This nicotinic acid is the subject of a fairly heated debate over its possibly fantastic properties when it comes to anti-aging, Schizophrenia, and alcoholism.
This article is mostly going to focus on decoding what the human data is saying about Vitamin B3 and how this squares up with the anecdotal experiences of the Biohacking community. For more of my own personal experiences, thoughts, and comparisons please see the written and video reviews of the different products in the sidebar.
It has been widely studied worldwide both as a Nootropic and general health promoting agent with nearly 400 human clinical trials published. Its most prolific use is treating high Cholesterol.
Niacin vs Niacinamide vs Nicotinamide
Niacin turns into Niacinamide in the body. Nicotinamide is just a different name for Niacinamide. They are also sometimes referred to as Nicotinic acid — not to be confused with nicotine, the addictive agent in cigarettes.
A few key differences…
- Niacin and Niacinamide share the same psychiatric benefits. Niacinamide does not cause a flush, which some may appreciate.
- Niacinamide is not a cholesterol hack like Niacin.
- Niacinamide is more bioavailable, an imperfect metaphor, that should make sense to biohackers would be to say that Niacinamide is to Niacin what Alpha GPC is to Choline.
They all end up being converted into NAD+ and NADH, which are promising antiaging agents.
The ‘Niacin flush’
Niacin will produce a warming, energizing sensation in your face and skin for 15 to 30 minutes. If the Niacin flush is too much for you, the following will reduce the sensation:
- Taking an Aspirin
- A cold meal or drink
- Taking it before a meal
Interestingly, the Niacin flush seems to be an indicator of general mental health, a 2015 Swedish study on schizophrenia stated:
The small group of niacin non-responding patients exhibited an even lower overall test performance. Delayed niacin flush also correlated inversely with psychomotor function and IQ in the patients.
Cognition and autonomic function in schizophrenia: inferior cognitive test performance in…
Eur Psychiatry. 2015 Jan;30(1):8-13. doi: 10.1016/j.eurpsy.2014.06.004. Epub 2014 Aug 29. Research Support, Non-U.S…
So I may start offering Vitamin B3 to the woman I date, if they flush then it’s a good sign, if not I’ll plan my escape. Sound like a good strategy to avoid the crazies?
This Vitamin falls under the shadow of Abram Hoffer, PhD, MD, a hotly debated character in the annals of psychiatric history. A Youtube search of Dr. Hoffer will produce several videos worth watching of this charming old doctor harshly criticizing Psychiatry for not curing the suffering but merely pushing pills.
Conspiracy theories about the pharmaceutical-psychiatric industrial complex abound in regards to Dr. Hoffer’s ostensibly debunked studies.
What’s not debated is that he was a quintessential healer and highly committed to the advancement of orthomolecular medicine.
Pellagra is a tragic vitamin deficiency disease that humans in poor and nutritionally deficient communities have suffered from since time immemorial. Niacin was discovered by an Austrian chemist in the 1800’s who originally named it Vitamin PP (as in Pellagra Preventing) since it cured the disease so effectively.
Abram Hoffer, PhD, MD, conducted some double-blind studies in the 1950s ‘curing’ Schizophrenics with Vitamin B3.
This is hotly debated online but definitely falls under the category of things worth trying if you are dealing with something as horrifying as Schizophrenia. You can find a handful of reports of Schizophrenics improving while taking Niacin, for example:
“When I got myself out of the mental hospital I read an article about Abram Hoffer’s work with niacin and started taking 3,000 mg a day. It completely changed my life and is part of what continues to contribute to my better balance to this day at age 59. “
My life story schizophrenia anhedonia - Mental Health
My life story schizophrenia anhedonia - posted in Mental Health: Hello everyone (once again) I'm running out of ideas…
Another interesting account appears in a book published in 1998:
“…his Mom and Dad somehow got him to take 3,000 milligrams of niacin and 10,000 mg of vitamin C. Formally a hyperactive insomniac, he responded by sleeping for 18 hours the first night and becoming surprisingly normal within days. I’d seen him before, and I saw him after. I’d talked to his parents during the whole process. It was an astounding improvement.”
DoctorYourself.com - Review of VITAMIN B-3 AND SCHIZOPHRENIA
For 50 years, Abram Hoffer, MD, has successfully used niacin therapy to reverse mental illness. His experience is…
Dr. Hoffer recommends Vitamin B6 along with Niacin for Schizophrenics.
In an interesting episode of history, Dr. Hoffer introduced the founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, Bill Wilson, to LSD therapy for alcoholics. Dr. Hoffer also introduced Vitamin B3 to Wilson as an option for treating Alcoholism:
“Bill was very curious about it and began to take niacin, 3 g daily. Within a few weeks fatigue and depression which had plagued him for years were gone. He gave it to 30 of his close friends in AA and persuaded them to try it. Within 6 months he was convinced that it would be very helpful to alcoholics. Of the thirty, 10 were free of anxiety, tension and depression in one month. Another 10 were well in two months.”
They went on to conduct studies on much larger groups, the data produced was optimistic:
A five-year longitudinal field trial of nicotinic acid was conducted on 507 known alcoholics to determine what effects and benefits might result. Our experience strongly suggests that:
1. Nicotinic acid can benefit 50 to 60 percent of alcoholics in the organic stage.
2. Nicotinic acid can benefit about 30 percent of the total alcoholic population.
Orthomolecular Ortho Molecular Peter's Promise Peter Leeds " Article " Alcoholism - A Five-Year…
Several factors originally intrigued us concerning the possible benefits of massive doses of nicotinic acid in the…
Niacin is an inexpensive, and a potentially transformative option worth the consideration of those struggling with alcoholism.
Another interesting case study is that of a Canadian officer that suffered for 4 years in a Japanese concentration camp in World War 2. Dr. Hoffer introduced him to Niacin, he began taking it and experienced significant recovery of some of the crippling disabilities he acquired while interred. Niacin was administered to numerous other prisoners of war who experienced similar recovery. Dr. Hoffer pondered:
“…every human exposed to severe stress and malnutrition for a long enough period of time will develop a permanent need for large amounts of this vitamin and perhaps for several others. This is happening on a large scale in Africa where the combination of starvation, malnutrition and brutality is reproducing the conditions suffered by the veterans. Those who survive will be permanently damaged biochemically, and will remain a burden to themselves and to the community where they live. Will society have the good sense to help them recover by making this vitamin available to them in optimum doses?”
I doubt it…
It is hypothesized to promote mitochondrial biogenesis and DNA repair. Niacin also helps repair DNA and the production of hormones by the adrenal gland.
2014 UK paper stated in regards to its antiaging and cognition affecting properties:
Meat offers significant sourcing challenges and lack causes a deficiency of nicotinamide and tryptophan and consequently the energy carrier nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD) that gets consumed in regulatory circuits important for survival, resulting in premature ageing, poor cognition and brain atrophy… we propose a hypothetical hypervitaminosis B3… as the trade-off for increased brain power and longevity, a recently evolved human characteristic.
Big brains, meat, tuberculosis and the nicotinamide switches: co-evolutionary relationships with…
Med Hypotheses. 2014 Jul;83(1):79-87. doi: 10.1016/j.mehy.2014.04.003. Epub 2014 Apr 13. Research Support, Non-U.S…
Women’s bodies naturally convert more Tryptophan into Niacin than men’s, Dr. Hoffman hypothesizes that this is evidence of Niacin’s antiaging properties:
Women, on average, live longer then men. It has been shown for men that giving them niacin increases their longevity.  Is the increased longevity in women the result of greater conversion of tryptophan into niacin under the stimulus of their increase in estrogen production?
Obesity vs Antiaging
However, there’s some debate in regards to its anti-aging properties, a 2003 paper, Key Gene For Life Extension By Calorie Restriction Identified, stated:
Researchers at Harvard Medical School (HMS) have discovered that a gene in yeast is a key regulator of lifespan. The gene, PNC1, is the first that has been shown to respond specifically to environmental factors known to affect lifespan in many organisms… Sinclair’s group previously found that nicotinamide acts as an inhibitor of Sir2, the founding member of a family of proteins that control cell survival and lifespan.
Gene That Extends Lifespan In Yeast Points To Paradigm Shift In Longevity Research; May Explain…
Researchers at Harvard Medical School (HMS) have discovered that a gene in yeast is a key regulator of lifespan. The…
A 2010 Dalian University paper, Chronic niacin overload may be involved in the increased prevalence of obesity in US children, concluded:
The appetite-stimulating effect of nicotinamide appears to involve oxidative stress. Excess niacin consumption may be a major factor in the increased obesity prevalence in US children.
Chronic niacin overload may be involved in the increased prevalence of obesity in US children. …
World J Gastroenterol. 2010 May 21;16(19):2378-87. Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
It’s been firmly established in the arena of antiaging that calorie restriction increases longevity, it would seem that Niacin works counter to that. While its antiaging benefit probably outweighs its cost, it’s probably not the best long term longevity supplementation option, especially if you are already at risk for obesity.
The conclusion I’ve reached is that B3 has weaker evidence of being a true Nootropic, of the 400 human clinical studies only a handful mentioned cognition and of those few had any strong statements where the researchers concluded it made a big difference in the cognition of the human subjects. The majority of the studies mentioning Nootropic effects were speaking about taking Niacin in combination with other B vitamins.
A 2013 Mount Sinai School of Medicine study stated:
Our studies suggest that dietary treatment with [Nicotinamide riboside] might benefit [Alzheier’s disease] cognitive function and synaptic plasticity…
I remain skeptical that it individually has Nootropic value as an enhancing agent for otherwise healthy people.
Its most popular usage is lowering high cholesterol, it’s also good for circulation issues.
Niacinamide is also used in combination with Vitamin C for cancer therapy.
The endogenic nicotinamide has a tranquilizing and stress-protective activity.
There are no studies linking Niacin and anxiety, however, you’ll find numerous anecdotal reports online of Niacin helping the chronically anxious. To quote Turnbuckle:
“ I took B3 every day for decades and found it was good for both mood and mental acuity.”
“[regarding] hunger or lack of appetite, it depends on the circumstance. If you you’re fasting or on a low-carb diet (with low calories), this means that you’re running on fat. In this case, sudden clearance of [free fatty acids] from the bloodstream will result in insane hunger — and will greatly upregulate autophagy. For example, I’m afraid of trying niacin during a fast…”
As little as 500 milligrams of Niacinamide, can apparently bring on these cravings. This hunger is apparently really unpleasant for some, Hebbeh reported:
“I simply cannot tolerate the insatiable hunger brought on by higher doses of niacinamide.”
This makes this vitamin a good option for those trying to gain weight but is obviously a concern for those at risk for obesity.
Often described as ‘no flush Niacin’ with 25 articles of scientific literature published. The primary difference between this and the other forms of Niacin is that Inositol Hexanicotinate releases much slower, reaching peak plasma levels as much as 6 hours after dosing.
"Inositol Hexanicotinate"[Title/Abstract] - PubMed - NCBI
PubMed comprises more than 29 million citations for biomedical literature from MEDLINE, life science journals, and…
A combination of Niacin and Gaba, developed in 1969 it’s another Nootropic from behind the iron curtain. Picamilon is less studied with around 20 results on Pubmed, and a handful of human studies.
"Picamilon"[Title/Abstract] - PubMed - NCBI
PubMed comprises more than 29 million citations for biomedical literature from MEDLINE, life science journals, and…
In Russia it’s a prescription drug used to treat these illnesses:
- Ischemic stroke
- Acute alcohol intoxication
- Senile psychosis
Fish — Yellowfish tuna
Chicken & Turkey (Cooked Chicken Breast)
Pork (Cooked Lean Chop)
Liver (Cooked Lamb Liver)
Mushrooms (Grilled Portobello)
Green Peas (Fresh)
Coffee (1 cup = .5 milligrams)
It’s synthesized from tryptophan. Niacin and Niacinamide are water soluble so when taken in pill form also have a drink of water.
With the exception of NAD+ and Picamilon, it’s a quite affordable supplement.
$9 1000 Milligrams Capsules (120 Count)
$9 1000 Milligrams Capsules (100 Count)
$19 500 Grams (Powdered)
$22 100 Milligrams Capsules (30 Count)
$12 800 Milligrams (100 Count)
$18 150 Milligrams (90 count)
Unsurprisingly there’s some debate here as well…
500 milligrams — 1500 milligrams Healthy people
1.5–3.5 Grams Treating Alcoholism, Schizophrenia, etc
Some literature advises against taking over 3.5 grams daily of Niacin but Dr. Hoffer describes schizophrenics taking as much as 10 grams of Niacin and 30 grams of nicotinic acid daily.
Diarrhea; dizziness; headache; itching; nausea; stomach upset; temporary feeling of warmth or flushing of the skin.
Consuming over 3.5 grams daily can result in a host of nasty conditions: irregular heartbeat, liver disease, increased risk of stroke and digestive tract issues.
The urine test myth; apparently there’s this urban legend that large doses of B3 will mask the traces of narcotic drugs in a urine test, this is not true and significant amounts of B3 can cause organ failures. There are multiple cases of (dumbasses!) hurting themselves this way, don’t be one of them!
WebMD reports major interactions with Arava (leflunomide) and leflunomide.
I categorize Vitamin B3 as something definitely worth trying to address serious issues like alcoholism, Schizophrenia, and anxiety. It’s anti-aging benefits you can get more directly from supplementing NAD+. I’m definitely going to try it myself but at this point, I don’t see sufficient evidence for me to recommend it as something for otherwise healthy people to use it for enhancement or antiaging.