Niacin: The Original Megavitamin Is More Important Than Ever

Part 6: Dr. Abram Hoffer’s Discoveries and a Tribute to the Father of Orthomolecular Medicine, An interview with Andrew W. Saul, Ph.D.

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We have been discussing the importance of niacin with Dr. Andrew Saul. So far we have discussed niacin’s role in overcoming schizophrenia, arthritis, high blood cholesterol, as well as learning and behavior disorders. Now let’s look at skin cancer and birth defect news and a general overview of Dr. Abram Hoffer’s research.

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.

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 of them as coauthor with Abram Hoffer, MD, Ph.D. 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.”

New health benefits of niacin continue to be discovered. As we go to press, an Australian dermatologist, Dr. Gary Halliday, and his team have published a review in Photodermatology, Photoimmunology & Photomedicine calling for clinical trials of niacinamide to prevent melanoma (1). Dr. Halliday, professor of dermatology at the University of Sydney, and his team see niacinamide (vitamin B3) as a low-cost way of preventing melanoma skin cancer. They point out that nicotinamide enhances DNA repair and reduces inflammation caused by ultraviolet radiation. The researchers point to the results from the clinical trial, which reduced the incidence of non-melanoma skin cancer in high-risk individuals, and said it would be worthwhile to determine whether it would also be useful for high-risk melanoma patients.

Passwater: Dr. Saul, we have seen reports before this study about niacin’s protective effect against non-melanoma skin cancer. What is the most likely mechanism involved?

Saul: Niacin (or niacinamide, also called nicotinamide) reduces two key pathways to carcinogenesis: DNA damage and UV-induced
immunosuppression.

Passwater: Figure 1 graphically depicts this from the excellent article in Melanoma Letters (2) by Drs. Diona Damian, Andrew Martin and Gary Halliday, who are Australian researchers. By the way, this is an excellent article for researchers as well as the public.

Saul: Niacin’s role is probably much the same for all sorts of cancers, whether modest or aggressive. Niacin helps your body repair DNA and actually fix mutations. The benefit would be for all forms of cancer in all persons. This is the very information that Dr. Abram Hoffer brought forward to the scientific community decades ago. He was ignored, and as you read these “new” reports, you will see that he is not mentioned. That’s why we are doing this interview.

Passwater: Another recent study suggests that vitamin B3 might help prevent certain kinds of complex birth defects. Vitamin B3 can help compensate for defects in the body’s ability to make a molecule, called nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD), which researchers have linked for the first time to healthy fetal development in humans. This raises the possibility that boosting levels of vitamin B3 in pregnant women’s diets might help lower overall rates of birth defects.

Dr. Sally Dunwoodie, a developmental geneticist at the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute in Sydney, Australia, and her colleagues studied the genes that influence fetal development. They found that genes related to the production of NAD, a niacin-dependent molecule crucial for energy storage and DNA synthesis in cells had a role in heart development.

Dr. Dunwoodie has counted at least 95 genes that are involved in NAD levels, and believes it’s possible that mutations in any of those could leave a developing fetus vulnerable to birth defects and that extra vitamin B3 in a mother’s diet might help compensate for any of the faulty genes.

Saul: And there it is again: Niacin’s ability to prevent birth defects is because niacin actually repairs DNA damage. I think this basic, life-giving mechanism has many applications.

Antioxidant vitamins, notably vitamins C and E, have diverse therapeutic uses. Niacin has many uses. Water has many uses. Money has many uses. Niacin is biochemical money: you can do so much with it. But the key is the dose. If you take in only the ridiculously low U.S. RDA of about 16 mg of niacin per day, that’s like trying to provide for your whole family on a minimum wage paycheck. That is virtually impossible. Then, the NIH actually says, “The Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL) for niacin for adults is 35 mg/day, which was based on flushing as the critical adverse effect.” That is comical reasoning. Why? Because it takes at least hundreds of milligrams of niacin daily, and often thousands of milligrams, to get results. And the public are being told to not exceed 35 mg because someone, somewhere might flush.

Few people flush at 35 mg. Some do, but very, very few. And the kicker is that if you take niacinamide or inositol hexaniacinate, you won’t flush at all, even at vastly higher amounts. The government knows this. Researchers know this. And still that silly “Upper Limit” sits at 35 mg/day. At the very least, medical authorities in the government should point out that there is no flushing with these other forms of B3. “Flush fear mongering” is keeping America chronically ill and chronically dependent on the medical system. A cynic might suspect collusion.

Figure 1. UV radiation both damages DNA and depletes cells of the energy required for efficient DNA repair, thus increasing the likelihood of genetic mutations that can lead to skin cancer. Unrepaired DNA photolesions are also a trigger for the immunosuppressive effects of sunlight. By preventing UV-induced energy crisis in skin cells, nicotinamide both enhances DNA repair and attenuates UV immunosuppression. Figure from Damian, Martin and Halliday in Melanoma Letters (http://www.skincancer.org/publications/the-melanoma-letter/spring-2016-vol-34-no-1/nicotinamide)

Niacin is a small organic molecule and the very smallest of all the vitamins. It is C6H5NO2. That is considerably smaller than glucose, the simplest of sugars. Niacin weighs only 123 grams per mole; glucose weighs 180. Niacin is even smaller than vitamin C, ascorbic acid, which weighs 176. I think we would do better thinking of niacin as a food rather than as a micronutrient. Dr. Linus Pauling taught us that we need a lot of vitamin C, thousands of milligrams daily. Dr. Hoffer taught us that we need a lot of niacin, hundreds of milligrams daily. They are both absolutely correct.

Passwater: The good news about niacin’s health benefits goes on and on. Dr. Saul, so much of what we know about the health benefits of niacin were discovered by Dr. Hoffer. This is the Centennial anniversary of his birth in 1917. I think we should give him some additional attention.

Saul: Yes, Abram Hoffer (1917-2009) was born 100 years ago this year. He began his education at a one-room schoolhouse, yet eventually earned Ph.D. and MD degrees and wrote two dozen books and over 500 papers. Dr. Hoffer has changed medicine forever, and for the better. I urge everyone to read his books and learn how to get well and stay that way with fewer, or zero, pharmaceuticals. Dr. Hoffer said, “Drugs make a well person sick. Why would they make a sick person well?”

Passwater: If it wasn’t for your follow-through, most of this information would now be lost. The Big Pharma-oriented medical profession has little interest in natural medicine. It seems that only the orthomolecular physicians are interested in Dr. Hoffer’s teachings. How did you come to partner with Dr. Hoffer to keep his legacy going?

Saul: I met him at an Orthomolecular Medicine Today Conference in Toronto. I went over and introduced myself, and he very graciously greeted me as if we’d known each other forever. During the course of the conference, he personally introduced me to important orthomolecular doctors from all over the world. Subsequently I became a columnist and then contributing editor to the Journal of Orthomolecular Medicine, which Abram had founded along with Humphry Osmond, MD, way back in 1967. Now whenever I had a topic idea, Abram would invariably say to me, “How about you write a hard-hitting editorial on that for our Journal?” So I did, and he kept publishing them. Later, one of his books, “Orthomolecular Medicine for Physicians” was in need of expansion and updating. Abram, knowing this full well, did not have the time to undertake the project and wondered who would co-author with him. I offered, he accepted, and we produced “Orthomolecular Medicine for Everyone” in 2008.

Passwater: What other books did you co-author with him?

Saul: One, and a very important one, is “The Vitamin Cure for Alcoholism.” Not everyone knows that Dr. Hoffer was Bill W.’s personal physician. Interesting story, that Bill W cofounder of Alcoholics Anonymous, was unable to interest his own organization in niacin. Yet it was Dr. Hoffer and niacin that cured Bill W. of his long-standing, severe depression in a matter of weeks. Because Abram wished to write a history of hospitals, and I thought a how-to-survive-hospitals book could also be useful, we wrote “Hospitals and Health: Your Orthomolecular Guide to a Shorter, Safer Hospital Stay.” Our third author was Steve Hickey, PhD, a vitamin C expert and my co-author for “Vitamin C: The Real Story.” Of course there is “Niacin: The Real Story,” Abram’s final book. Our co-author was Harold D. Foster, Ph.D., a very good friend and colleague of Abram’s. Additionally, there is also a lot of Dr. Hoffer in “The Orthomolecular Treatment of Chronic Disease.” These books are all in print, easy to find, and provide a strong grounding in just how orthomolecular treatments work.

Passwater: What is their importance? What do they teach?

Saul: In my opinion, all of Dr. Hoffer’s work is important. These books teach how to live. Dr. Hoffer summarized this way: orthomolecular medicine consists of eating whole foods and taking some vitamins. That is one of the most powerful, practical, and deceptively simple maxims for life I have ever encountered. Years ago, in my first communication with Dr. Hoffer, I had told him that I had found by experience that everything he has written has proven to be true. And it has, to this day. I have been in the natural health arena for over 40 years now, and Abram Hoffer is one of a select group that I have found to be lifesavers. Others include Drs. Hugh Riordan, Robert F. Cathcart, Lendon Smith, Emanuel Cheraskin, Ruth Flynn Harrell, Frederick R. Klenner, and Linus Pauling.

Passwater: Dr. Saul, just as important is that much of this valuable information is also provided on your website. Until the day comes that this knowledge is taught to nutritionists and medical students, it is imperative that the public has this access. What are the most important teachings of Dr. Hoffer and yourself that are available on your website?

Saul: There are hundreds of articles at DoctorYourself.com, many by Dr. Hoffer and the other doctors I mentioned previously. Because health is such a large topic, perhaps doing a quick search at the site for the illness or nutrient you are most interested in is the best way to get started. One example would be Dr. Hoffer’s comments on the DoctorYourself.com diabetes webpage, http://www.doctoryourself.com/diabetes.html, where he writes:
“I am very familiar with Type I (insulin dependent diabetes or juvenile diabetes), as two members of my family have it. Dr. Saul lists and describes both positive and negative factors in dealing with this condition. Thus for Type I, we have on the positive side the B complex vitamins, especially vitamin B3, and vitamin C. The negative factors are diets which are too rich in free sugars and not rich enough in the complex carbohydrates. Negative factors also include milk, fluoride, coffee and vaccinations. When it is started at an early age, niacinamide will prevent diabetes from developing in many children born to families prone to the disease. I have also found niacin very helpful in preventing patients from suffering the long term ravages of diabetes, which are not directly due to high blood sugars, but to the side effects involving the vascular system. Therefore these patients are less apt to become blind and lose their legs. With medical supervision, it may be used safely in dealing with diabetics, but you will need to find a doctor who knows niacin. Type II Non-insulin dependent Diabetes Mellitus (NIDDM) is a very common condition. Positive factors listed are magnesium, exercise, weight control, chromium, fiber, vitamin E, vanadium, vitamin C, and complex carbohydrates. I have been using the positive factors for the past 40 years. When patients followed such a program, the results are very good.”

Passwater: When I was writing “Supernutrition: Megavitamin Revolution” (published in 1975) I consulted with Dr. Hoffer many times. He was a stickler for detail and accuracy. As a result, he wrote a nice document used to help promote the book. “Supernutrition” was based on my research with antioxidant nutrients, which was an entirely new concept at that time. It also sprang from the research of my good friend, the late Dr. Linus Pauling, Dr. Hoffer’s clinical experience with niacin and other nutrients, and the research of Dr. Emanuel Cheraskin on RDAs Research. They all worked closely with me on my book. I was not too surprised to find that it was Dr. Hoffer who first got Dr. Pauling interested in orthomolecular therapy.

Saul: Indeed, it was. It started when Dr. Pauling saw a copy of Drs. Hoffer and Humphry Osmond’s book “How to Live With Schizophrenia” on a friend’s coffee table. Linus Pauling took the book home and stayed up all night reading it. Dr. Pauling decided then and there not to retire, but to investigate vitamin therapy. Now that was time well spent!

Passwater: Another clinician who was both a good friend of Dr. Hoffer and whose work has been largely ignored outside of orthomolecular medicine is Dr. Hugh D. Riordan. Many of our readers may be unfamiliar with Dr. Riordan’s contributions. Please tell us about the relationship between Dr. Hoffer and Dr. Riordan and how our readers may obtain information about Dr. Riordan’s discoveries.

Saul: Dr. Hoffer and Dr. Riordan were like-minded and true healers. Dr. Riordan was associate editor of the Journal of Orthomolecular Medicine when Dr. Hoffer was editor-in-chief and I was assistant editor. Both men were brilliant, kind and highly qualified physicians. Dr. Riordan and his team did very important pioneering work with intravenous vitamin C as early as the 1960s. Today, the Riordan Clinic in Wichita, KS, is probably the Western Hemisphere’s leader in the field. In the Eastern hemisphere, it would be Tokyo’s Dr. Atsuo Yanagisawa and colleagues. Dr. Riordan also authored the three-part history “Medical Mavericks.” Hugh called me up just as he was finishing volume three. We had a delightful talk, and a few hours later, I got word that he had died suddenly. A real shock and a real loss to humanity.

Passwater: Just what is orthomolecular medicine and how can readers locate orthomolecular physicians?

Saul: Orthomolecular medicine is nutritional medicine. A simple internet search will bring up directories and doctors employing it. And, as Dr. Hoffer often said, if you cannot find such a physician, you need to learn for yourself. I am especially keen on this part, as I am not a physician. My website and my book “DoctorYourself” are called that because we need to take responsibility for our own health. To do that we need education, not medication.

Passwater: You are the editor of the Orthomolecular Medicine News Service. What is the mission of the OMNS and how can readers find past releases?

Saul: Dr. Hoffer, Dr. Riordan and I believed that people have had quite enough of biased, vitamin-bashing newspaper, magazine and TV coverage. The Orthomolecular Medicine News (OMNS) is a wire-service style newsfeed direct to the public, as well as for those members of the press, radio and TV news media that have the moxie to read it. Many of our readers are health practitioners. OMNS tells the truth that a biased, pharmaceutically-funded mass media routinely blacks out: vitamin therapy saves lives. The OMNS, begun in 2004, has a 36-member editorial board, and is peer reviewed. The entire 240-plus issue archive is available for free access at http://www.orthomolecular.org/resources/omns/index.shtml . The free-by-email subscription link is http://www.orthomolecular.org/forms/omns_
subscribe.shtml.

Passwater: Thank you for all you have done and thank you for sharing the information with our readers. WF

References
1. Photodermatology, Photoimmunology & Photomedicine (Melanoma and nonmelanoma skin cancer chemoprevention: A role for nicotinamide? Minocha R., Damian D.L., & Halliday, G. Aug 8, 2017 DOI: 10.1111/phpp.12328)
(http://www.skincancer.org/publications/the-melanoma-letter/spring-2016-vol-34-no-1/nicotinamide)
2. Shi H., et al., NAD Deficiency, Congenital Malformations, and Niacin Supplementation. N Engl J Med 2017; 377:544-552August 10, 2017DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa1616361)


dr. passwaterDr. 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.

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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 October 2017

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