping eyes, hair and skin healthier looking, among other things. Niacin has also been proven to lower bad cholesterol (LDL) and raise good cholesterol (HDL) in the human body. It is regularly prescribed by doctors to treat high cholesterol, but these dosages range anywhere from 1000 to 3000 milligrams per day. Warning: DO NOT take these higher doses of niacin unless prescribed by your doctor, since terrible side effects can occur, such as vomiting, damage to the liver, excessive skin flushing, digestive problems, etc. Concerning excessive skin flushing, niacin has a peculiar side effect in that larger doses cause some people to experience a kind of hot flash or uncomfortable tingling or itching sensation over their skin. Although it is not harmful, it can be quite uncomfortable to have thousands of your nerves irritated at random. Taking one aspirin a few minutes beforehand can hinder or eliminate this itching hot flash side effect.

Because high cholesterol is such a genuine health concern throughout much of the world, we should try to understand exactly how niacin lowers a person's cholesterol. The process is a roundabout one: first, niacin blocks fat breakdown in fatty tissue, which then alters the level of lipids in the blood stream. Next, these lower blood lipids decrease the number of fatty acids flowing in the blood stream, which stops bad cholesterol (LDL) from being secreted by the liver. And when bad cholesterol is lowered, it increases levels of good cholesterol (HDL), and can do so by as much as 20 to 35 percent.

Again, DO NOT take higher dosages of niacin unless you are under the treatment and supervision of a medical doctor. Niacin in large amounts can affect blood pressure levels, adversely affect digestion, and interact with any other medications you are taking. Also, niacin purchased over the counter is very unreliable in terms of actual amounts. Some brands will contain almost no niacin whatsoever, while others will have levels so high they can be toxic to your liver.

The average person needs only about 14 to 19 milligrams of niacin per day to remain healthy. Good natural sources are whole grain breads, brown rice, mushrooms, seafood, poultry, eggs, and peanuts.

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