Last article was about some of the important B vitamins. Let’s keep going with the next in line, niacin. Niacin and its related vitamins (nicotinic acid, nicotinamide and niacinamide) are responsible for assisting in over 200 chemical reactions in the body. It is also plays a part in the creation of fatty acids and cholesterol. The current focus for niacin is its ability to help lower cholesterol. Higher doses of niacin, 1-2grams a day, can lower LDL (bad) cholesterol, raise HDL (good) cholesterol and lower triglycerides. These higher doses should only be taken under recommendation from your physician. The most troublesome side effects of niacin at these doses are a very intense flushing and stomach upset. Taking it in divided doses after meals, and slowly increasing the dose over several weeks can reduce these problems. Some people take a ‘no-flush’ version of niacin called Inositol Hexanicotinate. While it does not cause a flushing reaction; there is some evidence to suggest that it might not work as well as regular niacin in reducing cholesterol. Niacinamide also does not cause flushing but is ineffective in lowering cholesterol.
Vitamin B6, Pyridoxine, has many therapeutic uses in the body. It is helpful in improving immune system function and helping to preventing kidney stones, PMS, depression, morning sickness, and carpal tunnel syndrome. Perhaps the most important use of vitamin B6 is in the reduction of homocysteine. Homocysteine is a semi-toxic byproduct produced when your body creates the amino acid methionine. It is not entirely clear how it is toxic to your body, but studies have shown that it is. It is known that high levels of homocysteine can increase a person’s risk of developing cardiovascular disease. There is also early evidence that suggests that it may be a risk factor for developing Alzheimer's disease. Your body requires a regular supply of folic acid, vitamin B6 and B12 to rid itself of homocysteine. The recommended dosage for vitamin B6 is 10–50 mg per day.
After six comes seven; which brings us to vitamin B7 or biotin. I fear that I am beginning to sound like a broken record; biotin (like niacin and pantothenic acid is used in many chemical reactions in the body). Deficiency is very rare because the bacteria in our intestines make this vitamin and it is found in so many foods. It has only one real known use; that is to help strengthen finger nails. Some small studies have shown that taking 2.5mg of biotin a day can help to increase finger and toenail strength. One interesting observation is that the demand for biotin is thought to be increased during pregnancy. Some people take biotin in hopes that it will help to prevent hair loss; sadly there is no proof that this actually happens.
We skip number eight, which brings us to folic acid, vitamin B9. Yup, you guessed it right; folic acid (like biotin, niacin and pantothenic acid) is used in many chemical reactions in the body. It is also used to help reduce homocysteine, treat certain kinds of anemia and prevent birth defects. I think folic acid is one of the most overlooked vitamins. It has so many important uses in the body and many medications can deplete your body of this vital nutrient. Concerns about deficiency caused the US FDA to recommend that flour and other grain products be fortified with folic acid. Folic acid primarily is found in green leafy vegetables. To get the recommended daily amount of folic acid one would have to eat one cup each of spinach and asparagus. Take a critical look at your diet and see if you eat these many greens every day. I’m a vegetarian and some days I’m doubtful. So take your multivitamin and don’t worry about it. You should still eat your greens though.
The last vitamin on our list is B12 (cyanocobalamin). This vitamin is mainly found in meat and fermented soya products. A deficiency of this vitamin can be a problem with people who do not eat meat, such as vegetarians and vegans and is also a concern for the elderly. Vitamin B12 deficiency is estimated to affect 10%-15% of individuals over the age of 60. Your body requires sufficient stomach acid and something produced by your body called intrinsic factor to absorb B12 into the body. As one ages, your body generally produces less of these two items. Also people may be taking medications to treat reflux disease, heartburn, or other stomach disorders. These medications can reduce the amount of acid produced by your stomach. A medication for diabetes call metformin, can also reduce absorption of this vitamin. Symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency include fatigue, confusion, and difficulty concentrating. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, contact your Physician. A simple blood test can determine the amount of B12 in your body.
I admit this is a lot of information to digest, no pun intended. What should one do? Simple, take a multivitamin that contains plenty of the B vitamins. Taking vitamins is not a substitute for eating well, but it will help to fill any nutritional gaps. Ask your Heart Pharmacist to recommend a vitamin supplement that is best for you. You could also visit our Fairfield location and have a chat with our natural health adviser Angeline. Don’t forget to eat your fruits and veggies.