History and Characteristics

Niacin, or vitamin B-3, is resistant to heat, light, air, acids and alkalies.

Although the terms niacin and niacinamide are used interchangeably, both forms of vitamin B-3 are different. First, niacin, not niacinamide, can be produced in the body with the aid of one of the essential amino acids, tryptophan: with other necessary vitamins and proteins present to act as catalysts, it takes 60 milligrams of tryptophan to create 1 milligram of niacin in the body. Second, the effects of the two types of vitamin B-3 are different: niacin (nicotinic acid) is a vasodilator (what opens or enlarges the blood vessels) and was first isolated from yeast and rice bran; niacinamide (nicotinamide) lacks the vasodilator ability and was first isolated from liver concentrates. Third, niacinamide, known as the pellagra-preventive factor, or PP, is used to treat certain diseases when the flush created by nicotinic acid is not needed nor desired.

Niacin, a white crystal or powder, is used orally or parenterally to treat such diseases as pellagra, caused by a deficiency of niacin. Niacin is also instrumental as a coenzyme in breaking down and utilizing carbohydrates, fats and proteins. It is necessary in the synthesis of the sex hormones as well as the continued health of the nervous system, the digestive system and the skin.

Niacin is primarily absorbed in the intestines and stored in the liver, heart and muscles in small amounts. Excess is sloughed off in the urine. Niacin can also be synthesized in the colon, providing that thiamine, riboflavin and vitamin B-6 are present to make the catalytic exchange.

Allies: Niacin is most effective when taken with the other vitamins of the vitamin B complex. Vitamin C, which helps protect niacin against the oxidation processes, is also a primary ally.

Antagonists: Excessive sugar consumption, cooking and the use of the antibiotic penicillin will eliminate niacin from the body. The antibiotic chloramphenicol, used primarily for the treatment of typhoid fever, salmonella (food poisoning by bacteria) and rickettsial infections (diseases transmitted by lice, fleas, ticks or mites) is also an antagonist. Alcohol as well as any long-term illness will decrease niacin's effectiveness by inhibiting its assimilation in the intestinal tract. ... .

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