The anti-pellagra vitamin was the 3rd water soluble vitamin to be discovered and so named vitamin B3, also known in various forms as niacin, nicotinamide, nicotinic acid. It is made in the body from the amino acid, tryptophan (found in turkey) and should have been classified as an amino acid rather than a vitamin, which cannot be made in the body. On average 1mg of vitamin B3 is made from 60mg of tryptophan. Pellagra could be known as tryptophan deficiency disease.
Pellagra was endemic in southern U.S.A until the 1940s, described by the four D’s dermatitis, diarrhoea, dementia and death. Dementia is a last stage phenomenon, in the early stages it resembles more the schizophrenias. Early pellagrologists gave patients in mental hospitals small amounts of nicotinic acid; if they recovered they were diagnosed with pellagra, if not they were diagnosed with schizophrenia. Later Dr Hoffer worked with larger doses of B3 to for schizophrenia.
Dr Hoffer was involved in establishing two other major uses for vitamin B3, apart from preventing pellagra. It’s action in lowering cholesterol (HDL) and its therapeutic role in the schizophrenias and other psychiatric conditions. It has also been found helpful in arthritis, senility, children with learning and behavioural disorders, addiction including drugs and alcohol, and in relieving the body of the pernicious effect of chronic stress, freeing it to carry on its function of repairing itself more efficiently. Vitamin B3 is a specific antidote to adrenalin.
Bill Wilson of Alcoholics Anonymous used it in 1960 after seeing positive results by psychiatrist, Dr Hoffer with schizophrenic patients, some who were also alcoholic. Bill was curious and took 3g daily. Within a few weeks fatigue and depression, which had plagued him for years was gone. He gave it to 30 friends in AA. 10 were free of anxiety, tension and depression within one month, 10 more were well in 3 months. After 6 months he was convinced it would be a useful addition to treatment in AA.
Pregnant women in last trimester convert tryptophan to niacin three times as efficiently as non pregnant females. There is evidence that the contraceptive steroids, estrogens, stimulate tryptophan oxygenase, the enzyme that converts tryptophan into niacin.
Women on average live longer than men, who have been shown to increase their longevity by taking niacin. Is the longevity in women related to increased conversion of tryptophan to niacin under the stimulus of oestrogen production? Does the same phenomenon explain the decreased incidence of coronary artery disease in women?
You can See Dr Abram Hoffer talking to Dr Jeffrey Bland on Orthomolecular Medicine in the video clip below.
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