|Nicotinic acid is classified as a B vitamin and belongs to the B-vitamin sub-class known as Niacin (Vitamin B3). Nicotinic acid is one of two niacin precursors. It is a member of the B-vitamin class, and is also known as niacinamide, 3-pyridinecarboxylic acid, pyridine-beta-carboxylic acid, antipellagra vitamin and pellagra preventive factor. Nicotinic acid is a digestive aid that helps the
body derive energy from carbohydrates, fats and proteins. Because of this, nicotinic acid is a popular ingredient in over-the-counter weight loss or weight control products. As an ATP catalyst, nicotinic acid enhances muscular energy. As a vasodilator, this ability is further enhanced by the increased delivery of oxygen and food derived nutrients to muscle tissue. Nicotinic acid is an effective muscular recovery agent for this reason. Nicotinic acid can elevate blood glucose (sugar) levels.
Nicotinic acid lowers total cholesterol, LDL-cholesterol, and triglyceride levels, while raising HDL-cholesterol levels. There are three types of nicotinic acid: immediate release, timed release, and extended release. Cholesterol is made naturally in the body and is absorbed from the food we eat. If levels of cholesterol are too high in the blood stream, it is deposited on the walls of blood vessels. Eventually this leads to a narrowing of the blood vessels and can even block them completely. Nicotinic acid works by improving the balance of 'good' and 'bad' fats in the blood. Nicotinic acid reduces LDL-cholesterol levels by 10 to 20 percent, reduces triglycerides by 20 to 50 percent, and raises HDL-cholesterol by 15 to 35 percent.
Nicotinic acid is available over the counter (as niacin), but physicians often prefer to prescribe it in time-released pills. Side effects, including flushing, at large doses can be intense and patients should consult a physician before taking niacin supplements. Patients on nicotinic acid are usually started on low daily doses and gradually increased to an average daily dose of 1.5 to 3 grams per day for the immediate release form, and 1.5 to 2 grams per day for the other forms.
Nicotinic acid can cause vasodilation of cutaneous blood vessels resulting in increased blood flow, principally in the face, neck and chest. This produces the niacin- or nicotinic acid-flush. About 3% to 5% of people taking nicotinic acid develop liver abnormalities, which disappear after the medication is discontinued. People who already have liver disease should not use nicotinic acid. People with gout or gallbladder disease should avoid nicotinic acid, as should those who drink alcohol regularly (because of the potential effects on the liver).