Friday, October 08, 2010

Prevent Flu and Pale Faces with Niacin, Thiamin, and Vitamins A, C, and D: The Side Effect Problem

Working together, vitamins reduce the frequency and then the duration and severity of colds. The science for vitamin C is conclusive: the higher the dose, the stronger the response up to about 2 g/day. Past 2 g/day, it is impossible to conduct double blind trials because the patients know they are taking vitamin C.

The is similar excellent data for vitamin D. Again, however, the double blind data extends only to about 2000 IU/day. Above this threshold, the blind breaks because the users know they are taking the vitamin. Niacin hasn't been used much for colds, but I strongly suspect that doses much above 250 mg/day would break the blind.

Vitamin advocates like myself have been slow to fully appreciate this information. We welcome vitamin side effects as useful biofeedback. Most people react differently. I finally fully understand how upsetting vitamin side effects can be to users. Vitamin C advocates especially have a tendency to urge users to take vitamin C until it hurts. I know appreciate that intestinal cramps, very soft stool, gas, and other effects can cause some people to panic and go to see their physicians to make sure they aren't seriously ill. Just one such experience can be traumatic - sufficiently so to prevent any further experimentation with vitamin C - ever.

As a scientist I know that vitamin C and niacin are incredibly safe, and that accidental overdose do no more harm than causing temporary discomfort. Non-scientists will have a much harder time appreciating the data. As a scientist I know that all drugs carry much higher risks than vitamins - even though most drugs never cause me any immediate discomfort at prescribed doses.

I know that for me, taking more vitamins means taking fewer drugs. So - I know I'm reducing risks to my long term health.

I believe that vitamins are underused because so many have had side effects. In my experience, children benefit the most from extra vitamins and rarely experience discomforts. Parents experiment, experience side effects, and decide not to give vitamins to their children. I really don't know how to break this cycle. I do know that more and more people are getting more and more drugs and procedures at younger and younger ages. Each drug and procedure brings higher risks than vitamin C, niacin, or sunshine can bring at any dose. Perhaps slower and more careful use of vitamins would help. Staying just below the upper limits recommended by the Food and Nutrition Board most of the time, and just experimenting with high doses for three or four days while you are feeling unwell may product more satisfactory results.

Any ideas from readers?


At 2:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Steve, One question. I grind my own wheat and use it to make fresh bread. I know that a lot of the deficiencies we American's have stem from the way our flour is processed; taking out the vital nutrients to increase shelf life...and feed cows, but I digress. Back when the mills started taking out the bran and the germ there was almost an epidemic of Beri Beri (sp?) and Pellegra (Deficiencies in Vitamin B and Niacin) So there was a hue and cry from the govt. which led to the "enriching" of our grain products to get rid of these diseases. So Here comes the question: If I'm feeding my young family homemade bread from freshly ground whole wheat flour (and of course getting as much sunlight as possible, sunbathing not an option with 4 kids heehee) ...Do I need to worry about supplementing with any particular Vitamin for my family so as to avoid the seasonal flus? We do not get flu shots and we are currently taking 500 IUs of Vit. D-3 Daily.

At 8:51 PM, Blogger Steve said...

Suzy Q,

I'm less worried about your kids than others because your logic is sound. I worried constantly about my kids. I chose doses of vitamins that balanced my worries about deficiencies with my worries about side effects. I have stuck out my neck here at my blog and made recommendations for kids. Type cforyourself pale faces and the recommendations pop up. They are:

two 500 mg orange chewable vitamin C tablets morning and evening (2000 mg/day)

one children's multivitamin (just 1 RDA of everything)

125 mg time release niacin (half of a 250 mg tablet or gelcap) twice per week (again twice per week)

When the kids actually have a cold, I recommend increased doses of sunshine, vitamin C, and niacin. Read my columns on preventing dark circles under the eyes and pale faces. Once you've read these, feel free to ask more questions. Of course, you can just ask more questions if you like.

Thanks for visiting



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