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Niacin, which is also known as vitamin B3, has earned a reputation (in supplement form) as a natural cholesterol-lowering agent that often rivals prescription drugs in mild to moderate cases. It may also help to prevent or treat a number of other disorders.
Normally, the body manages to absorb enough niacin from foods to carry out basic functions, working on the cellular level to keep the digestive system, skin and nerves healthy. This vitamin is also critical to releasing energy from carbohydrates and helping to control blood-sugar levels. Interestingly, the body also synthesizes niacin from tryptophan, an amino acid found in eggs, milk and poultry. Although few people in the industrialized world are actually deficient in niacin, many may benefit from additional amounts in supplement form to help treat assorted complaints.
Keep in mind that each of the three forms of niacin affects the body differently. Niacinamide has notable anti-inflammatory properties, for example, while nicotinic acid and inositol hexaniacinate affect blood lipid levels and circulation.
Specifically, niacin may help to control cholesterol. Unlike most prescription cholesterol-lowering medications, which simply lower levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol and triglycerides, niacin also raises levels of HDL (good) cholesterol. As a result, this vitamin B3 may prove more potent than conventional medicines in ultimately reducing the risk for a heart attack (and death from a heart attack).
In a recent study of people with high cholesterol, niacin not only reduced LDL and triglycerides by 17% and 18%, respectively, but it also increased HDL by 16%. Although both nicotinic acid and inositol hexaniacinate have cholesterol-benefiting actions, inositol hexaniacinate is the preferred form--it doesn't cause skin flushing and poses much less risk of liver damage with long-term use.
Combat Raynaud's disease and other circulatory problems. Niacin improves circulation by relaxing arteries and veins, and disorders characterized by circulation difficulties may benefit as a result. In those suffering from Raynaud's disease, for example, niacin's ability to improve blood flow to the extremities may counter the numbness and pain in the hands and feet that occurs when blood vessels overreact to cold temperatures.
The calf-cramping and other painful symptoms of intermittent claudication, another circulation disorder, may lessen under the vessel-relaxing influence of niacin as well. The inositol hexaniacinate form of niacin works best for circulation-related discomforts.
Fight depression naturally. Based on niacin's well-recognized role in promoting the sound functioning of nerve cells, some experts recommend the vitamin for relieving depression as well as for soothing feelings of anxiety and panic. Most B-vitamin complexes contain sufficient amounts of niacin for this purpose; as an added plus, the complexes also offer the mood-enhancing benefits of other B vitamins.
The anti-inflammatory properties associated with niacinamide may help in calming joint inflammation, a frequent cause of rheumatoid arthritis pain. In a double-blind, 12-week study, osteoarthritis sufferers who received niacinamide supplements reported less inflammation and greater joint flexibility than other participants who were given a placebo. The niacinamide group also required less conventional anti-inflammatory medication to relieve their customary pain and swelling.
High doses of niacinamide, if given at the first signs of the disease, appear to help prevent complications of insulin-dependent diabetes and may even help reverse its development. This complementary supplement treatment should only be undertaken with careful medical supervision, however.
The persistent ringing, humming and buzzing in the ears associated with this condition has been linked to poor blood circulation. By widening blood vessels in the brain, inositol hexaniacinate may help to relieve these and other tinnitus symptoms.
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Directions: As a dietary supplement, take 1 tablet daily.
Warning: Niacin may cause a warm flushing of the skin. This reaction can usually be relieved by drinking one or two glasses of water. If you are pregnant or nursing do not take this product.
Other Ingredients: Calcium phosphate, vegetable cellulose, vegetable stearic acid, vegetable magnesium stearate, silica.