L et’s continue discussing some of the many health benefits of niacin with Dr. Andrew Saul. Most people have no clue why niacin is vital to the body. Some are aware that niacin achieved vitamin status (essential for life) because it prevents a disease called pellagra, yet few know or even care what pellagra is.
Today, most nutritionally informed people associate niacin with optimizing blood cholesterol levels. But, there’s still more to niacin’s health benefits. We have discussed niacin’s benefits for those with schizophrenia, relieving the pain of arthritis, and better still, in repairing the damage of osteoarthritis. This month, let’s chat with Dr. Saul about one of his favorite topics, niacin and learning and behavioral disorders.
Dr. Saul has encountered learning- and behaviorally-impaired students at all educational levels, not only children, but also adults. Chapter Eight of Dr. Saul’s book, coauthored with Drs. Abram Hoffer and Harold Foster, titled “Niacin: The Real Story,” discusses many case histories of learning and behavioral disorders.
Dr. Andrew W. Saul has been an orthomolecular medical writer and lecturer for 41 years. Dr. Saul has taught clinical nutrition at New York Chiropractic College and postgraduate continuing education programs. He was also on the faculty of the State University of New York for nine years. Two of those years were spent teaching for the university in both women’s and men’s penitentiaries (no, not as an inmate).
Dr. Saul is editor-in-chief of the Orthomolecular Medicine News Service and has published over 200 peer-reviewed articles. His bestselling book “Doctor Yourself” has been translated into eight languages. He has written a dozen other books, four as coauthor with Abram Hoffer, MD. Dr. Saul’s educational website is www.DoctorYourself.com, the largest peer-
reviewed, non-commercial natural healing resource on the Internet. He is a board member of the Journal of Orthomolecular Medicine and the Japanese College of Intravenous Therapy. Saul was inducted into the Orthomolecular Medicine Hall of Fame in 2013. He is featured in the documentaries “FoodMatters” and “That Vitamin Movie.”
Passwater: Dr. Saul, in May we discussed how niacin is important to brain health (https://wholefoodsmagazine.com/columns/vitamin-connection/niacin-the-original-megavitamin-is-more-important-than-ever-2/). Does that include functions such as learning and behavior?
Saul: It most certainly does. I will say straight away that you have to see this to believe it. Some health practitioners reject niacin therapy out of hand. They do not know what they are missing. Furthermore, the parents of mentally troubled children — psychiatrist Abram Hoffer called them “battered parents” — are being allowed to suffer unnecessarily. And finally, when we let malnourished children struggle along and endure malnutrition, our world suffers with them.
Passwater: Since niacin and other nutrients are important to learning, are most learning “disorders” really diseases as the pharmaceutical industry claims or are they primarily nutritional deficiencies or allergies?
Saul: Perhaps more than anything, they actually are vitamin deficiencies. Not simple nutrient deficiencies, for low doses will not work therapeutically. Not druggable diseases, as drugs are not working either. ADHD is not caused by a deficiency of methylphenidate. More, more and still more kids are on medication today. That may be good for pharma profits but it is clearly failure to control a disease. Not simple allergies, because avoiding this food and that pet and this other dust does nothing to remedy the underlying situation. I know a young woman who was tested and found to be allergic to 72 different substances. She started on vitamin therapy, was retested some weeks later, and was allergic to zero substances. This does not mean there are no such things as allergies. Put type B blood into a type A person and there is going to be big trouble. That is an allergy. With most behaviorally-challenged kids, nutrient deficiency is more probably the cause than allergy.
Passwater: Are learning and behavioral disorders increasing or is it just a matter of increased recognition?
Saul: Both are increasing sharply. In 1990, some 750,000 American children were on ADHD medication. The number in 2012 was well over four million. And now, ADHD is diagnosed in about 11% of all children, and it’s approaching 20% of teenage boys. Plus, as Dr. Hoffer has pointed out, there are all manner and all number of collateral syndromes and disorders. Yet, Dr. Hoffer said, “No matter which terms are used to classify these children, they are all recommended for treatment with drug therapy.’ So virtually none of those many, many children are ever put on niacinamide. . . unless the parents go and do it themselves.
Passwater: Can you share a case history of a child who was given the chance with niacinamide?
Saul: Yes. I knew a 10-year-old boy who was having considerable school and behavior problems. Interestingly enough, the child was already on physician-prescribed little bits of niacin, with a total daily dose of less than 150 mg. Not a bad beginning, since the RDA is under 20 mg/day. But it wasn’t enough to be effective, and the boy was slated for the Ritalin-for-lunch bunch. So the family went to Dr. Hoffer’s suggested level of 500 mg of niacinamide, three times daily (1,500 mg total). Niacinamide is a comfortable, flush-free form of vitamin B-3. That dose made a noticeable difference. At an even higher dose, divided all throughout the day, the boy’s improvement was simply spectacular. Phone calls and notes from the school immediately went from negative to positive.
Passwater: In your book with Drs. Hoffer and Foster, “Niacin: The Real Story,” you mention some 1940s era comments by Dr. William Kaufman on hyperactivity in niacin-deficient animals.
Saul: You can create behavioral-social problems in animals by way of their diet. I have that detailed, very interesting 1949 quote from Dr. Kaufman right here:
“Some patients have a response to niacinamide therapy which seems to be the clinical equivalent of ‘decreased running’ observed in experimental animals. When these animals are deprived experimentally of certain essential nutriments, they display ‘excessive running,’ or hyperkinesis. When these deficient animals receive the essential nutriments in sufficient amounts for a sufficient period of time, there is exhibited a marked ‘decrease in running.’”
The benefit is so profound, said Dr. Kaufman, that a person receiving niacinamide treatment ”may wonder whether or not his vitamin medications contain a sedative. . . Analysis of his history indicates that prior to niacinamide therapy he suffered from a type of compulsive impatience, starting many projects which he left unfinished as a new interest distracted him, returning perhaps after a lapse of time to complete the original project. Without realizing it, he was often careless and inefficient in his work, but was ’busy all the time.’”
So accurately does this describe the problems of ADHD children it is difficult to believe vitamin B-3 has been thoroughly ignored for nearly 70 years.
Dr. Kaufman continues: “With vitamin therapy, such a patient becomes unaccustomedly calm, working more efficiently, finishing what he starts, and he loses the feeling that he is constantly driving himself. . . (W)ith niacinamide therapy, in time he comes to enjoy a sense of well-being, realizing in retrospect that what he thought in the past was a super-abundance of energy and vitality was in reality an abnormal ‘wound-up’ feeling, which was an expression of aniacinamidosis (niacin deficiency).”
Dr. Kaufman also said that frequently divided doses are maximally effective. The precise amount of niacinamide that an ADHD child requires needs to be thoughtfully considered by parent and physician together.
Passwater: In “Niacin: The Real Story,” you presented a number of other case histories wherein niacin was used by Dr. Hoffer and others to eliminate hyperactivity. Was this serendipitous using the power of observation during regular treatments by good doctors or were they planned clinical trials?
Saul: Both. Dr. Hoffer practiced psychiatry for 55 years. He paid close attention to what worked for his patients. He also pioneered double-blind, placebo-controlled megavitamin research and treatment back in the early 1950s. For those who say there is insufficient scientific evidence to support megavitamin therapy for children’s behavior disorders, I say they haven’t been looking hard enough. The simple way to determine whether vitamins will help a child is to try them.
Passwater: Upon hearing this, people often will ask, “If this treatment is so good, how come my doctor doesn’t know about it? How come it is not on the news?”
Saul: The answer has more to do with medical politics than with medical science. With attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, orthodox medicine seems unwilling even to admit nutrient deficiency as a causal factor, let alone a curative one. Such nutritional information as does make news generally stays far from the headlines, unless, of course, it is critical of vitamins. The most widely publicized vitamin therapy trials tend to be low-dose, worthless, negative, or all three. Mass media attention to a given nutritional research study appears to be inversely proportional to its curative value.
Therefore, the public and many physicians remain unaware of the power of simple and safe natural methods due to contradictory, inadequate, or just plain biased media reporting. When the press touts the supposed “dangers” of vitamins while simultaneously overlooking the very real dangers of having kids on long-term drug maintenance, it strains at a gnat and swallows a camel. The chief side effect of niacinamide is failure to take enough of it. The quantity of a nutrient that cures an illness indicates the patient’s degree of need for the nutrient. This amount may be quite high. A dry sponge holds more milk. ADHD children need more niacinamide.
Passwater: Mainstream medicine teaches reliance on pharmaceuticals. Are they more effective?
Saul: No. Dr. Hoffer put it succinctly: “Drugs make a well person sick. Why would they make a sick person well?”
Passwater: Are pharmaceuticals safer than niacin?
Saul: No. There is no drug on the planet that is as safe as niacin and niacinamide, which does not cause a flush.
Passwater: Years ago, the drug “Ritalin” was the drug of choice. I seem to remember that school kids were given their Ritalin at lunchtime by school officials. Is that an accurate memory?
Saul: It matches my experience exactly. I have taught every grade there is. My students have ranged from primary school, long ago, all the way to the doctoral level. This experience has helped me to understand the essential role nutrition plays in the education process. May you never have a class full of sugared-up, chemically-fed, vitamin-deficient students. And on top of that, we go and drug them as well.
Many, perhaps most, of the “difficult” pupils in schools today are not “bad” but nutritionally impaired. This has to adversely affect their school performance. What would be surprising would be if it did not.
Passwater: Yet, today, school personnel in many states can’t even give students a vitamin pill at school unless they have a medical doctor’s prescription. Is that accurate?
Saul: Children are not allowed to take vitamin tablets in school without a doctor’s written permission, along with the approval of the school nurse who will implement it. So let’s see to it. There is reason to suspect that Attention Deficit Disorder is really Vitamin Deficit Disorder. What is so difficult about giving schoolchildren a vitamin supplement to make up their deficit? Don’t tell me that vitamins would be too dangerous, expensive or impractical to administer in school. They give kids prescription drugs in schools everywhere, every day. Look up drug contraindications and side effects in the Physician’s Desk Reference (PDR). Such information covers columns of fine print and you might not enjoy reading it. Now compare this to non-prescription vitamins taken safely by over 150 million Americans every day. Kids as young as age six line up daily, in school, for drugs. Let’s line them up for vitamins instead.
Passwater: What do you recommend for those who are concerned about learning and behavior disorders?
Saul: First and always, I recommend reading any and all books by Dr. Abram Hoffer. And watch a wonderful presentation by Dr. Jonathan Prousky in “That Vitamin Movie.” It is an excellent critique of drug therapy for ADHD children, with practical emphasis on safe and effective niacinamide therapy instead.
Passwater: Where can readers find more information on niacin and learning and behavioral disorders?
Saul: A search at my website www.doctoryourself.com for “ADHD niacin Hoffer” will bring up a great deal of helpful material, for free.
Also, I summarized much of it in “Treating ADHD with Vitamin B-3 (Niacinamide)” (http://orthomolecular.org/resources/omns/v09n23.shtml)
To learn more about Dr. William Kaufman’s clinical success with high dose vitamin therapy, you can read his long out of print book, free of charge at http://www.doctoryourself.com/kaufman6.html
“That Vitamin Movie” can be accessed at www.thatvitaminmovie.com
Passwater: Thank you once again. But, there’s more to the niacin story. Let’s talk about niacin and cholesterol next time. WF
Dr. Richard Passwater is the author of more than 45 books and 500 articles on nutrition. Dr. Passwater has been WholeFoods Magazine’s science editor and author of this column since 1984. More information is available on his website, www.drpasswater.com.
NOTE: The statements presented in this article should not be considered medical advice or a way to diagnose or treat any disease or illness. Dietary supplements do not treat, cure or prevent any disease. Always seek the advice of a medical professional before adding a dietary supplement to (or removing one from) your daily regimen. The opinions expressed in bylined articles are not necessarily those of the publisher.
Published in WholeFoods Magazine August 2017