Over the years, niacin has received some entirely undeserved bad press.
And that’s a real shame considering how much it has going for it. For example, niacin can help relieve arthritis pain, lower cholesterol and triglycerides, benefit the heart and treat depression and insomnia.
Now, researchers from the University of Pennsylvania have taken a new look at how some people react badly to a harmless side effect called the “niacin flush.” But without meaning to, the study actually highlights one of the best techniques you can use to prevent it.
It’s just a shame, however, that the Pennsylvania team had to go and put a nasty spin on it.
If you’ve ever tried niacin — especially in a high dose — you’ve probably experienced the niacin flush. Your skin might start tingling at first, followed by a prickly, burning sensation and a noticeable facial blushing.
And if it’s not something you’re already familiar with, you might think you’ve come down with a sudden strange illness!
So enter Big Pharma with a plan to fix it by cooking up a drug called laropiprant to help modify the flushing effect. By combining it with niacin, drugmakers would have a unique product they could patent and sell for much more than you’d pay for a simple bottle of the vitamin.
But laropiprant turned out to be a bust. Not only did it come along with some other unpleasant side effects, it actually made niacin less effective. It was such a disaster that even the FDA wouldn’t approve it, and the combo only sold in Europe (where it was withdrawn several years ago).
But unfortunately, lots of those misleading stories saying niacin is somehow dangerous were based on studies in which patients took the niacin/laropiprant combo.
Now, researchers from the University of Pennsylvania have set out to uncover new information about the flush effect.
They started, however, by putting a completely negative and inaccurate spin on what the flush is. Or rather, what it’s not.
In the very first sentence of their report, they refer to the flush as “Niacin-Associated Skin Toxicity.” And they condense that to a cutesy acronym: NASTy.
NASTy? I’ll say! It’s a lowdown way to treat such a safe and beneficial supplement. But by far the worst word in that phrase is “toxicity.”
Niacin is not toxic. Even in higher “therapeutic” doses, there is no toxicity at all. So to imply that the flush effect is a response to toxins is irresponsible and highly misleading.
After that reckless start, the study turns out to be somewhat useful. Researchers used several measuring tools to assess response to niacin under different conditions in 16 volunteers.
And what they found surprised them. Volunteers were less put off by intense, uncomfortable flushing than they were to flushing that came on rapidly. When the heat occurred gradually, most volunteers found it tolerable.
This is the first in-depth study to use high-tech measuring tools like laser Doppler and contract thermometry. But ironically, all those advanced techniques just ended up telling us what we’ve already known.
With niacin, it’s best to start slow.
Any doctor who’s smart enough to recommend niacin over a statin drug should also be aware of the non-toxic niacin flush effect. Likewise, they should also be clued in to one of the best ways to reduce it.
And it couldn’t be simpler: Start with smaller doses, and slowly work your way up. Don’t rush it.
Many people also have had success in reducing niacin flush with two more simple steps. They take their daily niacin supplements with meals, and they drink plenty of water with each supplement.
In return, you’ll get a whole host of benefits — number one being heart support. For those concerned about cholesterol, your LDL will likely go down. More importantly, triglycerides may drop, too, which will not only help your heart, but also reduce the type of inflammation that’s at the root of virtually all chronic diseases.
With less inflammation, many arthritis patients find relief with niacin supplements. Research also shows that niacin might improve your memory while helping you sleep better too.
Could it get any better? Actually it can. Because niacin is one of the least expensive supplements you can buy.
On top of all that, it’s easy to boost your niacin intake from your diet. Beef, chicken, tuna, salmon, and peanuts are all excellent sources.
Just remember the all-important rule of thumb when getting started: Take it slow.
“Study paints clearer picture of ‘NASTY’ side effects from well-known heart drug” Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania” February 6, 2017, ScienceDaily, sciencedaily.com