Home » Health » Niacin Flushing: Benefits, Uses, and Side Effects
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What Is Niacin Flush?
Taking supplemental niacin, also known as vitamin B3, in high doses may lead to a common but harmless side effect called âniacin flush.â It is marked by red flushing of the skin that can cause burning, itchiness, and discoloration. But are there any potential health benefits of niacin flush?
Niacin plays a role in converting food to energy to be used by the body. Most people would get enough from their dietâitâs found in foods like turkey, chicken, peanuts, mushrooms, tuna in high amountsâor from a daily multivitamin.
Doctors commonly prescribe high doses of supplemental niacin to help patients with high cholesterol in hopes of lowering their risk for heart disease. High doses of the nutrient have been found to:
- Increase production of âgoodâ HDL cholesterol
- Lower release of âbadâ LDL cholesterol
- Lower triglyceride levels
The flush is particularly prevalent in people who use the vitamin to manage cholesterol. The symptoms of niacin flush, redness and discomfort on the face that may travel down your upper body, usually appear within 15 to 30 minutes after taking it, and subside in about an hour.
There are two common forms of supplemental niacin. Nicotinic acid is typically used to treat high cholesterol, and is the form that leads to niacin flush. The other, niancinamide, does not cause flushing but also doesnât significantly affect triglycerides.
Patients have also described niacin flush as providing immense relief from the pain and stiffness of arthritis.
The way the niacin flush and the purported benefits it provides work is simple; it causes the blood vessels near the skin to open up or dilate so that more blood can rush through, often taking as little as 50 mg.
While this flush may feel uncomfortable and even alarming to some people, it is completely safe, and some even find it to be pleasant because of the relief it brings to arthritis symptoms.
In This Article:
- What Are the Potential Benefits of Niacin Flush?
- Niacin Flush: Miscellaneous Uses
- Precautions to Take when Taking Niacin (Vitamin B3)
What Are the Potential Benefits of Niacin Flush?
Although niacin flush can lead to some immediate discomfort, it may actually provide some useful health benefits.
These benefits largely have to do with increased blood flow caused by capillary expansion, as well as niacinâs reported ability to improve fat metabolism, but there may be some other acute impacts supplied by a megadose of niacin.
Some individuals have applied the term âniacin flushâ to mean âflushing the systemâ with niacin to achieve a desired result. In these cases, the form of niacin could either be niacinamide (no rash or irritation) or nicotinic acid (rash and irritation).
1. Niacin Flush Benefits for Arthritis
As mentioned earlier, the niacin flush, its benefits, and its results are said to be great for patients who suffer from arthritis. But for true relief, taking niacinamide is recommended for the best results, since it opens blood vessels deep within the skin closer to the joints.
If you suffer from moderate arthritis, taking 1,000 to 1,500 mg of niacinamide is recommended. While it may not provide the same flush, the benefits youâll enjoy will become noticeable when your pain begins to ease. For those suffering from more severe cases of arthritis, you may need to take 3,000 to 4,000 mg of niacinamide a day.
Regardless of the size of the dose youâre taking, you should divide it up into five or six doses throughout the day, letting your doctor know beforehand.
2. Niacin Flush Benefits for Cholesterol & Triglycerides
If youâre looking to lower your blood lipids (cholesterol and triglycerides) in a cost-effective manner, niacin flush benefits even extend to this, as taking 1,000 to 3,000 mg a day could lower your âbadâ low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol by up to 20% .
In addition to reducing harmful cholesterol, large doses of niacin supplements may also boost âgoodâ high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol by up to 40%. This offers major cardioprotective effects against coronary heart disease.
Niacin supplementation can also have a positive impact on total triglycerides, lowering blood levels by up to 50%.
Studies have shown that high levels of niacin interact with digestive enzymes and cholesterol metabolism to encourage heart-healthy results.
It should be noted that niacin is not necessarily the first line of defense against high cholesterol, and is often prescribed by doctors when patients donât respond well to statin medication. If you do elect to try and manage cholesterol with niacin, talk to your doctor first.
3. Niacin Flush Benefits for Heart Disease
Given the previous niacin flush benefits, it should come as no surprise that it may be highly effective in treating heart disease. Patients suffering from heart disease who were given niacin reported lower rates of illness and death than those who did not receive it.
Another study surprisingly found that taking niacin regularly actually reversed the signs of heart disease in patients with genetically related cholesterol issues.
A niacin flush benefits heart disease patients by opening blood vessels to improve circulation to parts of the body that are otherwise starved for oxygen and nutrition. It also helps to lower LDL blood fats linked to heart disease as well as cancer.
Additionally, niacin also improves blood sugar problems and is an affordable alternative to some of the more expensive heart medication on the market.
4. Niacin Flush Benefits for Senility and Memory Loss
In a study Dr. Abram Hoffer, one of niacinâs biggest advocates, patients suffering from dementia and memory loss who were given 1,000 mg of niacin a day reported improvements in their memory. In fact, in one of Dr. Hofferâs studies, five out of 10 patients totally recovered and two showed a marked improvement.
5. Niacin Flush Benefits for Insomnia
You may think that opening blood vessels, one of the niacin flush benefits, would be the last thing you would need if you were having trouble sleeping.
However, there is evidence that niacinamide taken before going to bed can help you get to sleep, since it activates benzodiazepine receptors in the brain; a dose of 50 right up to 1,000 mg is recommended. Niacin can be taken as well, since the body converts it to niacinamide.
6. Niacin Flush Benefits for Detoxifying Your Body
There is a myth circulating that a big hit of niacin can help skew the results of a drug test. While some argue that the technique successfully clears the body of drug metabolites by speeding up the bodyâs breakdown of fats (where most traces are found), the results can be very dangerous.
Niacin has not been conclusively proven to âdetoxâ the body of drugs or flush them from your system, nor âremove toxinsâ that may be present in the body.
If this drug detox is something youâve heard about or considered, donât do it because the effects can be life-threatening. If youâre taking a measured approach to remove potential toxins from drug use and featuring niacin as part of your treatment, do it under a doctorâs guidance with gradual, incremental dosage increases.
7. Niacin Flush Benefits for Digestion
Niacin is part of the B-vitamin complex and is therefore beneficialâin fact, essentialâfor digestion. Will taking a megadose provide any noticeable changes? Itâs highly unlikely.
B vitamins arenât stored in your body, so taking a 1,000 mg today will not necessarily produce long-term benefits (the recommended daily intake is 14 to 16 mg). Being deficient in niacin, however, can impact your ability to digest and absorb nutrients and potentially lead to a very rare condition called pellagra.
In short, you need niacin to digest food; you just donât need excessively high dosages. Instead, opt for meeting daily targets through foodâitâs pretty easy to do whether or not you eat meat.
8. Niacin Flush Benefits to Treat Pellagra
As noted above, pellagra is a very rare health condition that can result from a deficiency of vitamin B3. For most healthy people, pellagra is extremely unlikely, and the risk generally applies to alcohol abusers or people living with HIV/AIDS.
If youâre suffering from one of these conditions and are interested in looking into treating it with niacinâsuch treatment is approved by the FDAâconsult with a physician.
Niacin Flush: Miscellaneous Uses
If you suffer from a niacin deficiency, you may be especially sensitive to the sun. Taking 200 mg a day, along with the proper precautions to protect against the sun, means you can enjoy outdoor activities.
Taking 200 to 300 mg of niacin before flying or driving can also help to reduce the symptoms of motion sickness. It is also effective in treating acne.
Since it opens blood vessels, niacin flush benefits include improving circulating in diabetics and stimulating the production of hydrochloric acid in the stomach. For anyone suffering from ear-related ailments such as deafness, vertigo, or tinnitus, niacin flush benefits include opening the blood flow to the ear.
Itâs even been reported that if women take niacin 15 to 20 minutes before sex, it can also encourage the production of vaginal mucous in women, eliminating the need for use of lubricants that many women have to use as they get older. For all of the above, it may require as little as 100 to 200 mg of niacin a day.
Precautions to Take when Taking Niacin (Vitamin B3)
Although niacin is required for optimal health and high doses can provide benefits in certain populations, that doesnât mean it is always safe or without some risk. Niacin flush symptoms such as itching; burning; and reddening of the face, neck, chest, and shoulders are completely harmless. In rare cases, however, more serious health risks apply.
If you consistently take in too much of any substance, whether alcohol, sugar, protein, or an essential vitamin, it can become toxic and lead to problems in the liver. Avoid time-released niacin at all costs, since it has been shown to cause liver damage.
Niacin can also:
- Cause irritation to the lining of the stomach, producing aches and cramping; avoid use if you have an ulcer or active bleeding.
- Cause birth defects; avoid taking it during pregnancy.
- Cause gout complications due to the uric acid content
There are also associations between consistent, high-doses of niacin and:
- Gastrointestinal problems
- Glucose Intolerance
- Low blood pressure
- Irregular heartbeatÂ(Arrhythmia)
Niacin has been around for a while, but given the possible niacin flush benefits for people suffering from any number of medical conditions, such as heart disease and arthritis, perhaps more people should consider using this old-school remedy.
Just be sure to consult with a doctor or pharmacist familiar with your medical history before adopting any new vitamin regimen.
- Hypervitaminosis B: Side Effects of Too Much Vitamin B
- Skin around Nails Peeling? Vitamin Deficiency and Other Causes
- Nicotinamide: The B-Vitamin That Lowers Cancer Risk 23%
- 5 Unusual Signs Youâre Vitamin Deficient
- Know the Fine Points Behind This Vitamin
- This Vitamin Deficiency Could Be Harming Your Body
- The Big Benefits of B3
- Can Niacin Help Treat Depression?
Article Sources (+)
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Horne, V., âWhat Is Niacin Flush?â Livestrong, October 3, 2017; https://www.livestrong.com/article/238112-what-is-niacin-flush/, last accessed February 22, 2018.
Gillespie, C., âHereâs Exactly What Niacin Flush Meansâand What You Can Do About It,â Readerâs Digest; https://www.rd.com/health/wellness/what-is-niacin-flush/, last accessed February 22, 2018.
Kmiec, M., âDonât be Afraid of the Niacin Flush,â Online Holistic Health, April 20, 2015; https://www.onlineholistichealth.com/the-niacin-flush/, last accessed February 22, 2018.
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What are the benefits of the niacin flush? ›
A niacin flush can be a temporary side effect of taking niacin; it's also a protocol used by some physicians to lower lipid profiles and boost heart health. Studies have shown that niacin flush benefits can include reduced LDL cholesterol, triglyceride levels and oxidative stress while increasing HDL cholesterol.What happens when you flush from niacin? ›
It causes a reddening of the skin along with burning or itching sensations. While niacin flush in and of itself isn't typically harmful, it may be accompanied by other unpleasant side effects like headache or low blood pressure ( 1 ). Even higher doses may cause liver damage or other severe side effects ( 1 ).What are the negative effects of niacin? ›
Side effects may include diarrhea, headache, stomach discomfort, and bloating. High doses (50 mg or more) of niacin can cause side effects. The most common side effect is called "niacin flush," which is a burning, tingling sensation in the face and chest, and red or flushed skin.How long will niacin flush last? ›
Niacin users often experience “prickly heat” or a sense of warmth in the face, neck, ears, trunk, and, less frequently, the upper or lower extremities. Other common features include erythema, itching, and tingling. Symptoms typically last for less than 1 hour to 2.5 hours.Is niacin good for the brain? ›
A severe niacin deficiency has been associated with cognitive decline such as memory loss and dementia. Niacin is believed to protect brain cells from stress and injury. It is not yet clear though if smaller variations in dietary niacin intake can negatively affect brain function.Is niacin flush good for skin? ›
Be careful if you're thinking about taking niacin for your high cholesterol levels. Even though the niacin flush is harmless, large doses of niacin can interact with many different medications. Long-term use can cause liver damage, skin rashes, gastrointestinal problems, and elevated blood sugar.When should I take niacin morning or night? ›
In general, the immediate-release form of niacin should be taken after your evening meal and the extended-release form should be taken at bedtime after a low-fat snack. Taking it in the morning or on an empty stomach might cause you to experience more side effects such as flushing and stomach upset.Does niacin reduce blood pressure? ›
Small clinical trials of acute niacin administration have shown significant BP-lowering effects of niacin in patients with hypertension but not necessarily in normotensive individuals. Acute lowering of BP is occasionally found with niacin's clinical use, and is described in the package insert of prescription niacin.Is niacin good for your heart? ›
Over all, niacin was not helpful in preventing any serious heart-related events, strokes, or deaths from heart disease. The initial interest in niacin stemmed from the drug's ability to raise HDL cholesterol, once thought to protect against cardiovascular disease.When is the best time to take flush free niacin? ›
- Take with a meal.
- Avoid alcohol, hot drinks, or spicy foods when it is time to take Niacin Flush Free (inositol niacinate).
What is niacin used to treat? ›
Prescription niacin is used to reduce the levels of cholesterol and triglycerides (fatty substances) in your blood, and decrease your risk of a heart attack. It works along with diet, exercise, and weight loss.Is niacin good for kidneys? ›
Niacin also lowers serum phosphorus levels in patients with chronic kidney disease (CKD), dyslipidemia, and diabetes mellitus , . Furthermore, niacin plays a key role in cardiovascular diseases and cardiovascular-related mortality by modifying both dyslipidemia and phosphorus levels , , , .Can niacin cause hair loss? ›
Poor blood circulation is a huge factor in hair thinning and hair loss. By improving the blood circulation to the scalp, Niacin aids in faster and thicker hair growth. It also has other benefits for your body.Does niacin help you sleep? ›
There is evidence to suggest that vitamin B3 can assist with sleeping, which means that another unique property about niacin is its ability to be a wonderful and natural sleeping aid via its interaction with tryptophan.Is niacin safe for liver? ›
Niacin can cause mild-to-moderate serum aminotransferase elevations and high doses and certain formulations of niacin have been linked to clinically apparent, acute liver injury which can be severe as well as fatal.Which foods contain niacin? ›
Many vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and dairy products provide some niacin. Enriched grains are also a source of niacin. Fish, beef, chicken, and turkey are good sources of niacin. Many legumes, nuts, seeds, and soy products provide some niacin.Does niacin help memory loss? ›
Dietary intake of niacin reduces the risk of Alzheimer's disease (AD) and protects against age-related cognitive decline.Why do I only get a niacin flush sometimes? ›
People generally develop a tolerance to higher doses of niacin. So even if you experience niacin flush when you first start taking it, it is likely to reduce or stop in time.Is vitamin B12 and niacin the same thing? ›
Vitamin B3 is a member of the vitamin family and includes three forms of vitamers: nicotinamide, niacin, and nicotinamide riboside. Vitamin B12 is a type of vitamin involved in metabolism in our body.Can niacin make you look younger? ›
In skincare, niacin or niacinamide is used for its ability to promote the formation of healthy skin cells. It also helps increase blood flow and oxygenation, reduce the appearance of wrinkles, treat sun-damaged and dull-looking skin, and tone the skin.
Can I take niacin everyday? ›
People use prescription niacin (Niacor, Niaspan) to help control their cholesterol. The recommended daily amount of niacin for adult males is 16 milligrams (mg) a day and for adult women who aren't pregnant, 14 mg a day.Does niacin cause weight gain? ›
Niacin has been found to increase daily feed intake, weight gain and percentage of abdominal fat in chicken when increasing supplementation from 0 to 60 mg nicotinic acid per kilogram diet. It has been found that formula feeding leads to more fat gain, which may account for increased risk of later obesity[81,82].How long does it take to get used to niacin flush? ›
Other than causing discomfort the flushing is harmless and usually subsides within 1 or 2 hours. Symptoms are most intense after the first dose and typically diminish over days or weeks with continued use of niacin.What is the best way to take niacin? ›
Swallow the tablet whole. If the tablet is scored, it may be broken, but not crushed or chewed, before being swallowed. Niaspan® should be taken at bedtime after a low-fat snack. To decrease flushing or redness of your face, take aspirin or ibuprofen (eg, Advil®, Motrin®) 30 minutes before taking Niaspan®.Is niacin a blood thinner? ›
Niacin might slow blood clotting. Taking niacin along with medications that also slow clotting might increase the chances of bruising and bleeding.Does niacin raise blood sugar? ›
Introduction. One potentially important side effect known to occur on niacin is a rise in glucose levels in those with diabetes. 5 Findings from a post-hoc analysis of the Coronary Drug Project suggested that this effect also occurred in those without diabetes, leading to an increase in the risk of developing diabetes.Does niacin unclog arteries? ›
In its therapeutic form, nicotinic acid, niacin can increase HDL as much as 35 percent when taken in high doses, usually about 2,000 milligrams per day. It also lowers LDL, though not as sharply as statins do, and it has been shown to reduce serum levels of artery-clogging triglycerides as much as 50 percent.Does niacin prevent blood clots? ›
Niacin has multifarious lipoprotein and anti-atherothrombosis effects that improve endothelial function, reduce inflammation, increase plaque stability, and diminish thrombosis.What medicines should not be taken with niacin? ›
Anticoagulants (blood thinners) -- Niacin may make the effects of these medications stronger, increasing the risk of bleeding. Blood Pressure Medications, Alpha-blockers -- Niacin can make the effects of medications taken to lower blood pressure stronger, leading to the risk of low blood pressure.Does niacin affect cholesterol? ›
What impact does niacin have on cholesterol? Niacin can lower triglycerides by 25% and raise HDL cholesterol by more than 30%. Triglyceride levels over 150 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) or 1.7 millimoles per liter (mmol/L) have been associated with a higher risk of heart disease.
Is 500mg of niacin too much? ›
Niacin in the form of nicotinamide has fewer side effects than nicotinic acid. However, at high doses of 500 mg/day or more, nicotinamide can cause diarrhea, easy bruising, and can increase bleeding from wounds. Even higher doses of 3,000 mg/day or more can cause nausea, vomiting, and liver damage.Can niacin cause kidney stones? ›
The B vitamins which include thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, B6 and B12 have not been shown to be harmful to people with kidney stones. In fact, some studies have shown that B6 may actually help people with high urine oxalate.What vitamins are hard on kidneys? ›
You may need to avoid some vitamins and minerals if you have kidney disease. Some of these include vitamins A, E and K. These vitamins are more likely to build up in your body and can cause harm if you have too much.Does niacin flush help hair growth? ›
Niacin aids in the stimulation of new hair growth, and in one key study, published in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, the researchers showed that niacin increased hair fullness.Is niacin good for nails? ›
Benefits to Hair, Skin and Nails with Niacin
You may be able to improve hair and nails with Niacin. Because of its circulation-boosting properties, Niacin boosts not only the thickness of hair strands but nail strength and thickness too.
Niacin serves another purpose: assisting in healthy hair growth. It improves blood circulation, and therefore brings oxygen to the hair follicles, resulting in hair development. 2 It's often recommended to those who have alopecia, with the goal of fuller, thicker hair.Does niacin help joint pain? ›
It increases maximal muscle working capacity, reduces or completely eliminates arthritic joint pain.” As the body is unable to absorb more than 250 mg of niacinamide at a time, it is more effective to take smaller does more often (perhaps every one to three hours) than one large dose per day.Does niacin help back pain? ›
Vitamins for Back Pain Below are some vitamins that are helpful in boosting back health. Vitamin B3—also known as niacin and —may improve the pain-relieving effects of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). This vitamin may also help maintain a healthy nervous system—important for many spine conditions.Can niacin help with anxiety? ›
A reasonable amount of niacinamide to take for anxiety, according to some doctors, is up to 500 mg four times per day.Does niacin burn belly fat? ›
Moreover, a 2002 pilot study found that niacin may help reduce abdominal fat. Participants received an average dose of 3000 mg of niacin per day; after one year, 81% of participants had reductions in intra-abdominal fat 12.
Is niacin good for losing weight? ›
Vitamin B3(Niacin) – Treatment with B3 increases adiponectin, a weight-loss hormone secreted by fat cells; Niacin-bound chromium supplements helped reduced body weight in clinical trials.How long does it take for niacin to lower cholesterol? ›
Further, as the 1986 study showed, the benefit of niacin may take up to 15 years to show benefit; the trials of statin-plus-niacin were only for 3-4 years.When should I take niacin morning or night? ›
In general, the immediate-release form of niacin should be taken after your evening meal and the extended-release form should be taken at bedtime after a low-fat snack. Taking it in the morning or on an empty stomach might cause you to experience more side effects such as flushing and stomach upset.Does niacin help you sleep? ›
There is evidence to suggest that vitamin B3 can assist with sleeping, which means that another unique property about niacin is its ability to be a wonderful and natural sleeping aid via its interaction with tryptophan.Can niacin make you gain weight? ›
Niacin has been found to increase daily feed intake, weight gain and percentage of abdominal fat in chicken when increasing supplementation from 0 to 60 mg nicotinic acid per kilogram diet. It has been found that formula feeding leads to more fat gain, which may account for increased risk of later obesity[81,82].Can niacin raise blood pressure? ›
Nicotinic acid (niacin) is a well-established treatment for dyslipidaemia – an important cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk factor. However, niacin may also reduce blood pressure (BP), which is another important CVD risk factor.Does niacin make you hungry? ›
Background. Niacin, a potent stimulator of appetite, may induce insulin resistance at high doses.Does niacin help depression? ›
Some say it reduces feelings of sadness and hopelessness, and others say it made their depression completely go away. There's a wide variety of causes and treatments for depression. However, according to scientific research, there's currently no evidence that niacin can be used to treat depression.Can you take niacin everyday? ›
People use prescription niacin (Niacor, Niaspan) to help control their cholesterol. The recommended daily amount of niacin for adult males is 16 milligrams (mg) a day and for adult women who aren't pregnant, 14 mg a day.Does niacin clean your arteries? ›
In its therapeutic form, nicotinic acid, niacin can increase HDL as much as 35 percent when taken in high doses, usually about 2,000 milligrams per day. It also lowers LDL, though not as sharply as statins do, and it has been shown to reduce serum levels of artery-clogging triglycerides as much as 50 percent.
What is the best drink to lower cholesterol? ›
Some of the best drinks for cholesterol management include green tea, pomegranate juice, citrus juice, soy milk, plant-based smoothies, and red wine.Is walking reduce cholesterol? ›
A person can combat high cholesterol by exercising regularly. Forms of exercise that help a person lower their total and LDL cholesterol levels include walking, running, cycling, and swimming. Often, these exercises can also help raise the levels of a person's HDL cholesterol.Is niacin good for your heart? ›
Over all, niacin was not helpful in preventing any serious heart-related events, strokes, or deaths from heart disease. The initial interest in niacin stemmed from the drug's ability to raise HDL cholesterol, once thought to protect against cardiovascular disease.Is niacin good for kidneys? ›
Niacin also lowers serum phosphorus levels in patients with chronic kidney disease (CKD), dyslipidemia, and diabetes mellitus , . Furthermore, niacin plays a key role in cardiovascular diseases and cardiovascular-related mortality by modifying both dyslipidemia and phosphorus levels , , , .How long does it take to get used to niacin flush? ›
Other than causing discomfort the flushing is harmless and usually subsides within 1 or 2 hours. Symptoms are most intense after the first dose and typically diminish over days or weeks with continued use of niacin.