People mistakenly think of niacin as just another B vitamin that doctors tell you to take. There are eight essential B vitamins that should be included in your diet. However, it’s worth considering adding either a B vitamin complex or niacin (vitamin B3) supplement to ensure that you are receiving all of the benefits possible for niacin.
History of Niacin
Niacin is called the B3 vitamin because it was the third B vitamin discovered.1 It must be added to the body through either the food you eat or as a supplement. While it can be added to your diet through red meat, fish, and liver, there are some people who don’t eat enough of these foods to get their daily allowance.
In fact, pellagra is a disease caused by a lack of niacin. This disease was widespread in much of human history without a known remedy. Originally, people who suffered from pellagra exhibited symptoms including confusion, delusions, diarrhea, and scaly skin sores. However, after a United States doctor in the early 1900s figured out it was due to a niacin deficiency, it was a simple cure.2
Even a mild niacin deficiency can lead to health consequences today. And while you may be getting enough niacin through your diet or supplements, there could be a problem with the absorption of it in the body due to digestive problems. For instance, if you are allergic or intolerant to gluten, you have a greater chance of being niacin deficient.
Niacin as a Nootropic
In addition to its general importance in the body, there are certain nootropic benefits to be aware of when considering adding niacin to your diet. Nootropics, also dubbed “smart drugs,” are supplements that have been shown to improve overall brain health and cognitive abilities and are quickly growing in popularity.
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Some of the nootropic benefits of niacin, in particular, are highlighted below.
Increases Cellular Energy
Niacin is a precursor to nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD) which is responsible for proper brain function. Think of NAD as an electron carrier that can provide the electrons required to increase energy in cells.3
By providing the boost that is needed for ATP synthesis, niacin can improve cognition, focus, memory, and processing speed. Additionally, it can potentially regulate the aging brain and keep tissue damage at a minimum.4
Increases Attention Span
As more people are getting diagnosed with attention deficit issues, it is important to realize that it may be possible to improve attention span with niacin.
In a book written by Dr. William Kaufman nearly 70 years ago, he observed people who were unfocused and displayed tendencies of being unable to completely finish tasks. He noticed positive improvements in the attention spans of these patients when they were provided niacin.6
Remedies Stress and Anxiety
While there is no decisive clinical study that can be pointed to that proclaims niacin can treat stress and anxiety, there are several people that swear by it to help shake the blues and lift feelings of anxiousness.7 Many people have had positive results for remedying symptoms of these issues by simply adding niacin to their diet.
Safety and Precautions
Taking niacin in the recommended dose is, for the most part, perfectly safe, but keep the dose at 2,000 mg per day or less, unless otherwise advised by a physician. On average adults take between 14 to 16 mg of niacin daily.8
A normal dose of niacin will often cause skin flushing characterized by patches of redness on your face. In higher doses, niacin can produce dizziness, a fast heartbeat, itching, nausea, stomach pain, diarrhea, and liver damage. There is no need to take such high doses, but if you do and you start experiencing these symptoms, seek out medical attention.
These types of precautions should be taken into consideration with every vitamin or supplement that you are taking.
The million dollar question is whether you should add niacin to your daily routine. If you are experiencing a decline in cognitive abilities or simply want to enhance your cognitive function, you might want to start with asking if you have enough niacin in your diet.
Be sure to start a journal a few days before you begin taking niacin and keep it going through the weeks ahead. Detail your experiences so you can look back and see your progress, which may help you decide if you’d like to continue taking it.
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