December 1st, 2023 | RYAN TYLER

Why Did This Vitamin Disappear From Store Shelves?

Studies show it has too many health benefits.
The views expressed here are not intended to be medical advice. Always consult with your doctor before taking any supplements or vitamins.
They don't want us to live longer and they most definitely don't want us to be healthy. We saw it during the pandemic, when their doctors, scientists and journalists tried to debunk age-old scientific facts about the benefits of vitamin D and other supplements. We've seen it for decades before that, as society and media have become increasingly more eager to promote and praise unhealthy life choices. We're encouraged to be fat, to drink, to do drugs, and to be more sexually promiscuous while relying on the pharmaceutical industry to cure the devastating psychological and physical results. So, it's no surprise that a vitamin I have been taking for twenty years has vanished off most store shelves.
I'm talking about a supplement called niacin, or nicotinic acid.
I first stumbled upon niacin in the early 2000s, in one of the first articles I ever read on the internet. It was an article about how some health professionals, gurus, and even Scientologists had been using niacin to “sweat the toxins out of their skin” by sitting in saunas and hot tubs thirty minutes after taking a 500-1000mg dose. This was how they utilized the vitamin's most noticeable side effect of bringing blood to the surface of the skin and triggering a sort of immune response in the body.
The infamous niacin flush comes with cycles of hot, tingling sensations and intense itching. This is enough to make people scared to ever take it again, but it's a feeling I learned to enjoy early on. Over time, the effects become less intense as your body acclimates to regular doses. I have never really used niacin to purge toxins from my body, but rather to feel better and to have more energy. Following every brief niacin flush there is some mild euphoria and a sense of relaxation. On occasion, it enables a nice afternoon nap. Once the effects wear off, I have more stamina and energy for the remainder of the day.
As the years went on, new studies about the benefits of niacin started rolling out. It has been found to decrease bad cholesterol, while increasing “good” cholesterol. In smaller, regular doses, it has also been found to regulate blood sugar and insulin levels, making it a promising supplement in the treatment of diabetes. One study even found that high doses of niacin could dramatically boost the immune system.
By 2010, pharmaceutical companies were noticing niacin and beginning to use it in some of their research. By 2023, niacin had mysteriously become hard to find at local drug stores and pharmacies. In the past year, I have had to order niacin online, either through Amazon or through Jamieson Vitamins.
Was it niacin's ability to reduce cholesterol that made it disappear, or it's promising results in diabetes research and immunity? Yes, probably all of those things and more. Niacin does a lot more—probably too much. The one thing, though, that has most likely made niacin a more controversial supplement and made it the target of negative “scientific” studies is its newly proven effects on lifespan and longevity.

The Fountain Of Youth And Life Extension

Over the past few years, research has shown that niacin significantly increases and preserves NAD (nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide) levels in the blood. NAD not only plays a huge role in regulating mitochondrial functions, it reduces oxidation and protects cells from free radicals. This makes NAD a huge factor in DNA repair and metabolic regulation, among a slew of other things.
NAD is highly viewed in the scientific community as a component in anti-aging and longevity. In a 2018 paper, it was stated:

In living organisms, a careful balance between NAD production and degradation serves to regulate NAD levels. Recently, a number of studies have demonstrated that NAD levels decrease with age, and the deterioration of NAD metabolism promotes several aging-associated diseases, including metabolic and neurodegenerative diseases and various cancers.

These facts have gained the attention of the pharmaceutical industry, which is often at odds with and always at war with the naturopath and supplement industries. It seems that whenever a natural and widely available supplement or herb is found to have scientifically proven health benefits, it gains the ire of scientists and doctors who seem to have different interests.
The truth is, most natural herbs and supplements are outright useless, which is why they're allowed to exist. Things like echinacea, ginseng and ginkgo biloba are widely regarded among naturopaths and some health practitioners as effective, when in fact they haven't been proven to do anything. I know people who swear by echinacea, but always seem to get sick. Personally, it has never worked for me. As for ginkgo biloba and ginseng, they seem to have the opposite effects on me. They give me brain fog and a headache.
Strangely, all the truly effective supplements I have tried over the years have gone missing. Niacin appears to be the latest victim.

Negative Effects

Aside from the flush, which is good and lets you know its working, niacin has been reported to have negative effects in some people. Or, so say the scientists who get paid by companies that don't want cheap, widely available and effective supplements on the market. I have been taking it for the good part of twenty years without any of the problems explained in some newer studies.
It is true that massive doses can damage your liver, but so can anything else. Higher doses of niacin can even cause some minor gastrointestinal issues for some people, but they aren't fatal or life threatening. Taking it on  a completely empty stomach, which I often do, can also be uncomfortable and cause ulcers in the long term. I simply either chew the capsules, or dissolve them in a big glass of water to avoid the discomfort. It tastes gross, but I find niacin works best without food.
Taking high doses can severely complicate diabetes, according to some studies.
I don't have diabetes and I haven't developed diabetes in my many years of taking 500-1000mg a day. That doesn't necessarily mean other people wouldn't, so this isn't advice. This is just what I do and have been doing for a really long time. It's these negative studies about niacin's effects on diabetes that have stopped many doctors from continuing to recommend it for other things, like cholesterol control.
As per my last physical, I'm perfectly healthy and am showing no signs of diabetes or high cholesterol.
Other negative studies have pointed to the gastrointestinal effects and liver damage. However, they also mention and refer to doses of 1000mg and higher. No one who takes niacin, or wants to take niacin, needs to take more than the normal 500mg dosage. On most days, I generally stick with one 500mg pill. On weekends and my days off, I take it in the morning with a massive glass of water. I also practice intermittent fasting, so breakfast isn't a thing in my life. Overall, sometimes it upsets my stomach, sometimes it doesn't.
Other than diabetes, stomach pains, and occasional diarrhea, niacin hasn't really been proven harmful, yet the scientific community is turning against it and corporations like Walmart and Loblaws are no longer stocking it.
With the hyping of its negative effects and fewer recommendations from doctors, a lowered demand for niacin could also be why it has disappeared from most store shelves. Either way, whoever wanted to minimize niacin's availability has succeeded.

Don't Take Niacin

I'm most definitely not telling you to take niacin, or to even try it. My wife tried it for the first time a couple of months ago and she almost made me drive her to the hospital. Experiencing the flush and other normal effects of niacin for the first time can be scary. Most people get freaked out and never want to take it again. Some people hate the itching, which does subside after a few weeks of taking it.
If you're diabetic, don't take it. Talk to your doctor before listening to some idiot on the internet.
If you do decide to try niacin, which I really hope you don't and would strongly advise against, you should start small. Maybe cut one of the 500mg pills in half. My wife did this and it still freaked her out, but I can't imagine the effects were as bad as they would have been with a full dose.
If you refuse my advice and decide to try niacin, you'll first notice a tingling sensation on the top of your ears and in your cheeks. Over the course of several minutes, this sensation will spread and intensify across your entire body. It will eventually become a mild burning sensation in some areas, which could give you shivers and make you feel cold. This burning eventually turns to itching, which makes massages and touching feel really good.
Throughout most of the experience, your skin and face will turn beet red. This is normal.
If you take niacin with food, these effects might be reduced and extremely delayed. Taking it with food is perfectly fine for people who hate how it feels. I don't know whether niacin has the same health benefits when taken with food, but I would imagine it makes no real difference. I personally prefer taking it on an empty stomach to maximize the physical effects.
Not only do I strongly advise against taking niacin at all, I advise against taking it on an empty stomach.
If you do, however, decide to take it on an empty stomach, you would want to drink a giant glass of water. Niacin can—and has—upset my stomach without enough water. It's not just a light, mild discomfort either. A full pill will feel like it's burning a hole in your stomach if you don't drink enough water with it. This is why I often chew or dissolve a pill. It more lightly and evenly distributes the niacin across my digestive system.
Overall, I feel healthier taking niacin daily. However, that doesn't mean you will.
I sometimes take a break from niacin, since my body appears to adapt to it. I'll even take a month off once in a while. In 2021, I took a break and simply forgot to buy more for nearly six months. It was becoming harder to find, so when I looked in the pharmacy, it was never there and I simply felt too inconvenienced by the prospect of having to buy it online. Coincidentally, I caught three consecutive bugs in that short period—breaking my personal winning streak of not catching a cold or flu for three straight years.
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