Niacin is the name given to vitamin B3 (B-3), a crucial vitamin in a number of illnesses from Alzheimer´s to cancer. Regular daily intake of vitamin B3-rich foods is essential, but even a diet high in B3 foods is no guarantee the benefits will be released without the presence of a healthy gut flora.
Niacin actually refers to several chemically similar forms of vitamin B3, nicotinic acid or PP. It also includes another form of vitamin B3, the amide, nicotinamide. The first time B3 was isolated was from nicotine obtained from tobacco leaves and hence the name. Niacin is a member of the vitamin B family.
It was discovered in the early 19th Century in the South of the USA, where people ate a lot of corn. Although corn contains B3, it is hard to release, and a deficiency led to pellagra the symptoms of which include digestive problems, cracked, discoloured skin, and fatigue. Lime juice can help release the vitamin from corn.
Niacin is a water-soluble vitamin. Mild deficiency seems to be linked to a slower metabolism, weakness, fatigue, intestinal diseases such as IBS and Crohn´s and lack of appetite and deficiency can be caused by alcohol, birth control pills and several drugs.
1) Energy Production
Niacin is critical in two ways:
It helps convert blood sugar to storable carbohydrate in muscles and liver for later use.
Two unique forms of vitamin B3 (called nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide, or NAD, and nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate, or NADP) are essential in the preparation of foodstuffs for energy release in the cells.
2) Cholesterol and fat metabolism
Vitamin B3 seems to help remove fat and thus cholesterol from the blood stream. It is particularly important in the liver, in cellular membranes and even in the production of fat-dependent steroid hormones.
Research shows that higher doses than can be obtained from food do help reduce blood cholesterol levels.
3) Insulin and blood sugar control
Research has repeatedly shown that B3 is involved in insulin production and metabolism, and the reduction of blood sugar levels. The exact process is as yet unknown.
4) DNA formation
B3 is essential to the correct formation of the material of your genetic code; your DNA. A lack of B3 has been correlated to genetic damage.
Components of the primary genetic material in our cells, called deoxyribose nucleic acid (DNA) require vitamin B3 for their production, and deficiency of vitamin B3 (like deficiency of other B-complex vitamins) has been directly linked to genetic (DNA) damage. The relationship between vitamin B3 and DNA damage appears to be particularly important in relationship to cancer and its prevention.
5) Brain Function
Cholesterol is an important constituent of the brain and niacin is essential in its metabolism.
Research in 2004 (The Chicago Health and Aging Project: Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry) showed that B3 could protect against dementia and Alzheimer´s disease. In a six year study involving nearly 4000 people those with the highest intake of niacin (at least 22 milligrams per day) were 70 per cent less likely to develop Alzheimer´s than those consuming the least.
But what about cancer?
Clearly, a deficiency of any vitamin that is involved in building new copies of your DNA is crucial in the formation of cancer.
A further indication of the involvement of B3 came with 2010 research into beneficial bacteria and the production of sodium butyrate in the gut from certain foods. The researchers concluded that this ´chemica;l´ could actually kill cancer cells and recommended (because sodium butyrate tastes foul) that
people should increase their B3 levels to obtain the same effect!
The health of your gut is a critical factor in whether or not you have adequate levels of niacin in your body. See below.
Natural sources include (in descending concentrations): mushrooms, tuna, grains, asparagus, beef liver, sea vegetables, venison and chicken.
Your body can convert the amino acid tryptophan to niacin, with a little help from vitamins B1 and B6, vitamin C and iron. Tryptophan is typically found in lean protein like chicken breast, turkey, salmon, tuna and prawns. Thus tryptophan deficiency can also lead to B3 deficiency; as can a deficiency of vitamins B1 and B6.
Vitamin B-12 deficiency can also cause B3 deficiency.
The Importance of Beneficial Bacteria
A deficiency of B3 is now known to be linked to digestive problems including Crohn´s and IBS. But is this cause, or effect? For too long scientists have concluded that vitamin deficiencies like B3, Folic Acid, Biotin and B-12 caused digestive problems. Now a host of research studies including clinical trials shows that it is essential to have a strong population of intestinal beneficial bacteria in order to release these vitamins from your food. At the same time other research has shown such bacteria release short chain esters into the blood stream. These have the effect of reducing bad cholesterol.
If you have cancer and decide to eat a ´Healthy Diet´ (see our book: The Rainbow Diet and how it can help you beat cancer), you must ensure you have an adequate presence of beneficial bacteria in the gut. You should consider taking a multi-strain probiotic, especially if you have been taking antibiotics and other drugs.
The issue with supplementation is the form of niacin taken. Many cheaper supplements use nicotinic acid, which has research to support its cholesterol-lowering abilities. But this form does have side-effects. The ´safer´ form to take is nicotinamide which is less able to deliver heart and cholesterol benefits but is used for pregnancy and children.
But - and it´s a big ´but´ - the great majority of cheaper High Street ´multivitamins´ and even B Complex products contain NO VITAMIN B3. Make sure you buy a good product!
Supplementation for adults has a maximum daily limit set in the USA at 35 milligrams.
You ignore this seemingly minor vitamin at your peril. A deficiency is linked to high cholesterol, heart problems, diabetes, dementia and cancer. What more is there? Just be sure if you are supplementing using a general multivitamin or B Complex that it is a top quality natural product actually containing vitamin B3.
If you are already considering supplementing with vitamin B3 you might like to look at the Natural Selection Advanced B Complex
product. This B Complex is natural - for example it contains the natural methyl-, not the synthetic cyano-, form of cobalmine as B-12 and contains adequate levels of vitamin B-3. You can see for yourself by clicking HERE.
Please be clear: At CANCERactive we do not consider the above compound to be a cure for cancer, despite what the research says or experts doing the research may claim. The above, is an article on the compound from published research and expert opinion in the public domain. At CANCERactive we do not believe that any single compound (drug, vitamin, whatever) is a cure for cancer. We believe that people can significantly increase their personal odds of survival by building an Integrated Programme of treatments. Equally, cancer prevention is best practiced through a width of measures.