Niacin (or nicotinic acid as it’s referred to in medical circles) was the third B vitamin to be discovered (hence the name B3). It wasn’t until about 1943, though, that a couple of doctors reported that niacin worked wonders in relieving the pain and stiffness associated with arthritis. Niacin has a unique characteristic. If you haven’t experienced it personally, you’ve probably heard about the “flush” niacin can cause.
As little as 50 mg of niacin can cause a flush in some people. While not dangerous, it can be uncomfortable, or even alarming, if you aren’t prepared for it. (Personally, I somewhat enjoy the sensation.) Niacin causes the blood vessels to dilate or open up near the skin, which results in a hot, tingling sensation accompanied by a red flushing of the skin.
Generally, by starting with low amounts of niacin (50 to 100 mg a day) and gradually increasing the dosage, a person can quickly build up a tolerance and avoid the flush. Taking niacin immediately following a meal will also lessen the flushing sensation. Since niacin isn’t something that drug companies can patent, it’s of little interest to them. But whatever you do, don’t overlook niacin’s potential just because it’s been around so long, or because it sounds like too simple of a solution.
Keep in mind that all of the B vitamins actually work in conjunction with each other—which means you can expect better results if you take niacin or along with a good multivitamin that contains a broad balance of B vitamins.
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