Are you aware of all of the benefits that niacin can offer? More often than not, many people seek out flush-free niacin because of the intense side effects that can occur in some (reddening of the skin, heat sensation, itching) all due to the increased blood flow response. If you have ever experienced how intense the niacin flush can be, you know what we’re talking about! While this reaction is different for everyone, and some don’t experience it at all, it still turns people away from using a high dose of plain niacin and instead, seeking out a delayed release niacin supplement that minimizes the flush effects.
Scientists and Designer Foods creators Durk Pearson and Sandy Shaw have studied and researched the effects and benefits of consuming a high dose plain niacin supplement, and have even been taking it themselves for several years. They have experienced first hand niacin’s benefits especially regarding its anti-inflammatory properties associated with the niacin flush variety.
In multiple papers and letters Durk and Sandy explain that the niacin flush is actually a vascular protective mechanism. At the cellular level, prostaglandin D2 (PGD2) is the molecule responsible for the event of niacin flushing. Studies have shown that PGD2’s synthesis occurs in the heart and that the enzymes involved in PGD2’s production are at the center of this vascular protective mechanism.
The vascular system or circulatory system is made up of all of our veins, vessels, and capillaries that carry blood and other nutrients to our organs so that they can perform all of their actions and processes to keep us alive. The anti-inflammatory/ vascular protection that occurs with a flushing niacin supplement is related to reducing the risk of atherosclerosis which is at the root of many health concerns and conditions (2). Excess amounts of plaque in the vascular system can lead to heart conditions, stroke, alzheimer’s, and many more complications. In addition to its lipid-lowering ability, the niacin flush has also been connected with a reduced risk of type II diabetes, ulcerative colitis, and even male pattern baldness.
It is important to stress again that the immediate-release or plain niacin, that induces a niacin flush, are most successful in promoting the anti-inflammatory benefits. Studies have shown that niacin of the flush-free variety did not have any anti-inflammatory effects. In one study a patient was prescribed extended release niacin in order to increase his good cholesterol. After no changes for 6 months it was found that the patient had opted for a cheaper, off brand of niacin that actually ended up being flush free. The doctor, after finding this out, made sure the correct prescription was filled, and the patient started to see changes in his cholesterol in as early as 12 weeks.
As with any supplement, some caution should be exercised when taking high dose plain niacin. In some cases, this variation can cause liver problems, so getting your liver checked periodically is necessary. As mentioned, the flushing skin response may be too intense for some individuals. Like everything we take, the effects are different for everyone, so listen to your body and consult with your doctor.
If you are someone who is wanting to include more niacin in your diet, please consider these products: