Niacin for Weight Loss: Benefits & Guide

niacin for weight loss

In the world of weight loss and diet pills, a product comes along fully packaged and with the matching aggressive marketing to create a media frenzy and stimulate interest among consumers who are on the constant lookout for the best possible miracle diet pill. Regrettably, there is no such thing as a miracle diet or weight loss pill. Additionally there are so many false statements from diet pill manufacturers who clearly fail to understand the exact mechanism of action of a particular substance.

One such substance is niacin B3 which many people say can help boost weight loss. We are not here to discredit the so-called niacin fat burner and its supposed effects on weight loss. However, we do believe that you have the right to know only the factual information about certain products that are being marketed as super diet pills or weight loss miracle pills. So, we are going to closely examine if niacin really deserves the label of a weight loss pill.

What is Niacin?

Niacin is the third B-vitamin to be discovered. It was fully synthesized from the oxidation of nicotine to produce nicotinic acid. It was found that the substance was able to treat pellagra as well as abnormally high levels of cholesterol in the blood. Niacin B3 is present in sufficient amounts in internal organ meats, chicken breasts, venison, fish, dates, avocados, whole grains, legumes, nuts, brewer’s yeast, and peanut butter among others.

What Does it Do?

The primary role of niacin is as a precursor to nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide or NAD as well as nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate of NADP. Both NAD and NADP are coenzymes that are necessary in the action of many dehydrogenases, enzymes that hasten the speed of removal of hydrogen ions to produce energy. NAD, for its part, is primarily involved in the catabolism of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. It is also responsible for sending chemical signals that will initiate the repair of DNA. On the other hand, NADP is responsible for the synthesis of fatty acids and cholesterol.

Generally, niacin is involved in more than 60 different physiologic and metabolic processes, a great majority of which are related to energy production. Being a precursor to co-enzymes, niacin is thus important in facilitating the various biosynthentic pathways that occur inside the cell. What happens is that niacin enhances, through the action of NAD and NADP, the rate of these chemical reaction so that they are more efficient.

One of the well-studied and well-documented actions of niacin is the normalization of serum cholesterol levels including HDL, LDL, and total cholesterol as well as triglycerides. Studies have shown that when used with statins, the effects of niacin on cholesterol levels were almost negligible. However, when used as the primary treatment regimen for hypercholesterolemia or in conjunction with fibrates, the effects are simply phenomenal. That is why niacin or nicotinic acid is a mainstay in the treatment of certain forms of hypercholesterolemia.

Niacin is also important in the following:

  • Maintenance of healthy digestive functioning.
  • Regulation of serotonin levels.
  • Improves the delivery of oxygen to the tissues.

Can Niacin Help with Weight Loss?

We now come to the most important part of our discussion. Is niacin B3 really a niacin fat burner? Many of the literature you may have already read from the internet will lead you to believe that niacin has something to do with metabolism. And since metabolism is directly related to weight loss, many individuals have this automatic preconception that anything that has something to do with metabolism will lead to weight loss. There are also others who think that because one of the side effects of niacin is called flushing then it could very well help in weight loss in the form of a niacin detox. Others figure niacin to be important in weight loss because many weight loss pills contain it as part of the mix.

Let’s try to study these carefully.

  • Niacin can breakdown dietary fat

It’s true that niacin can help facilitate the breakdown of dietary fat but this is basically to convert fat found in the food that we eat into energy. If you’re thinking of a niacin fat burner that mobilizes and burns stored fat, then you’re grossly misinformed. The fact is that niacin does not burn pre-existing or stored body fat so don’t expect that the flab on your belly or arms will go away even after high dose niacin supplementation. Additionally, if you think that niacin will prevent you from gaining fat from the excess calories found in your diet, then you’d be surprised to know that it doesn’t. In fact, studies show that excessive consumption of niacin can actually prevent fat loss. It is, after all, a stimulant, so you will naturally want to eat more.

The Truth – Niacin can help you convert fat from your diet into usable energy.

There is no such thing as a niacin fat burner. What you have is a molecule that hastens the speed of conversion of dietary fat into energy. Can it lead to weight loss? If you cut down on your caloric intake, then you may lose weight. If not, then you’re simply dreaming. Cutting down on your caloric intake will force your body to use stored body fat. But this has nothing to do with niacin.

  • Niacin can increase metabolic rate 

People always equate the term “metabolism” with basal metabolic rate which is, in part, true. Unfortunately, to say that niacin can increase basal metabolic rate is very inaccurate. We all know that increasing the metabolic rate will increase the burning of calories which also burns more fat stored from the body and hence, leading to weight loss.

The Truth – Niacin supports the metabolism of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.

Niacin B3 helps form NAD which is responsible for the metabolism of these macronutrients. In very simple words, niacin affects NAD and not the amount of calories that your body will burn. Niacin may have an indirect effect on fat metabolism but not necessarily in speeding up your metabolic rate. While it is true that it is a stimulant, its effects are nowhere near caffeine and capsaicin.

  • Niacin can purge fat 

One of the well-known side-effects of excessive consumption of Niacin B3 is purging, known as niacin flushing or niacin detox. People believe that niacin is effectively flushing out the fatty molecules that have been burned by the body because of the metabolic effects of the so-called niacin fat burner.

The Truth – The niacin detox or flushing effect is a result of the activation of prostaglandins, NOT the elimination of burned fat.

The consumption of niacin activates a type of receptor called G protein-coupled receptor 109A. This receptor increases the levels of circulating prostaglandins, particularly the D2 and E2 types, and arachidonic acid. These lead to the activation of prostaglandin DP1, EP4, and EP2 which results in the widening of the diameter of the blood vessels and produce its supposed flushing or niacin detox effects. So, the next time somebody tells you that niacin detox is the actual flushing of the burned fat, you now know better.

  • Niacin is an important ingredient in weight loss pills 

Perhaps one of the best-known evidence that supports the niacin fat burner notion is that many weight loss and fat burner products contain niacin. This observation is interpreted by many as proof of the fat burning and weight loss effectiveness of niacin. After all, why would manufacturers include it in a weight loss supplement if it does not have a weight loss benefit, right?

The Truth – Niacin is included in weight loss supplements to supply the body of the RDA for niacin while the person is on a calorie-restricted diet.

Studies show that niacin, while it is include in weight loss formulations, does not lead to weight loss except for what we have already explained. Niacin enhances the conversion of food molecules into usable energy so you will feel much more energized. Technically, this should mean that you don’t have to overeat.

  • Anecdotal evidence of niacin-induced weight loss 

Maybe you have read of some online reviews saying that they lost a couple of pounds just by taking niacin supplementation alone. You may also have seen those fantastic before-after pictures in advertisements. To say that niacin can make you lose weight is like saying that eating sweets will automatically lead to diabetes. If that were the case, then there won’t be a single person on earth who is not diabetic. 

The Truth ­– Niacin may or may not promote weight loss but it should always be coupled with reduced calorie intake and increased physical exercise.

There’s only one tried and tested way to lose weight – a good combination of exercise and sensible diet. The reason why they call these supplements in the first place is that they don’t work on their own. To obtain the best results, your niacin fat burner supplement should always be combined with diet and exercise. Otherwise, you will just be wasting your time.

The Bottom Line

There are a lot of misconceptions about niacin being a weight loss and fat burner pill. While it does improve the conversion of dietary fats into energy, it does not lead to weight loss if you do not combine it with diet and exercise.

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