By Huey Freeman
Researchers and physicians have made astonishing claims for decades on the effectiveness of niacin, a relatively unknown vitamin, to prevent and cure a wide array of diseases.
In the recently released second edition of “Niacin: The Real Story,” Dr. Andrew Saul wrote that orthomolecular physicians have found success in preventing cardiovascular disease, reversing arthritis, helping to prevent Alzheimer’s disease, and treating a host of mental illnesses with this B vitamin. Dr. Saul is one of the principal authors of the book. The late Dr. Abram Hoffer, a psychiatrist who treated thousands of patients with niacin, is listed as the leading author.
COVID-19 and Kidney Disease
In a study published in Kidney360 in late 2020, niacin, also known as vitamin B3, was found to reduce mortality in COVID-19 patients suffering from acute kidney injury. Patients who were given daily doses of 1,000 milligrams of niacinamide, a form of niacin, had a 25 percent lower death rate. This COVID-related illness had no known therapy.
Doctors in India observed that niacinamide supplements reduced the recovery time of COVID-19 patients by nearly 30 percent when compared to those receiving only standard care.
Dr. Mukul Gharote, an oncologist, wrote in April 2021 that there was a need to boost innate immunity to prevent viral transmission.
“If we see epidemiology of second wave of COVID-19 in India, it has mainly affected state of Maharashtra, which is contributing almost 50% of the active case load of whole India. Main staple food of Maharashtra is Jowar (sorghum). Jowar has excess leucine13, which inhibits conversion of tryptophan to niacin leading to niacin deficiency, known to cause pellagra,” Dr. Gharote wrote.
He recommended niacinamide as a supportive treatment for COVID-19 and to help prevent transmission.
Dr. Todd Penberthy, author of the chapter on COVID-19 in the niacin book, said he has been obsessed with niacin and its healing properties for 23 years.
“There is research that shows that niacin reverses chronic kidney disease,” Dr. Penberthy, who has his doctorate in biochemistry, told The Epoch Times. “This doesn’t usually happen with other current approaches.”
Niacin is converted into nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD) in the body. NAD is a coenzyme found in every living cell, which works with enzymes to enable chemical reactions to help produce energy.
Viral infectious diseases such as COVID-19 stimulate an immune response that depletes NAD in infected cells and is linked to severe cases of infection.
“You can boost your NAD with high doses of niacin,” Dr. Penberthy said. “The cell will die in 30 seconds without NAD. There are distinct pathways that deplete your NAD, and then the cells die. NAD is required for over 400 gene functions.”
Diabetes and Heart Disease
NAD is required for more than 400 gene functions, according to Dr. Penberthy. The vitamin’s effects can change the course of some of today’s most prevalent diseases. For people concerned about diabetes or heart disease, it could be an important supplement, he suggested.
“It increases their insulin sensitivity and decreases their risk of cardiovascular disease, which is the No. 1 cause of death for diabetics. Niacin has an incredible safety record. I have no concern about adverse events,” he said.
Niacin has been studied for more than 50 years, according to Dr. Penberthy, and many clinical trials have focused on cardiovascular disease, the most common cause of death.
“Niacin is unparalleled in its ability to safely reduce cardiovascular disease risk,” he said.
Major Side Effect Is Longer Life
Mary MacIsaac, a resident of Saskatchewan, Canada, died in 2006 at the age of 112. The second oldest Canadian resident at the time, she skied cross-country and rode horses until she was 110 and played the piano up until her death.
Ms. MacIsaac, who had a clear mind until she died, gave credit for her longevity to niacin, which she took for her final 40 years. Dr. Hoffer wrote that he told all his patients—including Ms. MacIsaac—that they would feel better and live longer if they took niacin.
It’s largely believed that proper nutrition and vitamins promote health, but the role of niacin in promoting longevity isn’t widely known or accepted. Niacin inhibits the depositing of plaque in the arteries, protecting the heart and brain. Niacin proponents say the vitamin has the best record of lowering cholesterol levels, triglycerides, and lipoprotein (a), as well as elevating the levels of high-density cholesterol (HDL), the preferred cholesterol. Only niacin increases HDL significantly, according to Dr. Saul.
Niacin contains anti-aging properties that work on the cellular level. Various studies link cell death to the depletion of NAD, which is produced by niacin. Because many deaths are the result of damage to neurons and blood vessels, the preventative of these events could be classified as an anti-aging substance.
There are few conditions known to shorten life spans as much as alcoholism. Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) co-founder Bill Wilson met Dr. Hoffer and was one of the first alcoholics to be treated with niacin.
Mr. Wilson promoted the philosophy that alcoholics could recover with treatment that was spiritual, mental, and medical. Dr. Hoffer, who had been treating mental patients with niacin, met Mr.Wilson when he was suffering from depression and anxiety after taking his last drink. According to Dr. Hoffer, Mr. Wilson began taking niacin three times per day and “was normal in two weeks.”
Mr. Wilson then persuaded 30 of his AA friends to try niacin. Twenty of them became well within a couple of months. Those results were shared with AA doctors, who agreed that niacin was an effective treatment. There was opposition to the therapeutic use of the vitamin by the AA international headquarters, but Mr. Wilson distributed literature to AA physicians nonetheless, including a booklet titled “The Vitamin B-3 Therapy,” published in February 1968. Mr. Wilson died three years later at the age of 75.
Dr. Hoffer, widely recognized as the greatest authority on the effectiveness of niacin, wrote that the therapeutic use of niacin would be much further advanced if Mr. Wilson hadn’t died so soon after he began spreading the word about the vitamin.
Drs. Hoffer and Saul wrote a book, published in 2008, titled “The Vitamin Cure for Alcoholism,” which included his relationship with the pioneer of 12-step programs.
In “Niacin: The Real Story,” Drs. Saul and Hoffer noted that Mr. Wilson realized that “niacin helps addicts recover from the anxiety, fatigue, depression, and other discomforts they usually suffer.”
“This, in our opinion, is the basis for their use of alcohol or drugs,” they wrote.
Dr. Hoffer died in 2009 at the age of 91.
Dr. Hoffer was known as a supporter of the 12-step program concept for addicts. He wrote that his orthomolecular, nutrition-based program works best alongside the steps of AA. Many alcoholics suffer from gastrointestinal permeability, commonly known as leaky gut. Dr. Hoffer prescribed 100 milligrams daily of niacin, along with abstinence from alcohol and a healthy diet, to heal the gastrointestinal system.
Researchers at the University of São Paulo in Brazil set out in the 2000s to determine the effect of niacin supplementation on intestinal permeability and oxidative stress on patients with alcoholic pellagra, a disease stemming from a lack of niacin in the diet.
Ten patients with pellagra were studied before and after treatment with niacin. After 27 days of treatment, patients showed a significant decrease in permeability. The researchers concluded that pellagra patients could recover to normal gastrointestinal values by treatment with niacin, as well as alcohol abstinence and a balanced diet.
Mental and Physical Health
An epidemic of pellagra—a disease characterized by dementia, diarrhea, dermatitis, and death—ravaged the United States in the 1930s and early ’40s. It was discovered that the root cause of the disease was B3 deficiency. There were about 3 million cases, with about 100,000 reported deaths. This disease especially targeted impoverished Southerners, who died at a higher rate than residents of any other region. After the federal government mandated adding niacinamide to flour, the pellagra epidemic ended.
In the early 1950s, Dr. Hoffer identified the psychosis associated with mental illnesses such as schizophrenia as identical to the psychosis diagnosed in pellagra patients. He conducted a series of double-blind, placebo-controlled studies on nonchronic patients. His tests concluded that the administration of niacin doubled the recovery rate of patients, 75 percent to 35 percent, compared to those who were given placebos. He wrote that once you see schizophrenic patients become normal, “it becomes unforgettable.”
HIV and AIDS
The idea that mental patients could be effectively treated by vitamins would come as news to many in the mental health field. Those treating patients infected with viral diseases might also be surprised to learn that B vitamins have been effective in aiding the recovery of patients with HIV and AIDS. Niacin deficiency is a hindrance to recovery from serious viral infection.
A study of 281 HIV-positive men conducted in 1993 in the Washington area shows that those who took large quantities of multiple vitamins had a relative hazard of their HIV progressing to AIDS of 52 percent compared to those who didn’t take supplements.
The Johns Hopkins University researchers reported that niacin was associated with a significantly decreased progression rate to AIDS. In his comments on the study, Dr. Penberthy said this important seven-year study received little publicity. He said that was odd, because a 50 percent reduction in AIDS cases, just from vitamins, should have been front-page news.
Dr. Penberthy, who penned the chapter that included AIDS, would like to see more research on the benefits of niacin.
“Every single clinical trial that has used niacin is yielding positive results for one indication after another,” he said. “It is unfortunate it is not being tested for many more conditions, particularly anything with the brain.”