Getting Niacin Into Circulation
Posted by Kate W on Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012
We continue our weeklong tribute to the mighty B vitamin. Today’s shining star: Vitamin B3 (also known as niacin).
I actually have a little familiarity with niacin, and for once, it’s not because of my husband’s devotion to his B vitamin regimen. As long as I can remember, my dad has always had cold hands and feet. He liked to put his icy hands on my neck when I was a little girl to make me shriek and giggle. While they got remarkably cold, we lived in Florida, so it didn’t bother him that much. But when he moved to New York a few years ago, suddenly his poor circulation wasn’t such a funny joke. My dad has always been a tremendous athlete; he’s in his sixties, and he runs triathlons (despite the risk of injury) and just two years ago, was a solo rider in a 148-mile bike race. Winter came, and while he bundled up to go running, he found it was taking a very long time for feeling to return to his hands and feet, and he was often on the verge of getting frostbite before he even realized he was cold. After several appointments with his physician, he discovered he had Raynaud’s disease.
Raynaud’s can be very frightening, because its causes are unknown. Essentially, the blood vessels in the body seem to overreact due to either cold temperatures or stress. Patients must be vigilant, and should monitor their extremities for any sores, particularly if they under a great amount of stress, or if they live in a cold climate. My dad is back in Florida now, which helps a lot. He also takes niacin supplements; while clinical research has not confirmed that niacin is an effective treatment for Raynaud’s, it does improve circulation, and is thus often recommended to sufferers of the condition.
In addition to improving circulation, niacin may also be effective in combatting high cholesterol, slowing down the progression of atherosclerosis, preventing Alzheimer’s disease, and helping to control diabetes. Like other B vitamins, it can be found in an array of dietary sources, including beets, sunflower seeds, peanuts, yeast, salmon, swordfish, tuna, and beef offal (liver and kidneys in particular). The amino acid tryptophan also converts to niacin in the body, so you’ll be getting a hefty dose of it every Thanksgiving when you pile your plate with turkey. Just be sure to loosen your belt before you go back for seconds, so the positive contribution to your circulatory system isn’t in vain.
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